Montreal

René Angélil's 'national' funeral 'over the top,' says Francine Pelletier

Quebec feminist commentator and filmmaker Francine Pelletier wonders why impresario René Angélil, who made his fortune in the U.S., is honoured with what Quebec calls a "national" funeral when so many others - particularly women - are overlooked.

Impresario made his mark in the U.S., leaving writer wondering why state-sponsored funeral is warranted

Women who made a greater cultural impact in Quebec than René Angélil have not received national funerals, Francine Pelletier says.

As flags flew at half-mast and thousands prepared to line up to pay their respects to Céline Dion's husband and manager, René Angélil, feminist commentator, writer and filmmaker Francine Pelletier raised a sensitive question in Quebec about the state-sponsored funeral for the 73-year-old impresario.

"One has to wonder why a businessman who has had a career and made a lot of money in the U.S. has to be honoured with a state funeral in Quebec?" Pelletier asked, in an interview on CBC's Homerun. 

'National' vs. state funeral

Technically speaking, Angélil is not getting a state funeral: Those are reserved for former premiers such as René Lévesque, Robert Bourassa and Jacques Parizeau. 

Journalist and filmmaker Francine Pelletier has questioned why a businessman who made his career in the U.S. is being honoured in Quebec with a "national" funeral. (CBC)

However, in recent years, Quebec has also begun a tradition of holding what are called "national" funerals for lesser politicians and for people who have made their mark on Quebec's cultural scene.

"These funerals are reserved for people who have really done great things for Quebec – politically, socially culturally," Pelletier said. "René Angélil has done great things for Céline Dion in the United States, mostly. But in terms of Quebec?

"I think it's really over the top."

Great Quebec women overlooked

Pelletier suggests the Quebec government decided Angélil warranted a "national" funeral because of the success his wife represents to Quebecers.

Céline Dion is perceived "as la petite fille de Charlemagne who has made it big," Pelletier said. "People love her dearly and love her success."

"Perhaps we should wait until Céline Dion dies and give her a state funeral – because we've given no women yet a state funeral. That's another thing that irks."

Pelletier said there is a long list of women Quebecers who might have qualified for such an honour: Quebec feminist, social reformer and Canadian senator, Thérèse Casgrain, singer Pauline Julien, author Anne Hébert, not to mention social activists such as Léa Roback and Madeleine Parent.

All, she said, "have made a difference in this province – and were overlooked."

Hockey heroes 

Committed feminist though she is, Pelletier has no problem with "national" funerals being held for the likes of Maurice Richard and Jean Béliveau – both hockey heroes who played for Montreal's beloved Canadiens.

"Hockey stars really represent something here in Quebec in terms of our identity," Pelletier said.

"But they were here. René Angélil was not here: He was in Las Vegas."

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