Skip to content


The Late Honourable Jean Lapointe, O.C., O.Q.

November 29, 2022

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

Honourable senators, today I rise to pay tribute to former senator Jean Lapointe, who passed away on November 18. I sympathize with all who remember him as a friend.

As a senator, he made many contributions, but people will remember him first and foremost as an actor, singer and comic, an entertainer who spent decades making audiences laugh. His influence on the arts in my province, Quebec, cannot be overstated.

In 1955, he and Jérôme Lemay founded Les Jérolas — the name was a combination of Jérôme and Lapointe — a duo whose blend of music and comedy delighted spectators. Their popularity earned them a coveted appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1963 and a sold-out show at the Olympia in Paris. They often appeared on stage at Montreal’s most popular cabarets, such as Charivari and La Barak, as well as at venues like Chez Gérard, La Porte Saint-Jean, Le Coronet and Eldorado.

In his career as an actor, former Senator Lapointe won a Genie award and a Jutra award in 2004 for his role in Érik Canuel’s film Le dernier tunnel. He was honoured at the Just for Laughs gala in 2005 to mark his fiftieth anniversary in the entertainment industry. He was also inducted into the Order of Canada and appointed as an Officer of the Ordre national du Québec. According to his daughter Anne Elizabeth, he was particularly proud of La Maison Jean Lapointe, an addictions treatment centre he founded in 1982 after fighting his own battle with alcoholism.

Quebec lost one of its beloved children, whose career began in Montreal’s smoky nightclubs in the 1950s and 1960s. He appeared in the most watched program of that decade, he performed on Paris’ most famous stage, and he later served with honour in the Senate of Canada. During his last speech in the Red Chamber, he summarized his career as follows, and I quote: “I did not come here to fight; I came here to try to bring a little peace.”

In 2011, as an artist, he told La Presse the following, and I quote:

I don’t think an artist retires. I’ve still got that fire in my belly. As long as I can move, I will keep going. This is my whole life.

That’s exactly what he did.

Jean Lapointe is survived by his wife Mercédès, his seven children and his two grandsons. I wish to express my sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Hon. Raymonde Saint-Germain [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to a great Quebecer, an exceptional man who left his mark both on Quebec and the entire country. We are deeply saddened by the recent passing of the Honourable Jean Lapointe.

Above all, I want to express my deepest condolences to his family, his fans and all those from whom he commanded — and will continue to command — admiration and respect. During his maiden speech in the Senate, the Honourable Jean Lapointe shared his views on tributes like the one we are paying him today. He said, and I quote:

I humbly offer a suggestion that would no doubt reduce the time spent on the interminably long tributes occasioned by deaths, retirements, or celebrations of famous people.

I realize that on such occasions some of our colleagues use the opportunity to speak more about themselves. My suggestion is therefore as follows. In the event of a death, or when tributes are made to living persons, I suggest that both Senate leaders make a short speech to mark the occasion.

The good old times.

There may be exceptional circumstances, where people acknowledge that a colleague was a very close personal friend of the departed, and I can accept this.

As you can see, he was very diplomatic.

I’ll be brief, dear colleagues, in order to respect his wishes and in honour of his courage to speak to the Senate at the first opportunity made available to him about a matter of general interest. I’ll be brief, but I hope nevertheless to do justice to a man with such a brilliant and rich career.

Jean Lapointe was an artist of a thousand talents, a singer-songwriter, humourist and comedian, and throughout his professional life he was generous with his talent and his accomplishments, in this place and elsewhere.

The great success of his duo Les Jérolas earned him two invitations to “The Ed Sullivan Show,” in 1963 and 1967, which was a first for a Quebec duo. They made an appearance even before the Beatles on that prestigious American show, in addition to appearing twice at the Olympia in Paris, the ultimate venue at the time for francophone artists.

As a senator, Jean Lapointe dedicated himself primarily to defending the interests of people grappling with a gambling or substance addiction. This cause that he championed was a major theme throughout his personal and professional life.

He embodied a model of courage that required you to never deny, to get back up again and again, to succeed and to give back. His legacy will remain in our collective memory and live on through La Maison Jean Lapointe, which he established and which continues to help the vulnerable.

It is thanks to him that many people now find the strength to ask for help and receive the help they need. For this, as well as the artistic and compassionate legacy he leaves behind, my message to him is, “Bravo, Honourable Jean Lapointe.”

Hon. Scott Tannas [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise to pay tribute to the late Jean Lapointe, a senator from Saurel, Quebec. He was an actor, singer, comedian and philanthropist before later becoming a senator. He was a true artist in every sense of the word.

He began his career in the arts playing characters in Quebec cabarets in the fifties, and became half of the comedic group Les Jérolas until 1974. He was also a movie and TV star with 36 acting credits, including playing Maurice Duplessis in a TV miniseries in 1978, showing that he was clearly destined to be in politics later in life. As a singer-songwriter, he recorded 18 albums, and wrote and performed some classic music known to an entire generation of young, school-aged francophones across Canada.

