The Gaullist Attack on Canada, 1967-1997 – BOSCHER (CSS)

BOSHER, J. F. The Gaullist Attack on Canada, 1967-1997. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000. 331p. Resenha de: LeVOS, Ernest. Canadian Social Studies, v.36, n.1, 2002.

In this well-researched book, one learns about Charles de Gaulle and the Gaullist aggression on Quebec between 1967 and 1977. Many Quebecois were aware of de Gaulle’s French imperial connections, but separatists in Quebec, encouraged by his famous Vive la Quebec libre! speech in July 1967, ignored the fact that de Gaulle interpreted history to serve his own political ambitions. There is little literature supporting the idea that de Gaulle was an inspiration to the Quebec separatists, and this book underscores that paucity. With cogent arguments, Bosher fills a large gap in the history of Quebec separatism.

In the 1960s, during the Cold War and the period of decolonization, de Gaulle identified with the liberal and national aspirations of the Quiet Revolution in Quebec (p.14). France and Quebec initially cooperated to establish agencies to achieve social, economic and political reform, but de Gaulle had an ulterior motive to include Quebec within the French realm. He believed that France would conduct cultural and clandestine activities, through the efforts of the French Quebec mafia (that included civil servants, diplomats, government officials, parliamentarians and associates of de Gaulle), to promote an independent French-speaking republic in North America (p.29). The Acadians in New Brunswick were also part of de Gaulle’s liberation schemes. France (and the Gaullists) offered the Acadians cultural gifts and scholarships that were obviously tinged with emotional and political motives.

Eventually, the Canadian government began to watch the French Quebec mafia that supported the separatist movement and the Parti Quebecois. While the RCMP carried out surveillance on separatists, it was the FLQ Crisis in October 1970 which alerted Canadian government officials that the Gaullist activities in Quebec were more than a part of the normal intellectual process in the world of la francophonie (p.142).

Part three of the book, focusing on imperialistic dreams, offers additional and succinct insights into the mind of Charles de Gaulle. His was to be a cultural and an economic empire based on language, history, and misty feelings of cultural affinity (p.180). In chapters 14 and 15, Bosher also critically explores de Gaulle’s (and Gaullist) thinking (p.216). de Gaulle reinvented the past and three points are evident. First, de Gaulle was a revisionist. Where Allied sacrifices are concerned, he ignored Canada’s contributions at Vimy Ridge and Dieppe. Second, by an act of faith (p. 221), the French were called upon to believe in their leader and his imperial dreams. He had a sense of history that many French never ceased to admire. Third, his views of history were propagandistic and he had no qualms about distorting past events to promote present political objectives. de Gaulle’s was a home-brewed version of Quebec history (p. 230). It was clear that he interpreted history to suit his own goals and schemes.

The Guallist Attack on Canada, 1967-1997 was written for a specialized audience. In addition to individuals interested in politics and foreign policy, senior university students and students of Quebec history will find the book a useful resource. Students in introductory Canadian history and political science courses will appreciate reading about the Gaullist support for the FLQ. While the appendix with the chronology of events is useful some may find the list of names confusing. That aside, readers will find the lessons Bosher draws, thirty years after de Gaulle’s 1967 speech, enlightening.

Ernest LeVos – Grant MacEwan College. Edmonton, Alberta.

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