Monday, February 09, 2004

CLAUDE RYAN 1925-2004

Former Quebec Liberal leader and federalist leader of the 1980 sovereignty referendum, Claude Ryan has died today in a Montreal hospital at the age of 79.

Ryan served as editor of Le Devoir from 1964-1978. In 1978 he became the leader of the Quebec Liberals. He led the federalist forces in the 1980 Quebec sovereignty referendum when the separatists were defeated by a margin of 60%-40%. As premier Charest said today,

"Claude Ryan's contribution to public life and the progress of Quebec society is inestimable."

I would add that his commitment and contribution to Canada is matched by only a few; Ryan was a truly dedicated Canadian.

I had the opportunity to hear Ryan speak almost four years ago when he was invited to my first-year class in post-Confederation Canadian history. During the question period Ryan was challenged on his federalist leadership in the referendum by an obviously sovereigntist leaning student. The questioner attacked Ryan in that strident, shrill, clumsy manner that worked-up college freshman seem to master so well. Ryan for his part responded with a reasoned, sincere and impassioned defence of his politics and Canadian federalism. I wouldn't have expected anything less, but the contrast was still a sight to see.
Claude Ryan, may he rest in peace.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:54 p.m.