Lucien Bouchard says he was bullied as a kid and now he is sharing his story to help denounce the phenomenon.
The former Quebec premier made the revelation in an online video released on Wednesday as part of a campaign that coincides with Bullying Awareness Week.
"I'm not only speaking theoretically, I also lived it during my childhood," Bouchard says in French during the two-minute video.
"I know what it's like to be bullied by someone much older and much stronger."
Bouchard, seen standing in front of a white backdrop, continues by saying that bullying attacks personal freedom, takes away the victim's dignity and can lead to a spiral of violence.
He says aggressors try to deal with their own personal problems by targeting others with actions that prove to be self-degrading.
"Bullying is a social problem," says Bouchard, a prominent figure in Quebec's independence movement and a key founder of the Bloc Québécois.
"We must convince one and all that it's an unacceptable way to act in society."
Bouchard finishes his statement by holding his right palm in front of the camera and saying: "I say 'no' to bullying."
The clip was released on a day when the federal government introduced legislation that cracks down on cyberbullying.
His video is part of an awareness campaign launched by the Jasmin-Roy foundation, a Quebec organization dedicated to the fight against bullying. The group also released anti-bullying messages Wednesday from other notable Quebecers, including Olympic champion Alexandre Bilodeau and Montreal actor Jay Baruchel.
"It was a surprise for me to see that [Bouchard] was bullied. … It was a surprise like it's a surprise for all Quebecers today," Jasmin Roy, the group's president and founder, said in an interview.
"What we now understand is that any person, from any social class, can be a bullying victim."
Roy added that Bouchard decided to share his own experiences growing up in Quebec's Saguenay region after being approached by Sophie Desmarais, the foundation's honorary spokeswoman. She is the daughter of the late business tycoon Paul Desmarais, who was a friend of Bouchard's.
Roy also pointed to Bouchard's remarks in a newspaper interview published Wednesday, a report that quotes the ex-premier as saying he suffered broken teeth, black eyes and bruises after run-ins with his tormentors.
Bouchard told the newspaper he first became a target at school when he was nine years old, and that he and his brothers were also bullied a few years later for being top students.
"He is sending a message to the population … that even if you're bullied in life you can go far, you can be the premier," Roy said.