Canadian pro-life officials are wary of news that an English-language version of the political affairs magazine Cité libre will be available throughout Canada.

Founded in 1950 by former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Gerard Pelletier, Cité libre at one time enjoyed tremendous influence in Quebec’s intellectual and cultural elites. Cité libre has also been described as a catalyst in shaping Quebec’s “Quiet Revolution” in the 1950s and 60s.

The magazine today is billed as a voice for liberal values, social justice and national unity. It seeks to “break down the wall of silence” between English and French Canada by publishing identical commentary in both official languages.

Although the magazine’s influence waned during Trudeau’s years as prime minister (1968-1979, 1980-84), it regained strength as a federalist voice in Quebec in the late 1980s.

It now seeks to counterbalance the prevailing view among Quebec intellectuals that separatism is the only viable option for the province.

The English version of Cité libre was launched at a Jan. 19 gathering in Toronto with Trudeau and a host of his former Liberal cronies on hand. Similar launching ceremonies were scheduled for Ottawa, Halifax and Vancouver.

In the 1950s, Cité libre was highly critical of former Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis’ stranglehold on the province’s political power. At the same time, the magazine opposed what it called the “repressive power” of the Catholic Church in Quebec, calling instead for a modern, pluralistic state.

Some see a link between this rush to embrace secular-humanist values and the sorry state of pro-life affairs in Quebec in the 1990s.

In his 1985 booklet The Secular State, Catholic Insight magazine editor Father Alphonse deValk suggested Trudeau was all too ready to relegate religion and faith to the private sphere.

“Pierre Trudeau, on assuming office as minister of justice in 1967, showed himself ready to accommodate the new intellectual and moral order by introducing permissive legislation for divorce, homosexuality and abortion,” Father deValk wrote. “In private, he could be guided by religion, but not in public.”

Father deValk concludes in the booklet that “Trudeau’s contribution to political secularism, in all its impossibility and with all its contradictions, is more significant than anything else he did.”

While Canadian pro-lifers welcome any initiative supporting national unity, some are troubled by the secular-humanist values espoused by the magazine’s founders.