|Birth Day:||August 24, 1922|
|Death Date:||Nov 1, 1987 (age 65)|
As per our current Database, Rene Lévesque died on Nov 1, 1987 (age 65).
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He served as a war correspondent for the United States Army in Europe during World War II and worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Company after the war.
Lévesque was born in the Hôtel Dieu Hospital in Campbellton, New Brunswick on August 24, 1922. He was raised in New Carlisle, Quebec, on the Gaspé Peninsula, by his parents, Diane (née Dionne) and Dominic Lévesque, a lawyer. He had three siblings, André, Fernand and Alice. His father died when Lévesque was 14 years old.
Lévesque attended the Séminaire de Gaspé and the Saint-Charles-Garnier College in Quebec City, both of which were run by the Jesuits. He studied for a law degree at Université Laval in Quebec City, but left the university in 1943 without having completed the degree. He worked as an announcer and news writer at the radio station CHNC in New Carlisle, as a substitute announcer for CHRC during 1941 and 1942, and then at CBV in Quebec City.
In 1947, he married Louise L'Heureux, with whom he would have two sons and a daughter. Lévesque worked as a reporter for the CBC's French language section in the international service. He again served as a war correspondent for the CBC in the Korean War in 1952. After that, he was offered a career in journalism in the United States, but decided to stay in Canada.
From 1956 to 1959, Lévesque became famous in Quebec for hosting a weekly television news program on Radio-Canada called Point de Mire.
Lévesque covered international events and major labour struggles between workers and corporations that dogged the Union Nationale government of Premier Maurice Duplessis culminating with a great strike in 1957 at the Gaspé Copper Mine in Murdochville. The Murdochville strike was a milestone for organized labour in Quebec as it resulted in changes to the province's labour laws.
While working for the public television network, he became personally involved in the broadcasters' strike that lasted 68 tumultuous days beginning in late 1958. Lévesque was arrested during a demonstration in 1959, along with union leader Jean Marchand and 24 other demonstrators.
In 1960, Lévesque entered politics as a star candidate and was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Quebec in the 1960 election as a Liberal Party member in the riding of Montréal-Laurier. In the government of Jean Lesage, he served as minister of hydroelectric resources and public works from 1960 to 1961, and minister of natural resources from 1961 to 1965. While in office, he played a pivotal role in the nationalization of hydroelectric companies, greatly expanding Hydro-Québec, one of the reforms that was part of the Quiet Revolution.
From 1965 to 1966, he served as minister of family and welfare. Lévesque, with friend the minister of health, Eric Kierans, was heavily involved in negotiations with the Government of Canada to fund both Quebec and federal mandates for social programs.
The election of hardline federalist Pierre Elliott Trudeau as Prime Minister, and the politically damaging riot instigated by the RIN when he appeared at the St. Jean Baptiste Day parade of 1968, led to the sovereignty movement coming together. The MSA would merge with another party in the Quebec sovereignty movement, the Ralliement National of Gilles Grégoire, to create the Parti Québécois (PQ) in 1968. At Lévesque's insistence, RIN members would be permitted to join but not be accepted as a group.
The Parti Québécois would gain 25% of the vote in the 1970 election, running on a platform of declaring independence if government was formed. The PQ only won six seats, and Lévesque continued to run the party from Montreal by communicating with the caucus in Quebec City.
The 1973 election saw a large Liberal victory, and created major tensions within the party, especially after Lévesque was unable to gain a seat. A quarrel with House Leader Robert Burns almost ended Lévesque's leadership shortly thereafter.
On February 6, 1977, Lévesque's car fatally struck Edgar Trottier, a homeless man who had been lying on the road. Trottier had in the past repeatedly used the maneuver to secure a hospital bed for the night. Police officers at the scene did not administer the breathalyzer test to Lévesque, because they did not suspect that he was impaired. Levesque was later fined $25 for failing to wear his glasses while driving a car on the night in question. The incident gained further notoriety when it was revealed that the female companion in the vehicle was not his wife, but his longtime secretary, Corinne Côté. Lévesque’s marriage ended in divorce soon thereafter (the couple had already been estranged for some time), and in April 1979, he married Côté.
