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“Merci, Claude!” Claude Fournier, a renowned Quebec filmmaker and friend of Ukraine, passed away aged 91

Mar 23, 2023 | News, Life, Community, Canada, Featured, Politics, In Memoriam

Example of a tweet by Claude Fournier retweeting Ukraine’s célèbre Femen activist I. Shevchenko

Evhenia Viatchaninova,

I would not at this point remember on which day of the most horrible year of my life – 2022 – I met Claude Fournier in front of the russian consulate in Montreal. One thing is certain, he would with his elegant wife Marie-José Raymond or other members of the well-known Fournier family. The couple would be coming to protest against russia’s war on a pretty much daily basis from mid-April 2022, following the call by their friend Serge Sasseville, a municipal councilor. Quite often they would be the only ones to stage a protest.

On March 16th, after a heart attack, Claude left this world to raise his voice against an illegal and unjustified war that russia has waged against Ukraine in the higher place. An outpouring of love followed from the Prime Minister of Québec François Légault, Canada’s Hon. Minister of Heritage Pablo Rodriquez, and other dignitaries the moment the news broke out. It is time that the Ukrainian Canadian community pay its tribute to the grand filmmaker who took the Ukrainian cause so deeply to his heart.

While there are many articles in the media written in homage of the famous filmmaker, recounting key milestones from his prolific professional biography, he has been widely known by his classic movies (often created in partnership with Marie-José Raymond, his partner of the last 53 years), such as: “Deux femmes en or” (EN: “Two Women in Gold”) or “Bonheur d’occasion” (EN: “The Tin Flute”). And by the important project that the couple has been behind, i.e., to digitize Québec cinematic heritage in a memory-preserving project “Éléphant”.

To us, members of the Ukrainian community regularly protesting on the weekends in front of the wicked consulate, Claude will be remembered by the undeniable sense of humor with which he would approach the protest itself. His placards would be the most vivid and spot-on. And he would not shy away from painting the snow in red saying “@#$% Putin” (which the consulate employees would usher to remove not even five minutes after the end of the daily protest). The protest, it should be explained, lasts for 15 minutes and follows the following ritual set by Mr. Sasseville: the sounds of a siren with the “blessing” to the russian warship from the Snake’s Island, followed by the Ukrainian national anthem, followed by “Stand With Ukraine”, “Stop the War” and what-have-you slogans shouted by the crowd. The ritual is repeated three times before the protesters reconvene for a group photo, which Claude would masterfully feature afterwards on social media.

Though short, the protest didn’t go unnoticed. Brawls with the consulate employees became commonplace. The ambassador of the terrorist state would go on media complaining about it, which speaks to the proper psychological effects of this citizen initiative. Claude was personally harassed not once, but a few times by the employees. For instance, they would not shy away from removing the speaker from the hands of a 91-year-old man and then chasing his sister-in-law to remove her phone filming the incident. Such instances would be publicized on social media and then covered in local media.

In his turn, Claude Fournier would call a spade a spade, by voicing what others secretly wish, which has been particularly important in the province where pro-russian voices have been historically strong. For a self-described «vieux cinéaste full chill» (ENG: “Old filmmaker, full chill”) he was a trend setter among the Québec bohemian scene.

His last tweet, too, was devoted to the Ukrainian cause. Like others around the globe, he has been outraged by the russian firing squad treacherously killing Ukraine’s prisoner of war for mere saying “Slava Ukraini” (EN: “Glory to Ukraine”). The man later recognized as missing sniper Oleksandr Matsievskyi was posthumously awarded the Hero of Ukraine.

It is telling that the last moments of his life Marie-José was wearing the T-shirt of St. Javelin when she was saying farewell to Claude, by his hospital bed. This same T-shirt, along with Claude’s favourite Hutsul wool socks were on display during the March 19th protest in front of the consulate, the first for the Fournier family since the shock.

The last words I, on behalf of many in our Montreal Ukrainian community, would like to whisper to Claude would be “Rest in peace, cher Claude ! Vichna pamyat” (UKR: “Memory eternal”). “Il n’y a pas d’âge pour arrêter !” (EN: “There is no age to stop”) – said your Twitter profile. No better motto for me and others to appropriate in our steadfast fight for Ukraine’s victory and its rebuilding.

P.S. Members of the Ukrainian Canadian community are invited to Cinéma Impérial in Montreal at 7pm on April 17, 2023, to honor the memory of Claude Fournier.

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