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DÉCLARATIONS DE SÉNATEURS - Le Mythe de Napoléon au Canada français


Hon. Paul E. McIntyre: Honourable senators, I have here a copy of Le Mythe de Napoléon au Canada français, a book that was written by our colleague Senator Serge Joyal and was the subject of a documentary. An advanced screening of the documentary was shown in Paris on September 26, 2016, while a private screening was hosted by the Ambassador of France in Ottawa on February 1, 2017. I had the privilege of attending that event.

The book is 567 pages long and has 6 parts, with 42 chapters. It is very well written, extremely interesting, very well illustrated, and very readable. Senator Joyal takes us on a trip through the centuries with Napoleon sporting his legendary bicorn and mounted on his white horse, his right hand in his vest. Senator Joyal uncovers the mystery behind this illustrious character and relays the myth of an emperor that continues to captivate the popular imagination.

Napoleon. How many times have we heard that name throughout the decades, a name that resonates in the history of humanity as an unrelenting legend? Much more than a name or an image, Napoleon is an important historical figure, a mythical character that was the heir to the French Revolution, a character considered anti-clerical, but also responsible for countless other events around the world that are recounted in the book.

For the Church, the French Revolution led to the overthrow of the altar and throne, and Napoleon Bonaparte was entirely responsible. At the time, in Europe as in French Canada, rightly or wrongly, history will recall that as Napoleon began to rise, he was immediately characterized as a tyrant, an usurper, a pagan, a destroyer. So began an anti-Napoleon campaign in French Canada, fervently led mostly by the clergy, but also by the press and certain writers of the time.

Even his capture by British forces and exile to the island of Saint Helena did not put an end to the anti-Napoleon campaign in France and French Canada. Anything closely or remotely associated with the emperor was to be proscribed or destroyed in order to erase any memory of him from the people's minds.

According to the book, something unprecedented took root in England during the emperor's lifetime: "There was a desire to perpetuate the memory of a formidable enemy." People found his politics, his conquests, his lifestyle and his defeat fascinating. They wanted to know everything about the brilliant strategist.

The burgeoning phenomenon reached French Canada, where the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte could henceforth be praised in public. The people admired him, sang about him, played him on stage and read his writings. Once reviled, Napoleon became the great mythological hero of a society, as Senator Joyal so ably relates. The book also tells us that he was an inspiration to historians, writers and especially politicians.

Napoleon Bonaparte lives on to this day. From the Napoleonic Code, the emperor's legislative legacy, to objects bearing his likeness, from plays to theme restaurants, not to mention caricatures and museum exhibits about him, his memory transcends time and culture. He has become an object of fascination to people around the world, and he will always be a part of us.

I recommend this book to you, esteemed colleagues. Senator Joyal's words will make you feel like a member of the illustrious Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte's entourage. I congratulate Senator Joyal on his book. What a wonderful writer he is.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!