Pelletier, Gérard

Gérard Pelletier, journalist, labour and social activist, politician, diplomat (b at Victoriaville, Qué 21 June 1919; d at Montréal 22 June 1997). One of 8 children of a working class family, Pelletier was educated at the Séminaire de Nicolet, Collège Mont-Laurier and the U de M. He was secretary-general of Québec's Jeunesse étudiante catholique 1939-43 and field secretary of the World Student Relief organization in Geneva 1945-47. After touring Argentina he returned to Montréal, where he became a reporter for Le DEVOIR 1947-50. His reporting of the 1949 ASBESTOS STRIKE brought him the position of director of Le Travail, the organ of the Confédération des travailleurs catholiques du Canada.

In 1961 he left to become editor of La PRESSE; after a prolonged strike in 1964 the owners of La Presse fired him for his radical editorial views. His radical ideas developed during the war when he was influenced by French social Catholics, especially the personalist philosophy of Emmanuel Mounier and the review Esprit. He was inspired, with several colleagues, including Pierre Elliott TRUDEAU, to found CITÉ LIBRE.

Through Cité libre and Radio-Canada, Pelletier and the others denounced the socially regressive and antidemocratic policies of the DUPLESSIS regime as well as the clericalism of the Québec Catholic Church. They advocated using the state and dynamic labour organizations to create a modern, democratic and pluralistic Québec society. Pelletier's SOCIAL DEMOCRACY contributed to the re-emergence of ideological pluralism in Québec during the 1950s.

With the rise of SEPARATISM in the 1960s, Pelletier, Trudeau and his longtime friend in the Catholic labour movement, Jean MARCHAND, decided to enter federal politics in 1965. Pelletier served as secretary of state for external affairs (1968-72) and minister of communications (1972-75) in the Trudeau administration. He helped formulate the federal government's response to the growing crisis in Québec/Ottawa relations. He pursued this goal as Canadian ambassador to France, 1975-81, and then became ambassador to the UN, 1981-84.

In 1984 he became chairman of the board of the National Museums of Canada, a post he held until retiring from public life in 1987. He was the author of La Crise d'Octobre (1971), Les Années d'impatience (1983) and Les Temps des choix (1986, trans 1987 as Years of Choice). See alsoFRANCOPHONIE.