Gil Courtemanche, journalist, columnist, writer (born 18 August 1943 at Montréal, Québec; died 19 August 2011 at Montréal). From the beginning of his journalistic career in 1962, Courtemanche took an interest in public affairs and international issues. After taking part in frequent Radio-Canada broadcasts on issues of social interest, he went to Africa as a correspondent, and at this time developed a passion for international politics and the third world. He later collaborated on a number of radio and television broadcasts, including Le 60, Métro Magazine, and Présent National.
Public Affairs Journalism
In 1978, he created a public affairs television show on Radio-Canada (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) entitled L'Événement, which he hosted until 1980. Courtemanche simultaneously took on the duties of editorial writer for CBOT (an English station in Ottawa) and worked with Télé-Québec moderating Contact, their first public affairs show. During the development of the public affairs program Enjeux, Radio-Canada once again enlisted Courtmanche, who became the scriptwriter and moderator of this show, which presented all the important social issues of the day. From 1980 to 1986, Courtemanche took part in a large number of broadcasts and discussions on various social issues as host, analyst and correspondent, among them Télémag, Première Page, and Le Point.
An experienced journalist, Courtemanche was on the team that founded the daily newspaper Le Jour, and he wrote for La Presse. As international politics was his expertise, he collaborated on various Québec newspapers and was a columnist for eight years with Le Soleil and Le Devoir. A collection of his articles appeared as Chroniques internationales (1991).
As a director and producer, Courtemanche was involved in the creation of a number of documentaries, including those produced for television on TV5 Monde and TV5 Québec. Soleil dans la nuit is a series of accounts gathered for the first anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, and L'Église du sida (The Gospel of AIDS) tells of the ravages of this terrible disease. Courtemanche also produced various documentaries about the third world for humanitarian organizations. He covered such topics as leprosy in Haiti, water issues, farming in Philippines, and education in Thailand.
In spite of a long career in journalism, Courtemanche may be best known for his novel Un dimanche à la piscine à Kigali (2000), which earned high praise and established him as a novelist. It was translated into 10 languages and published in over a dozen countries. The novel won the Prix des libraires du Québec in 2001 and was nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize in 2003. Inspired by the 1994 Rwandan genocide and General Roméo Dallaire, the story was made into a movie by Robert Favreau as Un dimanche à Kigali (A Sunday in Kigali) with amazing performances by Luc Picard and Fatou N'Diaye. The novel and the film describe the full horrors of the Rwandan tragedy with compassion, and demonstrate passionate love contrasted with the beauty of a ravaged country and disbelief in face of such incredible violence.
In 2005, Une belle mort was published. It tells of the difficulty of growing old while sick, and the repercussions on an elderly couple's family. This novel was made into a movie by filmmaker Léa Pool: La dernière fugue (2010). Courtemanche then published Le monde, le lézard et moi (2009), whose plot revolves around a political analyst at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Suffering from cancer of the larynx, Courtemanche published his last novel in 2010: Je ne veux pas mourir seul (I do not want to die alone), which he claimed would be his epitaph. In it, he relives the pain of having lost the woman he loves, and his difficulty in facing the disease alone. His last book, Le camp des justes (2011), was a collection of articles from Le Devoir, combined with an original essay discussing the ways in which the world’s rich and powerful justify continued inequality among people.
Gil Courtemanche won the National Magazine Award for political reporting (1998) and was a consultant for the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (2008-2009).
Douces Colères : Journal (1989)
Trente artistes dans un train (1989)
Chroniques internationales (1991)
with Philippe Renault (photography), Québec (1998)
Nouvelles Douces Colères (1999)
Un dimanche à la piscine à Kigali (2000)
La Seconde Révolution tranquille : Démocratiser la démocratie (2003)
Une belle mort (2005)
with Bruno St-Aubin (illustrations), Plouk, le raton laveur qui ne voulait pas laver (2005)
Le Monde, le lézard et moi (2009)
Un lézard au Congo (2010)
Je ne veux pas mourir seul : autofiction (2010)
Le camp des justes (2011)
Honours and Awards
Best Documentary Film (The Gospel of AIDS), Festival Vues d’Afrique, 1993
National Magazine Award for Political Reporting Prize, 1998
Prix des libraires du Québec (Un dimanche à la piscine de Kigali), 2001
Prix de la Cadière d’Azur (Un dimanche à la piscine de Kigali), 2004
Best screenplay (Un dimanche à Kigali) with Robert Favreau, Genie Awards, 2007
Prix Hommage du public, Prix des libraires du Québec, 2008