Bernard Landry, 'a faithful and worthy fighter' for sovereignty, laid to rest

Quebec's political and intellectual elite and citizens from all walks of life filled Notre-Dame Basilica in Old Montreal for the state funeral of Quebec's 28th premier, who died last week at 81.

Family, friends recall ambitious, erudite small-town boy whose commitment to Quebec nation lives on in others

The casket of former Quebec premier Bernard Landry is carried out of Notre-Dame Basilica, followed by his wife Chantal Renaud, his children, grandchildren and other family members. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Calling him "a man of honour and conviction, a faithful and worthy fighter, my friend," fellow former premier Lucien Bouchard, his voice cracking with grief, paid homage to Bernard Landry before Quebec's political and intellectual elite who packed the pews of Notre-Dame Basilica Tuesday.

Family, political allies — and political adversaries who still called Landry "friend" — took turns eulogizing a man they remembered as ambitious and erudite, generous, and singularly devoted to the cause of Quebec nationhood.

Landry, premier of Quebec from 2001 until 2003 and an indefatigable champion of sovereignty, died Nov. 6 at his home in Varennes, Que., of pulmonary fibrosis.

The funeral mass, which ran nearly three hours and was televised on Quebec's French-language networks, was presided over by Bishop Christian Lépine.

Landry's casket, draped in Quebec's flag, the fleurdelisé, was borne by an honour guard of eight Sûreté du Québec officers. Les gens de mon pays, chansonnier Gilles Vigneault's anthem from the heady days of the 1960s, played as they made their way to the front of the church.

Former Quebec premiers Lucien Bouchard, centre, Jean Charest, second from right, and current Quebec Premier Francois Legault attend the funeral of former Quebec premier Bernard Landry. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

No ordinary papa

The tributes began with his daughter, Pascale Landry, who said the outpouring of support the family received from Quebecers has been a great comfort to them.

He was "like all papas, but not really," she said, recalling a childhood that was never boring and crediting her father for passing on his "love for the French language and for its civilization," his respect for others and his high ideals.

His emotions nearly getting the better of him, former premier Lucien Bouchard was eloquent as he described Landry as an ambitious young man growing up in a modest rural Quebec home who blossomed into a Quebec nationalist while still a young man.

"No political defeat could dampen his resolve when it came to sovereignty," Bouchard said of the man who served as his finance minister before going on to step into his shoes as Parti Québécois leader and premier in 2003.

Former premier Lucien Bouchard delivered a heartfelt account of who Landry was. (Radio-Canada)

Beyond sovereignty, Bouchard said Landry took a deep interest in history and was inspired by "the long shadows of the past."

He called Landry an eternal optimist and fierce advocate of the French language.

Former PQ leader Pierre Karl Péladeau received loud applause for his tribute which focused on Landry's connection to the sovereignty movement.

"Your country, Mr. Landry, our country, Bernard, we will continue to want to see its creation," he said. "We will never forget you."

Pierre Karl Peladeau addresses the funeral services for former Quebec premier Bernard Landry in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Former Liberal premier Jean Charest spoke warmly of the man he faced across the floor of the National Assembly for so many years.  

In the days preceding Landry's death, he said, the two men met, and Landry told him he should be very proud of everything he did for Quebecers.

"I recognized a man whose heart overflowed with love for Quebec, for which he dedicated more than 50 years of his life," Charest said.

"All his life, he was seized by his deep conviction for Quebec independence," Charest said. "It was anchored in each dimension of his life."

'Builder of modern Quebec'

Landry's dedication to the economic well-being of the province — he brought in the first balanced budget in decades as finance minister in the Bouchard government in 1999 — was at the core of the tribute from Quebec Premier François Legault, who called him "a source of inspiration."

"He was one of the great builders of modern Quebec," Legault said.

Working towards the common good of all Quebecers was one of Landry's guiding principles, said Louise Harel, a PQ MNA for nearly four decades and the first woman to serve as Speaker of the National Assembly.

"He believed in a Quebec that's prosperous and united," Harel said.

Longtime PQ MNA Louise Harel, the province's first female Speaker, recalled how her friend and longtime political ally was devoted to working toward the common good of all Quebecers. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Friend of the Crees

Former Grand Chief Ted Moses, the Cree leader with whom Landry signed historic hydro-electric revenue-sharing agreement called the Paix des Braves, also drew on those themes of prosperity and unity.

Speaking in English, he recounted the work they did together.

"Bernard Landry was a friend of the Crees; he was also my friend and even called me 'my brother,'" Moses said.

"Thanks to Bernard Landry, we now have the means to ensure a prosperous future for ourselves."

Former Cree grand chief Ted Moses said Bernard Landry called him a friend and brother and that he was a true friend and ally of the Quebec Crees. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Landry continued to serve as an advisor to members of his party until his dying days.

Interim PQ Leader Pascal Bérubé said his recent meeting with Landry will guide him into the future.

"He wanted Quebec to go from being a renter to an owner," Bérubé said.

Mourners wave flags as the hearse draws away from Notre-Dame Basilica in Old Montreal after the funeral services for former Quebec premier Bernard Landry Tuesday. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Fund in Landry's memory

After he left politics in 2005, abruptly giving up his post as Parti Québécois leader after a lukewarm confidence vote, Landry returned to a teaching post at the Université du Quebec à Montréal (UQAM).

The UQAM Foundation announced Monday that it has created a fund in his memory, the Bernard-Landry Fund, which will provide scholarships to UQAM students.

"Mr. Landry had expressed the desire to create a fund to support students," UQAM Foundation spokesperson Katrina Côté Girard said.

About the Author

Elysha Enos

Journalist

Elysha Enos is a journalist with CBC Montreal.