Magdalen Islanders leave Lapierre family funeral filled with sense of hope

Residents on the Magdalen Islands have found a way to keep going, and even to find hope, after a joint funeral for six members of the Lapierre family.

'When a tree is shaken by the violence of winds ... it takes refuge in its roots': priest at Lapierre funeral

The sun breaks through the clouds over the Magdalen Islands, as a rainbow-like halo appears to its right. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

As Father Claude Gosselin described it during his funeral homily, it's "incomprehensible"  that the day after "Papa" Raymond Lapierre died, a plane crash would take away four of his children — Martine, Marc, Louis and Jean — as well as Jean's wife Nicole Beaulieu.

And yet Madelinots, as residents on the Magdalen Islands call themselves, have found a way to keep going, and even to find hope.

During his homily at the funeral for the Lapierre family, Father Calude Gosselin described the events as “incomprehensible.” (Radio-Canada)

"When a tree is shaken by the violence of the winds and its life seems threatened, it takes refuge in its roots," Father Gosselin told the crowded Saint-François-Xavier du Bassin Church during Friday's funeral service.

"That's what we've been living in our family and in our community for the past week: We all have the reflex to go home … to nourish ourselves from the comfort that comes from being together — as if to save our lives with love."

That love is tangible on the islands as the tight-knit community mourns alongside the Lapierre family.

Anick Gaudet, pictured with her son Justyn, says she can’t imagine what “Maman Lapierre” must be feeling. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

One woman I speak with tells me she's a single mother, and she can't imagine what "Maman Lapierre" is going through after losing her husband and four children.

Anick Gaudet says her four-year-old son Justyn feels the impact of the tragedy.

Earlier this week, the local community radio station made a tribute to the family by broadcasting ringing bells followed by a minute of silence.

Justyn's daycare tuned in to listen, and Gaudet says her son turned to his friends and said, 'Listen, listen, it's the bells for the people who died. For the plane.'

Gaudet says as her son grows up, she knows he'll always remember the day of the crash.

Lucie Lapierre (centre) arrives for the funeral visitation service in Bassin, Que. on Thursday afternoon. Her husband, three sons, a daughter and a daughter-in-law all died last week. (CBC)

The day before the funeral, Madelinots bent against the wind as they streamed into the visitation at the Leblanc Funeral Home.

Nearby, I was scrambling up the Cap-aux-Meules, searching for a lookout to photograph the maritime village.

The Cap-aux-Meules, a headland on the Magdalen Islands. ( Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

The sky was darkening, the waves were crashing against the shoreline, and as I stood there, bracing myself, I noticed the halo of a rainbow (or technically a parhelion) in the sky.

A parhelion, or sun dog as it’s commonly known, appears in the sky as locals pay their respects to the Lapierre family. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)
Birds surf on wind currents near the shore, as a rainbow-like halo appears in the sky. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

The next day, at the funeral, the weather has worsened.

Inside the church, Father Gosselin offers comfort.

"Our brothers and sisters will not have died in vain if we receive the life that they've given in the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. They've led us to the divine source of love."

As the moving service comes to an end, Raymond Lapierre's surviving daughter addresses the crowd, thanking them for their support and love.

She says she wants to close the ceremony with a little wink to her dad, who taught his children to always look on the bright side.

As the wind whistles outside and the rain starts to patter, Laure asks the crowd to join her in singing You Are My Sunshine.

Hundreds of people, many now smiling and wiping away tears, burst into cheerful song.

And when I look beside me, down the last row of pews at the back of the church reserved for media, I notice my peers have forgotten their notes — and they're singing too.

Saint-François-Xavier du Bassin Church was filled with a rousing rendition of You Are My Sunshine during the Lapierre family funeral. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)


Jaela Bernstien


Jaela Bernstien is a Montreal-based journalist who covers stories about climate change and human rights for CBC News. She has a decade of experience and files regularly for web, radio and TV. She won a CAJ award as part of a team investigating black-market labour in Quebec. You can reach her at


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