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The Leader-Post of Saskatoon - March 6, 2002
by Will Chabun
Roland Pinsonneault, hailed as a "giant" in Saskatchewan's francophone community died Monday at 88. "Everybody is feeling the pain," said Réjeanne Flichel, editor of the French-language Regina-based newspaper l'Eau Vive. "I'm getting faxes from Quebec and down east and from all over Canada."
Pinsonneault was born at Napierville, Quebec, and came with his parents to south-central Saskatchewan about three years later. In the 1930s, he began farming just east of Gravelbourg and immersed himself in activities designed to nourish francophone culture and communities.
Keenly aware of his heritage, he worked with a large number of historical, cultural and co-operative organizations to secure it. Gravelbourg Mayor Henri Lepage noted his involvement with the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, the local and provincial arms of the Association Culturelle Franco-Canadien, College Mathieu and his Roman Catholic parish, for which he and his wife taught marriage preparation classes.
"He was very persistent," said Albert Dubé, a friend over 40 years. "His motto would be that if you want something, you've got to 'go for it and don't quit - never quit!"
When French-language radio stations were being set up, he donated land for a transmitter near Gravelbourg. When l'Eau Vive was in financial trouble, he sold shares around the province, chaired the corporation running it and later headed the organization for French-language newspapers outside Quebec. "A very, very straightforward individual... he called a spade a spade," Lepage said. "It was very, very hard to pull something over on him."
Nicknamed the "pinson (songbird) des prairies," he was the subject of a book-length biography published in 2001 and was credited by Dubé with helping create the foundation for French-language control of French-language education. He received an array of awards, including a honorary doctorate from the University of Regina in 1979, the first Order de la Fidélité Française of the Conseil de la vie française, the Ordre des Cents Associés Francophones (1977), Ordre des Francophones d'Amérique of the Government of Quebec (1980), la médaille Benef Merenti, Séraphine Marion of the Society Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montreal, an honorary membership in l'association provinciale des Parents Fransaskois (1985), the Order du Mérite Coopératif Canadien (1992), the Ordre du Mérite Coopératif de la Saskatchewan and the Order of Canada.
The citation accompanying his investiture in the order in 2000 said that, "he is known for his exemplary determination and dedication as a volunteer, benefiting many educational and cultural organizations," adding: "his name is respected not only among Saskatchewan Francophones, but in the national Francophone community."
In an interview in 2000, Pinsonneault said his work had the same goal: "to get our rights and privileges continued while keeping the respect of the English people," adding, "when you have a right goal and you put it clearly, without animosity, you get a heck of a lot further. I've made a lot of friends on both sides of the fence by being respectful and being open."
A funeral mass takes place at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Our Lady of the Assumption Roman Catholic Co-Cathedral in Gravelbourg.