Denise Bombardier, CQ, journalist, essayist, novelist, television producer and host (born 18 January 1941 in Montréal, Québec). The author of some 20 essays and novels, she has hosted public affairs programs for over 30 years and interviewed leading political and literary figures from Québec, Canada and France.
With a master’s degree in political science from the Université de Montréal (1971) and a doctorate in sociology from the Sorbonne (1974), Denise Bombardier began her career as a researcher at Radio-Canada, first for the television program Aujourd’hui and then for Format 30 and Format 60. Starting in 1975, she hosted a number of programs, including Présent international, Hebdo dimanche, Noir sur blanc, and Entre les lignes.
With the weekly program Noir sur blanc, which aired from 1979 to 1983 on Radio-Canada, Bombardier became the first woman to produce and host a public affairs program. Highly educated, cultivated and free-thinking, she offered a penetrating analysis of current events. When Québec was in the midst of its first debate on independence, she spoke with players from the “Yes” and “No” camps, including Lise Payette, Claude Ryan and Jean Chrétien (see Québec Referendum – 1980). She welcomed leading international figures to her studio with great aplomb. They included writer Georges Simenon, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and his successor, François Mitterrand. Canadian authors who have appeared on her program include Antonine Maillet, Alice Parizeau and Margaret Atwood.
Over the years, Bombardier has hosted inspiring — and often controversial — programs, such as Trait d’union (1987–88), Aujourd'hui dimanche (1988–91) and L’envers de la médaille. In 1992, having mastered the art of interviewing, she was chosen to host Raison Passion on Radio-Canada television as well as Le biographe et sa passion on Radio-Canada FM. In the fall of 1998, she began the interview series Au-delà des apparences for Radio-Canada television. In 1999, she produced and hosted Les idées lumière, another Radio-Canada interview program.
Columnist and Editorial Writer
Bombardier has collaborated with a variety of magazines and newspapers, including Le Monde, L’Express, Châtelaine and L’Actualité. She wrote a weekly column in Le Devoir from 2001 to 2012. In 2004, she joined the news team at the TVA television network as an editorial writer. She currently has a column in the Journal de Montréal and can be heard on Culture club, a radio show on Ici Radio-Canada Première.
Novelist and Essayist
In 2007, Denise Bombardier wrote the lyrics to La Diva for Céline Dion. The song was put to music by Erick Benzi for the album D’elles. After accompanying the singer on her 2008 world tour, Taking Chances, Bombardier wrote the authorized biography L’énigmatique Céline Dion. In the book, Bombardier sheds light on Dion’s public and private life, but above all she analyzes the social phenomenon the artist has become.
A prolific writer, Bombardier has also authored some 20 books. She demonstrated her skill as a politically and socially engaged writer for the first time in 1975 with the publication of La Voix de la France. Without fear of criticism (which could be scathing at times), she has produced works with evocative and occasionally provocative titles, such as La déroute des sexes (1993), about the need for reconciliation between men and women, Lettre ouverte aux Français qui se croient le nombril du monde (2000) and Propos d'une moraliste (2003).
In 2011, in the wake of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal, she coauthored Ne vous taisez plus! with French journalist Françoise Laborde. In this uncompromising book, the two authors compared how their respective cultures reacted to the former IMF president’s sexual assault case and how the media on both sides of the Atlantic handled it. In 2012, allegations of plagiarism were levelled against the two authors. Fayard, the publisher, was fined several thousand euros, but Denise Bombardier was cleared of all charges; it was Françoise Laborde who had apparently written the incriminating passages.
In her 2012 autobiographical novel, L’Anglais, Bombardier describes how she met Philip T. Spencer, a fictionalized version of James Jackson, the British man who became her second husband in 2003. Her first marriage was to Radio-Canada producer Claude Sylvestre (1927–2014); they had a son, Guillaume Sylvestre, who is a producer and documentarian in his own right. Bombardier also dated Lucien Bouchard in the 1980s.
Denise Bombardier has appeared in a number of films since the age of 15. She has had roles in Le Cas Labrecque (1956), Amanita Pestilens (1963), Entre la mer et l'eau douce (1967) and L’âge de braise (1998). In 2002, she portrayed a feminist queen in L’Odyssée d'Alice Tremblay, a romantic comedy starring Sophie Lorain.
While Denise Bombardier has been criticized and even caricatured, her sociological insight and penetrating analysis are rarely met with indifference. This great journalist and essayist has made her mark in Québec as well as in French-speaking countries worldwide. She has also been recognized for her efforts to promote the French language and Québécois culture internationally.
La Voix de la France (1975)
Une enfance à l’eau bénite (1985)
With Claude Saint-Laurent, Le mal de l’âme (1989)
Tremblement de cœur (1990)
La déroute des sexes (1993)
Nos hommes (1995)
Aimez-moi les uns les autres (1999)
Lettre ouverte aux Français qui se croient le nombril du monde (2000)
Propos d’une moraliste (2003)
Et quoi encore! (2004)
Sans complaisance (2005)
Edna, Irma et Gloria (2007)
Nos chères amies (2008)
L’énigmatique Céline Dion (2009)
Au risque de déplaire (2009)
With Françoise Laborde, Ne vous taisez plus! (2011)
Vieillir avec grâce (2013)
Dictionnaire amoureux du Québec (2014)
Honours and Awards
Knight of the Légion d'honneur de France (1993)
Knight of the Ordre national du Québec (2000)
Officer of the Légion d'honneur de France (2009)
Prix Reconnaissance-Francophonie from the government of Québec for her contributions to the French language and Québécois culture internationally (2010)