In 1910, Henri Bourassa founded the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir for Catholic French Canadians. The paper took a stand against the British Empire and in favour of Canadian independence. Le Devoir also supported the fight against the assimilation of French Canadians and for equal status with the Anglophone majority in Canada.
Editorials at the Beginning of the 20th Century
Le Devoir published critiques and addressed jealousies of its financial independence. Over time, it was used as a platform for expression on numerous matters.
In 1917 during the First World War and in 1942 during the Second World War, Le Devoir led a campaign against conscription. In the 1930s, the paper adopted antisemitic positions, namely by supporting the boycott of Jewish businesses during the “Achat chez nous” campaign. (See Anti-Semitism in Canada.)
Position on the Independence of Quebec
During the debates over Quebec’s independence in the 1970s, Le Devoir supported the federalist position. Nationalists and separatists left the paper and founded its competitor, Le Jour. However, during the elections of 1976, editorialist Claude Ryan advised his readers to vote for the Parti québécois.
At the Quebec referendum of 1980 on the sovereignty-association project, the newspaper faced an ideological split within its ranks. The acting director supported the NO campaign, while three other members of the editorial team signed for the YES campaign. However, fifteen years later, during the 1995 referendum on the sovereignty-partnership, Le Devoir was the only newspaper in Canada in favour of the YES campaign.
Financial Difficulties and Modernization
During the 1980s, Le Devoir went through a crisis and almost lost the battle. To grow readership, Jean-Louis Roy increased economic and cultural content. In the 1990s, Lise Bissonnette completely renovated several aspects of the newspaper: financial, administrative, graphic and editorial. Le Devoir left Old Montreal and moved downtown. Its financial situation improved slowly but steadily.
Bernard Descôteaux entered the scene when the paper, for the first time in almost twenty years, was starting to bring modest profits. He maintains most directions taken by Lise Bissonnette while exploring ways to increase revenues and printing capacity. The international coverage of Le Devoir partly depends on articles from French daily papers such as Le Monde and Libération.
Le Devoir was one of the first Quebec newspapers to buy a website in 1997. Today, it still prints on paper while maintaining digital content.
In 2019, it was estimated that Le Devoir reached almost 1.19 million readers.