I remember that during the effervescent period of the sixties, all kinds of rumors were circulating about a possible infiltration of CIA agents into the vast Quebec independence movement. Among others, at the bar-cabaret of the independent singer Marc Gélinas, Le Cochon borgne, rue Sainte-Catherine. Every evening, at midnight, we sang the national anthem composed by Gélinas and it was the perfect opportunity for an undercover agent to spot the most militant among us, solemn, standing with fist in the air .
This interest is easily understood. The United States, which had seen, at the end of the 1950s, the Cuban revolution triumph a hundred kilometers from its coast, especially did not want to see the development, on its northern border this time, a revolutionary and destabilizing center. We had become interesting, proof that something was happening in Quebec, unlike Toronto, Winnipeg or Vancouver.
In this fourth volume of the collection Jean-François Lisée tells, the journalist is still interested in the recent history of the Quebec independence movement of the 1960s and 1970s, both peaceful and violent, and more precisely in the various attempts to infiltrate the secret services of the great powers of the time.
Simply reading the table of contents is enough to whet our appetites.
First, Lisée introduces us to the behind-the-scenes games of the various French intelligence services, such as the SDECE and the DST. We follow Philippe Rossillon, a senior French official suspected by Trudeau father of being an agent infiltrated into the Canadian Francophonie to promote the separation of Quebec.
It is told at high speed, but unfortunately we do not learn anything new about the death of Mario Bachand in the Paris suburbs, in 1971, while rumors have already circulated about the role that the services would have played in this sordid crime. French secrets made aware of the preparations for the attack.
With the KGB, Lisée makes us dance the troika – which is obviously not a dance, but a three-way power game.
The Russians would have infiltrated the French secret services to promote their anti-Americanism. And Quebec in all of this, you will tell me? The “Vive le Québec libre!” Of General de Gaulle would be part of this strategy. For the RCMP, “the Soviets were using the General to destabilize Canada and disrupt North America. […] The Soviet game would be to work on all fronts to bring about the emergence not only of a separate state, but of the most radical and extremist separate state imaginable. ”
Soviet spies were therefore not only used to glean military, scientific or industrial information, but also “to blow on the embers of separatism”. We are not far from delirium.
This point of view of the RCMP does not seem to be shared by those principally concerned. According to Lisée, the Russians preferred a united, stable and strong Canada, a real counterweight to the United States, a fiercely anti-Soviet country. “If Quebec became independent, Canada would break up and would probably be integrated into the American Empire, a prospect that they did not cherish too much,” he notes.
Lisée then takes us back to the events of October 1970, which he dissects as one would do from a foul-smelling corpse. No place for feelings, motivations, political project behind these events. Revolutionaries are nothing more than vulgar terrorists. He echoes rumors, assumptions, and gossip, each as eccentric as the next, which somewhat dilutes the seriousness of his analysis. Like this useless story of the dog nicknamed Snoopy who would have saved the face of an American diplomat. There, we get lost altogether.
Finally, everyone agrees that the Quebec of these years of embers was a vast theater of operations for various intelligence services – those of Quebec and Canada, France, the United States, the former USSR and Cuba – eager either to counter the “separatist threat” or to closely follow its development. But so much police frogs are, in the long run, indigestible. And we remain somewhat on our hunger.
The Quebec enigma is nevertheless clear: a sovereign country. To read anyway.
Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my email@example.com 1-800-268-7116