National funeral | Women are the forgotten greats

(Quebec) Sexism insinuates itself everywhere, even in death. Among the twenty prominent personalities who were entitled to definitive recognition by the state of Quebec at the time of their death, there is no woman outside the political world.

Posted at 10:52

Jocelyn Richer
The Canadian press

Whether in the visual arts, film, literature, sports, trade unionism, media or any other industry, no woman has ever distinguished herself enough in the eyes of the Quebec government to deserve the highest honors, national funerals, at the time of death.

The portrait looks very different if you are a man, especially if you know how to handle a hockey stick.

On Tuesday Guy Lafleur will be the third hockey player to have the privilege of being part of the select club of personalities entitled to a national funeral, after Jean Béliveau (2014) and Maurice Richard (2000), eloquent demonstration of the particular value given to this sport. in Quebec.

On Thursday, Prime Minister François Legault also wanted to attend the funeral of another hockey player, Mike Bossy, and demanded that the Quebec flag be lowered in parliament.

To the list of honored personalities linked to the world of hockey, we must add the name of the journalist and commentator of the Hockey Night, Richard Garneau, the subject of a national commemoration in 2013.

The choice of offering the family of the deceased the state funeral rests with the Prime Minister. It is therefore an arbitrary political decision which is not based on any objective criteria.

Regarding the deceased’s accomplishments, his achievements, we can assume that the decision is also largely based on personality notoriety or a subjective assessment of his contribution to Quebec influence. The Prime Minister can also rely on a recommendation from the Head of Protocol.

Since 1959, in total, about thirty people have had official funerals in Quebec, of which about ten have received the final reward, state funerals and about twenty personalities who have been offered national funerals or national commemorations. , the secular version.

No woman has had a state funeral, usually reserved for prime ministers or presidents of the National Assembly. Exceptions to this rule, however, were made for two ministers: the former liberal minister Gérard-D. Lévesque, in 1993, and the former minister Pierre Laporte, assassinated in 1970, during the October crisis.

Two political women were honored at the time of their deaths. Marie-Claire Kirkland-Casgrain, pioneer of women’s rights, first woman elected to the National Assembly, is the only woman to be entitled to a national funeral in 2016. The death of another pioneer, the former minister PQ, host and author Lise Payette was awarded a national commemoration in 2018.


Photo EDOUARD PLANTE-FRECHETTE, LA PRESSE archives

State funeral of Marie-Claire Kirkland Casgrain in April 2016

But politics aside, there is no woman’s name on the Quebec state-honored personalities list at the time of their deaths.

In 1996, eager to better honor the memory of unelected personalities who have excelled in their industry, the government created a new category of state funerals.

The first to benefit will have been the author of The raped man, Gaston Miron (1996). Other leading figures of Quebec literature did not have this honor, such as Anne Hébert (2000) or Marie-Claire Blais (2021), writers of international influence, or Michèle Lalonde (2021), author of the famous poem Speak white.

If the painters Jean-Paul Riopelle (2002) and Fernand Leduc (2014) had the privilege of receiving a national funeral in the first case and a national commemoration in the other, it was not so for the painter and glass artist Marcelle Ferron ( 2001), a signatory of Refus global, or Corno (2016), which has sold her paintings all over the world, just to name a few.

The state also awarded two great Quebec filmmakers: Gilles Carle (2009) and Michel Brault (2013). The former had a state funeral, the latter a national commemoration.

Still in the cultural field, we remind you that in 2016 it was the turn of Celine Dion’s impresario, René Angélil, to receive top marks.

The only union representative to appear on the list, former FTQ chairman Louis Laberge (2002) was also entitled to state recognition.

In a separate category, Quebec offered a national commemoration to Denis Blanchette, a Metropolis employee and victim of the failed attack on Prime Minister Pauline Marois on the evening of her election victory in September 2012.

Even when moving into political circles, the ultimate reward is not automatic. Apart from Mmy Kirkland-Casgrain and Payette, those who have left their mark on it to the point of gaining state recognition are the father of Bill 101, Camille Laurin (1999), former minister and former head of the Liberal Party of Quebec (PLQ) and former Le Devoir director Claude Ryan (2004), former Liberal Minister Claude Béchard (2010), former Minister of Education Paul Gérin-Lajoie (2018), who all had national funerals, and the former Minister of Justice PQ Marc-André Bédard (2022), which was given a national commemoration.

The organization of national funerals or commemorations takes place in collaboration with the family of the deceased. Normally the government supports the entire organization, including lying in state, religious ceremony or tribute to the deceased, as well as the lowering of the flag on the day of the funeral. The average cost to taxpayers is approximately $ 50,000.

To date, eight prime ministers have had state funerals: Maurice Duplessis (1959), Daniel Johnson (1968), Jean-Jacques Bertrand (1973), Jean Lesage (1980), René Lévesque (1987), Robert Bourassa (1996), Jacques Parizeau (2015) and Bernard Landry (2018).

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