Yves Michaud, journalist, diplomat and politician (born 13 February 1930 in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec). A champion of the French language and a former delegate general of Québec in France, Yves Michaud is also known for defending the interests of small savers and investors.
Education and Early Career
The son of insurance man Jean-Baptiste Michaud and Robertha Robert, Yves Michaud attended school at the Seminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe. He first gained public notice for opposing the regime of Maurice Duplessis while editor of the Saint-Hyacinthe newspaper Le Clairon (now Le Clairon maskoutain) from 1951 to 1959. He received an award from the Canada Council for the Arts that enabled him to study at the International Centre for Journalism at the University of Strasbourg, in France, from which he graduated in 1959. From 1960 to 1966, he continued his career in journalism, this time as the editor-in-chief of the newspaper La Patrie.
Journalism and Politics
In 1966, running as a Liberal Party candidate, Michaud was elected to Québec’s National Assembly. But he quit the party angrily in 1969 in the course of the debate over Bill 63, designed to promote the use of French in Québec (see Québec Language Policy). Defeated in the 1970 elections, he became high commissioner for Cooperation at Québec’s Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs. In 1973, he returned to journalism and founded the daily newspaper Le Jour with René Lévesque and Jacques Parizeau — a milestone in the history of journalism in Montréal.
Delegate General of Québec in France
The election of the Parti Québécois in 1976 propelled Michaud to the front ranks of Québec’s diplomatic corps. He served as Québec’s delegate to international organizations in 1977 and as advisor on international affairs to the premier of Québec in 1978. He was appointed delegate general of Québec in Paris in 1979 and served in that capacity until 1984 (see Délégations du Québec). Upon returning to Québec, he served first as president and CEO of the Palais des congrès de Montréal (Montréal convention centre), then as president of Sélections Yves Michaud, a wine representatives’ consulting firm. In 1995, on the eve of that year’s Québec referendum, Michaud resumed his diplomatic career when Premier Jacques Parizeau appointed him to serve as his chargé de mission in France.
Protecting Small Savers and Investors
After the Québec Referendum (1995), Michaud founded the Association de protection des épargnants et investisseurs du Québec (Québec association for the protection of savers and investors) and became its president. Taking up the cause of shareholders against the abuses of the big banks, Michaud acquired the nickname “Robin Hood of the Banks.” He did not shy away from attacking bank executives’ high salaries and special privileges, while demanding more transparency and respect for shareholders. His efforts forced some institutions to change their by-laws, and he kept the pressure on by obtaining the support of Québec’s major retirement funds.
Controversy: The Michaud Affair
In 2000, Yves Michaud ran again as a Parti Québécois candidate for Québec’s National Assembly. But a few days after the campaign began, he made some inappropriate remarks about the “vote of the cultural communities,” by which he was referring to Jewish citizens. It was the start of what became known as the Michaud Affair. The controversy culminated with the passing of a motion of censure against Michaud in the National Assembly on 14 December 2000. But subsequently, over 50 members of the National Assembly apologized for not having read Michaud’s remarks before supporting the motion. In 2011, Michaud refused to accept the National Order of Québec, saying that he had lost confidence in democratic institutions following the Québec Superior Court’s refusal to overturn the National Assembly’s motion of censure, in 2005, and the Supreme Court of Canada’s refusal to hear an appeal of that case, in 2006. As of 2016, the censure motion has still not been withdrawn.
Honours and Awards
In 2006, Michaud was named president of the Association québécoise des agences de vins, bières et spiritueux (Québec association of wine, beer and spirits agents). He is the author of several books: Je conteste (Éditions du Jour, 1969), La folie du vin (Libre Expression, 1991), Parole d’un homme libre (VLB éditeur, 2000) and Les raisons de la colère (Fides, 2005).
Recognized for his mastery of the French language, Michaud has also distinguished himself by receiving a number of journalism awards, including a Best Report award from the Association des hebdomadaires du Canada (1957) and a Best French-Language Weekly Newspaper award (1958) and Best Editorial of the Year awards (1963 and 1964) from the Union canadienne des journalistes de langue française. He has been a Commander of the French Legion of Honour since 1984 and was named Patriot of the Year by the Société Saint-Jean Baptiste of Montréal in 1997.