Of the things he left as his legacy, some of the most memorable and still robust are completing the nationalization of hydroelectricity through Hydro-Québec, the Quebec Charter of the French Language, the political party financing law, and the Parti Québécois itself. His government was the first in Canada to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the province's Charte des droits de la personne in 1977. He also continued the work of the Lesage government in improving social services, in which social needs were taken care of by the state, instead of the Catholic Church (as in the Duplessis era) or the individual. Lévesque is still regarded by many as a symbol of democracy and tolerance.
On May 20, 1980, the PQ held, as promised before the elections, the 1980 Quebec referendum on its sovereignty-association plan. The result of the vote was 40% in favour and 60% opposed (with 86% turnout). Lévesque conceded defeat in the referendum by announcing that, as he had understood the verdict, he had been told "until next time".
Lévesque led the PQ to victory in the 1981 election, increasing the party's majority in the National Assembly and increasing its share of the popular vote from 41 to 49 per cent.
The PQ government's response to the recession of the early 1980s by cutting the provincial budget to reduce growing deficits that resulted from the recession angered labour union members, a core part of the constituency of the PQ and the sovereignty movement. Lévesque had argued that the party should not make sovereignty the object of the 1985 election and instead opt for the "Beau risque" strategy of seeking an understanding with the federal government of Brian Mulroney, which angered the strongest supporters of sovereignty within the party. He said the issue in the upcoming election would not be sovereignty. Instead, he expressed hope, "that we can finally find government leaders in Ottawa who will discuss Québec's demands seriously and work with us for the greater good of Québecers". His new position weakened his position within the party. Some senior members resigned; there were by-election defeats. Lévesque resigned as leader of the Parti Québécois on June 20, 1985, and as premier of Québec on October 3, 1985.
On June 3, 1999, a monument in his honour was unveiled on boulevard René-Lévesque outside the Parliament Building in Quebec City. The statue is popular with tourists, who snuggle up to it, to have their pictures taken "avec René" (with René), despite repeated attempts by officials to keep people from touching the monument or getting too close to it. The statue had been the source of an improvised, comical and affectionately touching tribute to Lévesque. The fingers of his extended right hand are slightly parted, just enough so that tourists and the faithful could insert a cigarette, giving the statue an unusually realistic appearance.
Lévesque today remains an important figure of the Quebec nationalist movement, and is considered sovereigntism's spiritual father. After his death, even people in disagreement with some of those convictions now generally recognize his importance to the history of Quebec. Many in Quebec regard him as the father of the modern Quebec nation. According to a study made in 2006 by Le Journal de Montréal and Léger Marketing, Lévesque was considered by far, according to Québécois, the best premier to run the province over the last 50 years.
Lévesque was notably portrayed in the television series René Lévesque. In 2006, an additional television miniseries, René Lévesque, was aired on the CBC. He was also portrayed in an episode of Kevin Spencer, a Canadian cartoon show. In it, his ghost attempted a camaraderie with Kevin because of their similarities in political beliefs, as well as the fact that the title character, like René's ghost, claims to smoke "five packs a day".
Lévesque was made a grand officer of the French Legion of Honour. He was posthumously made a grand officer of the National Order of Quebec in 2008.
His state funeral and funeral procession was reportedly attended by 100,000 Québécois. During the carrying out of his coffin from the church, the crowd spontaneously began to applaud and sing Quebec's unofficial national anthem "Gens du pays", replacing the first verse with Mon cher René (My dear René), as is the custom when this song is adapted to celebrate someone's birthday. Two major boulevards now bear his name, one in Montreal and one in Quebec City. In Montreal, the Édifice Hydro-Québec and the Maison Radio-Canada are both located on René Lévesque Boulevard, fittingly as Lévesque once worked for Hydro-Québec and the CBC, respectively. On June 22, 2010, Hydro-Québec and the government of Quebec commemorated Lévesque's role in Quebec's Quiet Revolution and his tenure as premier by renaming the 1244-megawatt Manic-3 generating station in his honour.
Currently, Rene Lévesque is 100 years, 3 months and 9 days old. Rene Lévesque will celebrate 101st birthday on a Thursday 24th of August 2023.
Find out about Rene Lévesque birthday activities in timeline view here.