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February 14th, 2023 - Senators' Statements - Tributes - The Late Honourable Viola Léger

Honourable senators, it is with a heavy heart that I rise today to pay tribute to Viola Léger, who passed away on January 28 at the age of 92.

This great woman from Acadia brought Acadian culture to the rest of the country and the world by bringing to life the character of La Sagouine created by Antonine Maillet.

Viola Léger is beyond a shadow of a doubt one of the greatest Acadian actors. From 1971 to 2016, she performed the role of La Sagouine more than 3,000 times, in French and in English, in Acadia, Quebec, Canada and around the world. A true symbol of Acadian resilience, she embodied Acadian values, both on and off the stage: She was warm with people, generous with her time, staunchly proud of her Acadia, not to mention determined.

Viola Léger’s legacy goes beyond the stage. She opened doors for several future actors from Acadia by demonstrating that it was possible to make a living from their art. She always gave back to the community in many ways: She founded her own theatre company in 1985 and, in 1999, she created the Fondation Viola Léger, which has been awarding the Viola Léger award to support young artists with their projects since 2011.

On June 13, 2001, Viola Léger was appointed to the Senate, where she would serve until June 29, 2005. During this period, she seized every opportunity afforded by this forum to promote Acadia. In her maiden speech on November 20, 2001, Viola Léger spoke on a motion calling on the federal government to recognize August 15 as National Acadian Day. I would like to quote her speech, as my colleague did earlier:

Whether in Newfoundland, Louisiana, Caraquet, Montreal or Belle-Île-en-Mer, the Acadian soul is constantly reborn. We are intrigued, seduced and moved by it. It also makes us laugh, and sometimes cry. It makes us travel through time and space. The arts are a people’s soul. Without arts, there can be no identity. And without identity, a people cannot exist. The Acadian culture has been one of the most effective tools to ensure the future of the Acadian people.

Honourable senators, on behalf of the Conservative caucus, I offer our most sincere condolences to Viola Léger’s loved ones and to everyone in Acadia mourning the loss of its greatest ambassador, our Sagouine, who now shines in the sky like our most beautiful star. Thank you.

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