Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




Kevin B. Wamsley

2nd Supervisor

Michael Heine

Joint Supervisor


The idea of nationalism within the Province of Quebec has been prominent throughout its history. As a notable subject, French Canadian nationalism has been studied in great detail, in relation to sport, politics, and art. However, the relationship between Francophone pride and physical culture has yet to be examined.

The purpose of this thesis was to reveal the presence of French Canadian nationalism within the realm of bodybuilding, more specifically, to study Adrien Gagnon’s physical culture magazine Santé et Développement Physique as a vehicle for nationalist thinking. Since Gagnon was publishing between 1946 and 1956, but was born in 1924, it was important to describe nationalism in Quebec from Gagnon’s birth to the end of his career as a bodybuilding author and editor. By doing this, my justification of seeing Gagnon as a protector of the French Canadian population of Quebec could be related to the environment in which he was raised and lived – characterized by linguistic tension and Francophone oppression.

Through an analysis of articles about health and exercise in relation to youth and religion, about Adrien Gagnon’s longstanding feud with Ben Weider, and with Gagnon’s perseverance as an author and bodybuilding contest organizer, I argue that Adrien Gagnon strove to build what he referred to as a perfect French Canadian race. For Gagnon, healthy individuals made a healthy population and a strong “race”. Also, with the help of numerous allegations against Weider and frequent promotional messages of his own physique and lessons, Adrien Gagnon attempted to undermine his Anglophone competition and display the supremacy of the French Canadians within the sport of bodybuilding and the realm of physical culture. Finally, through the creation of his weightlifting club and his bodybuilding federation, which both emulated Francophone ancestry and pride, Gagnon found his vehicles with which to promote the significance of strong French Canadians beyond his muscle publications.

Finally, the termination of his publications led to the disappearance of Gagnon’s nationalistic propaganda, but did not result in his demise. Adrien Gagnon went on to create one of the biggest natural supplement companies in Quebec and experienced immense success through hard work and perseverance as an ambassador and advocate of healthy living. Nevertheless, within the pages of this thesis, Adrien Gagnon will be remembered as a protector and sentinel of what he referred to as the French Canadian race.