Montreal

Jacques Parizeau remembered as modern Quebec 'nation builder'

Quebec’s former premier, and the man who nearly led the province to sovereignty, was remembered today as a teacher, a keen financier and a modern nation builder who cared deeply about the future of the province.

Former Quebec premier and Parti Québécois leader died of cancer June 1

Jacques Parizeau's wife, Lisette Lapointe, seated next to her husband's coffin at the former premier's funeral today in Montreal. (Media pool )

Quebec's former premier, and the man who nearly led the province to sovereignty, was remembered today as a teacher, a keen financier and a modern nation builder who cared deeply about the future of the province.

Jacques Parizeau died of cancer June 1 at the age of 84.

Considered one of the province's most respected economists, Parizeau was best known as the Parti Québécois premier during the sovereignty referendum of 1995, decided by a razor-thin margin.

His supporters hope Parizeau's legacy will overshadow his infamous speech blaming the referendum's outcome on "money and the ethnic votes."

The funeral for the longtime MNA and former leader of the Parti Québécois was held in at Saint-Germain-D'Outremont in Montreal this afternoon.  

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      More than 300 people, many waving Quebec flags, gathered across the road from the church as Parizeau's casket arrived and was carried inside by provincial police officers. 

      The church was packed by several generations of Quebec sovereigntists and politicians, many of whom applauded loudly as the new leaders of the movement, Pierre Karl Péladeau and Gilles Duceppe, entered the church. 

      Though Duceppe has not officially taken over as head of the Bloc Québécois, word of his pending return broke earlier in the day. 

      All of Quebec's living premiers were in attendance.

      Lisette Lapointe, former PQ politician and Parizeau's wife of the last 20 years, shared a stoic smile seated next to her husband's coffin as Philippe Couillard, University of Montreal Rector Guy Breton and former PQ MNA and Option Nationale founder Jean-Martin Aussant eulogized the former premier.

      Jacques Parizeau led the Parti Québécois during the 1995 referendum. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

      Couillard remembered Parizeau as teacher to a generation who would never settle for shortcuts.

      "I remember a rational man who was respectful of the arguments of his opponents and also deeply respectful of our institutions," he said.

      "I do not remember once hearing him denigrate or demean an opponent."

      Aussant described Parizeau as a "man of numbers with a heart," and a teacher who supported the next generation of nation builders.

      Aussant said Parizeau laughed heartily when he learned that young sovereignists referred to him as "Yoda."

      Parizeau supported Aussant's vision of a sovereign Quebec. After he resigned from the party caucus in 2011 along with Lapointe and two other PQ MNAs, Parizeau contributed to his campaign when he launched his own party before the 2012 provincial election.

      "Our discussions between two economists often focused on more pragmatic concepts," Aussant said.

      "So I never told him what all of Quebec didn't tell him enough: I love you, Mr. Parizeau."

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