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Humorous tradition for a legendary politician

July 2019

René Lévesque was a small man in stature, standing only 5’3″, but his legacy is larger than life. As founder of the Parti Québécois and later the 23rd Premier of Quebec from November 1976 to October 1985, Lévesque was at the head of the sovereignty movement in Quebec, in which Quebec sought to separate from the Canadian confederation.

The height of Lévesque’s contribution to the sovereignty movement came in 1980, when his PQ government held a referendum on separation. Unfortunately for Lévesque’s dream of an independent Quebec, the referendum failed, with 40% in favour of separation and 60% opposed.

A lifetime heavy smoker, Lévesque died of a heart attack on 1 November 1987 at the age of 65. After lying in state in Montreal and Quebec City, he was buried in Cimetière Saint-Michel-de-Sillery in Quebec City.

On 3 June 1999, a statue of Lévesque was unveiled outside the Parliament Building in Quebec City, along the street named in his honour. Originally it was a life-size statue that stood outside the Parliament Building, but it was later replaced with a slightly bigger one as many felt that the original one didn’t accurately reflect his importance in Quebec’s history.

The original statue was re-located to his hometown of New Carlisle, Quebec.

Both the original statue and the replacement been the source of a comical yet fitting tribute to Lévesque. The fingers of both his hands are slightly parted, just enough so that tourists and the faithful could insert a cigarette, a humourous nod to the fact that Lévesque seemingly always had a cigarette in his hand.

On a recent trip to Quebec City, I too took part in the affectionate tribute.  Although I didn’t have any cigarettes, I did have some Colts cigars left over from the hunt camp.  It’s the thought that counts.

Sources:  https://www.chromehorse.net/rants/rants2001/20010908_leveque_statue.htmhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/René_Lévesque.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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