QUEBEC CITY Claude Morin, the former senior Parti Québécois minister and paid RCMP informant, has set out restore his reputation as the man who betrayed Quebec independence.
In a book released today, Mr. Morin, who turns 77 next month, defends his honour and describes why he collaborated with Canadian secret service agents in the 1970s, attacking those he said "falsely" extrapolated from his encounters an attempt to sabotage the Parti Québécois.
"None of those who sustained doubts about me or tried to denigrate me produced a single shred of concrete evidence to show a single trace of disloyalty on my part towards Quebec, the Parti Québécois or the government," Mr. Morin writes in L'affaire Morin: Légendes, sottises et calomnies (The Morin Affair: Legends, stupidities and slanders).
Mr. Morin was a key figure in former premier René Lévesque's first PQ government, which was elected in November of 1976. After spending more than eight years as deputy minister of intergovernmental affairs and senior adviser to four different premiers, he joined the PQ ranks in the early 1970s and was instrumental in introducing the referendum strategy to achieve sovereignty as part of the party program in 1974.
Without Mr. Lévesque's knowledge, Mr. Morin was contacted by an RCMP agent that same year and began meeting regularly with agents until 1977, even after he was named minister of intergovernmental affairs in the PQ government. It was later reported that he received between $500 and $800 for each meeting, held about once every two months.
In May of 1992, long after Mr. Morin had quit politics and returned to university teaching, Norman Lester, a former television reporter with Radio-Canada (the French service of the CBC), revealed the facts about Mr. Morin's secret encounters. It later became the focus of a book written by Mr. Lester in 1998 on Canadian secret-service activities.
The former PQ minister acknowledged that he was a paid informant but that he donated part of the money to his local parish and that the rest went to the party. At the time, he explained that he met the RCMP to extract information from them about their intelligence gathering activities on the PQ.
Mr. Morin has been accused of "destabilizing" the party with his referendum strategy, of contributing to Quebec's failure at the 1981 constitutional talks that led to Ottawa's repatriation of the Canadian Constitution without the province's consent and even of being a long-time FBI informant during his years at Columbia University in New York in the 1950s.
In his book, Mr. Morin states that his reputation was sullied through false, malicious and defamatory accounts. He takes aim at what he calls "creative extrapolations" by Mr. Lester that he says have never been proven.
First, Mr. Morin explains that it took him until 1977 to understand that the RCMP weren't engaged in any "anti-sovereignty" campaign, but that he was contacted as part of a concern by federal agents to identify possible infiltration in the PQ by foreign agents. He says it was a mistake to think otherwise, because it convinced him that he needed to "play the game" and maintain contact with the RCMP.
He says he decided against telling Mr. Lévesque because he feared the former premier would leak word to the news media. Instead, he revealed his activities to then-justice-minister Marc-André Bédard.
It was only in 1981 when one of Mr. Morin's aides, Lorraine Lagaçé, began to suspect him of being an RCMP informant that she secretly taped a conversation where Mr. Morin admitted his past encounters. On her website now, Ms. Lagaçé says Mr. Morin did not betray Quebec.
Despite acknowledging that he spoke about the referendum strategy with federal bureaucrats as early as 1969, Mr. Morin insists in the book that it was not a federalist plot.
To this day, the party still remains divided over Mr. Morin's strategy. Even if the book succeeds in re-establishing his reputation as a PQ loyalist, Mr. Morin's strategy sowed the seeds of division that continues to haunt the party to this day. And for that, many separatists will never forgive him.