Jean-Louis Gagnon

Jean-Louis Gagnon, journalist, writer, political activist, civil servant (born 21 February 1913 in Québec City, Québec; died 26 May 2004 in Québec City).

Jean-Louis Gagnon, journalist, writer, political activist, civil servant (born 21 February 1913 in Québec City, Québec; died 26 May 2004 in Québec City). He had a classical education at the colleges of Sainte-Marie and Brébeuf in Montréal and at the University of Ottawa. As a journalist during the 1930s he propounded anti-clerical ideas, then right-wing separatism in Paul Bouchard's La Nation, followed by international socialism. The war, however, turned Gagnon into a lifelong liberal-democrat and a strong Canadian federalist. He favoured Canada's participation in the Second World War and was a supporter of conscription during the 1942 plebiscite. He was in Ghana from 1942 to 1943 as a journalist, from 1943 to 1946 was head of the news agency France-Afrique in Montréal and then spent three years in Rio de Janeiro.

Returning to Canada in 1949, Gagnon worked for CKAC radio, where he organized a union local for journalists and established ties with the Québec Liberal Party. He was one of the founding members of the Fédération libérale provinciale, created in 1955 to democratize the structure of the provincial Liberal Party and to allow the modernization of party policy. In 1958, Gagnon accepted an offer to become editor-in-chief of Montréal's largest francophone daily, La Presse. He assembled a dynamic editorial team, whose support of the modernization of Québec society contributed to the narrow victory of Jean Lesage's Liberal Party in June 1960, a victory which ushered in the Quiet Revolution.

Fearful of the rise of separatism, Gagnon agreed in 1963 to become a member of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, and when André Laurendeau died prematurely in June 1968, Gagnon replaced him as co-president. In 1970, Gagnon was appointed director general of Information Canada, which had been created to lead the struggle for the preservation of Canadian unity. Between 1972 and 1976 he was Canada's ambassador and permanent delegate at UNESCO in Paris. He ended his career as a member of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission from 1976 to 1983. Gagnon received many awards acknowledging his many journalistic achievements and his avid support for the arts, and was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (1971) and an Officer of the Order of Canada (1980). A volume of memoirs, Les Apostasies: Les Coqs de village, appeared in 1985.