Daniel Johnson Sr.

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Person.png Daniel Johnson Sr.  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Daniel Johnson, 1966.jpg
BornApril 9, 1915
Danville, Quebec, Canada
DiedSeptember 26, 1968 (Age 53)
Cause of death
"heart attack"
Alma materMontreal University
Children • Pierre-Marc Johnson
• Daniel Johnson Jr.
PartyUnion Nationale (Quebec)
Quebec Premier wanting independent development who died under extremely suspicious circumstances.

Employment.png Premier of Quebec

In office
June 16, 1966 - September 26, 1968
Preceded byJean Lesage
Died in office under suspicious circumstances

Francis Daniel Johnson Sr. was a Quebec politician and the 20th premier of Quebec from 1966 to his death under suspicious circumstances in 1968.[1] His program was one of independent scientific and industrial development, including a massive expansion hydroelectric power, and a mission to implement a constitutional republic for Canada modelled on the American constitution.[2]

Two of the three previous Union National Premiers before Johnson met identical fates and died of heart attacks while in office in a period of 6 months. Maurice Duplessis died on September 7, 1959, while Paul Sauvé died on January 2, 1960.


Johnson was born in Danville, Quebec, Canada. He was the son of Francis Johnson, an anglophone labourer of Irish heritage, and Marie-Adéline Daniel, a French Canadian. He was raised bilingually but educated entirely in French.

In 1943, Johnson married Reine Gagné. In 1953, she survived being shot twice by her lover, Radio-Canada announcer Bertrand Dussault, who then committed suicide.[3]

His sons, Pierre-Marc Johnson and Daniel Johnson Jr. also became premiers of Quebec; remarkably, each was a leader of a different party, Pierre-Marc as leader of the sovereigntist Parti Québécois for a brief period in 1985, and Daniel Jr. as leader of the federalist Liberal Party of Quebec for nine months in 1994.

Member of Legislature

Johnson won a by-election in 1946 and became the Union Nationale Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). He was re-elected in 1948, 1952, 1956, and 1960.

He was parliamentary assistant to Premier Maurice Duplessis in 1955 and Deputy House Speaker from 1955 to 1958. He became the target of cartoonists, who portrayed him as Danny Boy.[4]

Johnson was appointed to the Cabinet in 1958 and served as Minister of Hydraulic Resources until the 1960 election, which was won by the Liberals. He was the minister who started the Manic-5 hydroelectric project in 1958 of which its Daniel-Johnson Dam was named after him.

Party leader

Johnson was elected party leader against Jean-Jacques Bertrand in 1961. His party lost the 1962 election against Jean Lesage's Liberals, but he was returned to the legislature.

His 1965 book Égalité ou indépendance ("Equality or independence") made him the first leader of a Quebec political party to recognize the possibility of independence for Canada from the British Crown. He stated if the English-speaking Canadians did not want to be independent, Quebec could do it alone. His position on the issue was seen to be ambiguous. As he wrote in his book, his position was for "independence if necessary, but not necessarily independence," a reference to Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King's famous utterance in the World War II conscription debate.


Under the same slogan, Égalité ou indépendance, his party won the 1966 election and he became Premier of Quebec, a position that he retained until his death. His term was, among other things, qualified by tensions with the Canadian government over constitutional matters because as premier of Quebec, he put forward proposals to reform the Canadian Constitution based on the notion of two equal nations, as opposed to ten equal provinces.

During his time the province started a large-scale development program.

Suspicious death

According to the sources at the time, Daniel Johnson died of a heart attack in his sleep, without witnesses or a doctor, although he was in good shape the day before, and he had given a press conference where he spoke of his health. He had already suffered a heart attack on July 2, 1968, which had forced him to reduce his activities.

Then, the next day, after having met several personalities, including René Lévesque, the Premier retired to his room where he had a last drink in the company of a young lady named Jacqueline "Jackie", an intimate acquaintance at that time.

In July 2017, the journalist Pierre Schneider wrote that this death was is in fact an assassination through the poisoning of Johnson's wine glass.[5] According to Schneider, this lady, "whom I met a few months later, confided in me in complete privacy and "off the record", because she feared for her life, that after having drunk this last glass, she was sick as never in his life, believing to die on the spot, while Daniel Johnson was dying by his side. She then made me swear not to reveal her identity....The next morning,” she told me, “Daniel's close guard quickly evacuated me from the Manic [hydroelectric dam], ordering me to shut up forever on the things I had witnessed ... at my own risk "

Schneider writes, 50 years later": "Still haunted by this case, I returned to it a few years ago, making access to information requests in all the coroner's offices that could be involved, both at the morgue and at the National Archives which, we are told, stores all these documents on our former prime ministers, including autopsy reports. I asked without success if toxicological analyzes had been carried out and, over and over again, I was told that there was no document to this effect....Another troubling element in this unresolved story...remains the fact that, during his lifetime, Daniel Johnson had specified that when he died (he knew he was at cardiac risk), he wanted an autopsy in order to dispel any doubt, as was the case when Maurice Duplessis died.[5]


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