Throughout his life, Jean Lapointe battled personal demons with addiction. In 1982, an addiction treatment centre in Montreal was renamed La Maison Jean Lapointe for which he was a board member. To support the centre, the Jean Lapointe Foundation was founded, and today supports youth centres in Montreal and Trois-Rivières. These centres have treated over 38,000 individuals with addictions.

He was named to the Senate in 2001 and sat in this place until 2010. His personal background dominated his work in the Senate, where he introduced numerous bills to limit the location of video lottery terminals — which are highly addictive to some — to locations where gambling already occurs such as casinos and racetracks.

Senator Lapointe was an Officer of the Order of Canada. His passing is a loss for Quebec, for the arts community and for francophones across Canada.

Honourable colleagues, I rise today to pay tribute to a great Quebecer and a great Canadian who passed away on November 18, 2022.

Our former colleague Senator Jean Lapointe passed away surrounded by his loved ones at the age of 86. Following a brilliant career as a comedian, singer, songwriter, actor and philanthropist, Jean Lapointe was appointed to the Senate on June 13, 2001, by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and sat in the Senate as a Liberal — he did have faults, after all — until his mandatory retirement at the age of 75 on December 6, 2010.

I want to extend my condolences to Jean’s family, to his many friends and colleagues in the arts and philanthropy communities, and to all Quebecers, because Jean Lapointe was truly part of our family for decades.

In November 2010, a few days before Jean retired from the Senate, I had the honour of paying tribute to him for the occasion. I looked him straight in the eye and said the following, and I quote:

The man I wish to pay tribute to here today is a wonderful friend to people struggling with various addictions, including alcohol, drugs and gambling, a man who understands, as his own song lyrics say, that “Everyone has a Story,” a man who encourages those people to grow, even inviting them to express themselves, saying “Sing me your Song,” a man who has helped and supported others by saying, “Let’s Sing Together.”

In 1982, Jean Lapointe very generously joined the fight against alcoholism by lending his name to a drug treatment centre that would become La Maison Jean Lapointe.

In 1983, he issued a call of hope to people struggling with addictions with the following words, “Bring your sick flowers; we will put them in the sun. Yes, now is the time for sick flowers to come back to life and experience a summer like no other.”

In 1984, my father was one of those flowers who answered his call.

Honourable senators, Jean Lapointe was an infinitely kind and altruistic man with extraordinary artistic talent.

I will close with this little anecdote that Guy Fournier, a Quebec artist involved in the world of communications, shared with us at the time of Jean Lapointe’s death. When Guy Fournier founded the television station Télévision Quatre-Saisons, he said that before going on stage for the big launch, he was overcome with stage fright. This is how he tells the story:

A few minutes before I left my dressing room, there was a knock at the door. It was Jean Lapointe.

“I came to give you a hug to make you feel better.”

I barely knew the guy, but he had guessed that I was scared to death. He hugged me for a solid minute, then whispered in my ear, “You have nothing to worry about. People will like you if they get the feeling you like them. That’s my secret to getting over stage fright.”

I doubt Jean Lapointe ever had stage fright, because Quebecers adored him.

Farewell, Jean.

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond [ + ]

Honourable senators, I, too, would like to all too briefly pay tribute to the Honourable Jean Lapointe, an important figure in Quebec, known for his songs and for his great talent as a composer, comedian, impersonator and actor.

Though he is dead, he will continue to live on in the hearts and minds of Quebecers through the lasting memories he created and his remarkable philanthropic institution, La Maison Jean Lapointe, which, for 40 years, has been helping men and women escape the clutches of alcoholism as he did himself.

He joined this chamber rather unexpectedly in 2001 and held the position for nine years as “a Liberal in quotation marks,” as he was fond of saying. He never liked political posturing in the Senate and he was not shy about speaking out about the ways time was being wasted, something that still happens all too often today.

As Senator Saint-Germain pointed out, in his maiden speech in the Senate, Senator Lapointe proposed to reduce the time spent on the “tributes occasioned by deaths,” which he described as interminably long. Mr. Lapointe, wherever you are today, we’re listening to you and we allocated only 15 minutes to your tributes when you deserve hours of them.

Even though politics made him “unhappy” and “disappointed,” in 2022, he still saw the Senate as “the guardian angel of the people, of minorities and of the poor.”

He arrived in Ottawa a declared and staunch federalist, and said shortly after his retirement that he understood the realty of the two solitudes, saying about Quebecers, and I quote, “We don’t think the same way, we’re not made the same way.”

In an interview with Patrice Roy from Radio-Canada television a few months ago, he said, “One day or another, Quebec will be independent. That’s my wish.”

Those who worked with him unanimously describe him as spirited and tormented, but very compassionate. He sung to Quebecers about things they could relate to.

To his daughter Anne Elizabeth, to his son, Jean-Marie, and to the other members of the Lapointe family, I offer my deepest condolences on the passing of one of our greats.

Thank you.

Back to top