Robert Vachon’s Biography

Robert Vachon
One of the three pioneers of IIM, director from 1971 to 1979
founder – editor of the journal InterCulture (1968)
and author of numerous publications.

Robert Vachon was born in New England, USA to French-Canadian parents and has been living in Montreal since 1966. His early life was marked by two cultures of North America namely, French and English and then his adult life was shaped by european education and his passionate interest in inter-religious and intercultural dialogue.

Robert Vachon received academic training in theology and philosophy He was ordained a priest in 1955 and has been a member of the Congregation of La Salette, USA and taught philosophy and sociology for six years. His strong sense of social justice led him to engage himself in the field of dialogue between religions and cultures since the early 1960s. Robert Vachon offers a radical vision of interculturality that combines concrete social engagement with spiritual quest.

In 1968, he founded the international journal InterCulture and introduced a series of education programs for adults on religions and interreligious dialogue. He is a founding member of the Canadian chapter of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (1974). He has served on numerous federal and provincial advisory committees, such as the Advisory Council for Multiculturalism (1980 – 1982), the Advisory Committee on Immigration of Quebec (1983), the Committee for Intercultural Education of the Higher Council education of Quebec (1984).

Robert Vachon has extended his field of reflection and action to include economic and political dimensions of cultures of Asia, Africa and the indigenous nations of North America. The rights of peoples to their cultures especially those of indigenous peoples worldwide, the question of human rights, international development and cultural pluralism, constitute the heart of his activities for over three decades.

Robert Vachon, in addition to being the director-editor of the journal InterCulture, was also very active as a speaker nationally and internationally on various topics related to intercultural and inter-religious issues. He has to his credit several articles published in various journals, in addition to having published three books:

Who is a Québécois? Tecumseh Press, 1983.
Nations autochtones en Amérique du Nord. Fides, 1982.
Alternatives au développement. IIM, 1988 et Éditions du Fleuve, 1990.

In1990s, he published a series of the issues of the journal InterCulture on Mohawk Nation in dialogue with the Mohawks. This corpus of his work was triggered by the event of 1990’s Oka Crisis, as it is popularly known. Besides writing Robert was actively involved in defending the Mohawk Nation at various crisis situations.

 

To learn more about the life and work of Robert Vachon, consult:

His biography : An intercultural life. Robert Vachon : a spiritual journey engaging religions and cultures, Joseph Baxer, Mediaspaul, 2007

His articles in the INTERculture Journal 1968 – 2010.

More than 130 texts, published and unpublished, in the Intercultural Institute of Montreal archival funds, given to the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

– Four interviews with Robert Vachon (in French only) producde by Christoph Eberhard:

 

Robert Vachon, Aperçus du pluralisme

Robert Vachon, Écoute et dialogue interculturel

Robert Vachon, Personne et dialogue

Robert Vachon, Diatopismes et Droits

Homages and Testimonials

(….) Your contributions in the field of pluralism and interculturality cannot be measured by academic parameters because they go far beyond these. Yours has been a life-long quest, not a project of empirical research on intercultural relations and interreligious dialogue. So much can be and needs to be said about your intercultural philosophy. One of your favourite sayings is “Peoples and cultures are not an emptiness to be filled but a fullness to be discovered.” The concept is so simple yet so potent that it challenges contemporary social theories on diversity and most of the activities in the international arena. (…)

Kalpana Das,( in 2003) Executive Director, IIM,
Robert Vachon, our source of inspiration

We discovered Robert Vachon through his writings, and we circulated and published in Spanish some of them. Little by little his ideas were instilled in us. It wasn’t rare that in some of our internal discussions someone would calmly add “Yes, but Robert says that…”. We never converted him into an authority figure, something that surely would have bothered him, but he guided us in each step of the difficult path that we had begun and he continuously inspired new directions of thought and action. (…)

What we know, and what we would like to share with him and with others, is that the work of Robert Vachon, his writings as well as that which he expresses in his activities inthe Institute and in INTERculture, is a continuous source of inspiration for us. Today, we cannot conceive our work without his contribution. What he has brought us in ideas, experiences and above all in ways of experiencing in our own lives, the attitudes that define his own life, represent for us a continual promise of transformation, a new form of hope, an option. (…)

Oliver Fröhlig, Chairman of the Board, Centro de Encuentros y diálogos interculturales, Oaxaca, Mexico
Robert Vachon, through his tireless efforts to promote intercultural understanding, a humane conception of development and an understanding of the essential role of spirituality in social processes, has played a key role in the elaboration of a new paradigm of society and culture. This paradigm will one day become seen for what it is – a realistic and wise model of the relationship between people, the natural world and the social context. Through the medium of INTERculture and through his own practical efforts, Robert has demonstrated not only a new theory, but also the eminent practicality of that theory as a practice and a way of being in the world. He is worthy of our deep respect for the way in which he has single-mindedly devoted himself to this project – actually the one really authentic project that there is.
John Clammer, Professor of Sociology and Asian Studies at Sophia University, Tokyo