Solange Chaput-Rolland, OC, OQ, author, television host, politician, senator and advocate for constitutional recognition of Québec’s special status within the Canadian federation (born 14 May 1919 in Montréal, QC; died 31 October 2001 in Sainte-Marguerite-Estérel, QC). Among the first cohort of Québec women who could vote in provincial elections, Chaput-Rolland spent much of her career attempting to interpret Québec for the rest of Canada.
Education and Marriage
One of five children of industrialist Émile Chaput and his wife, Rosalie Loranger (daughter of Judge Louis-Onésime Loranger), Solange Chaput was educated at the Couvent d’Outremont, the Sorbonne and the Catholic Institute of Paris. In March 1941, she married pulp-and-paper magnate André Rolland, whose family had founded Rolland Inc., one of Canada’s oldest paper makers. They had two children, Suzanne Monange and Claude Rolland.
Chaput-Rolland could have enjoyed a comfortable life bound by the social circles of Québec’s privileged class, but instead she made a career for herself as an astute political commentator. Beginning in the 1940s, she contributed opinion pieces to Québec newspapers and journals, and in the mid-1950s founded a monthly magazine, Point de vue, which, for seven years, provided a forum for influential journalists including Judith Jasmin, Roger Duhamel, Guy Beaulne, Andréanne Lafond, Dostaler O’Leary and Pierre Bourgault. At Radio-Canada, Chaput-Rolland participated in new public affairs programming including Carrefour and Conférence de presse. She also hosted the program Fémina. In 1974, as head of the Cercle des femmes journalistes, she was instrumental in creating the Prix Judith-Jasmin.
English Canadians first came to know Chaput-Rolland through letters she exchanged with author Gwethalyn Graham, published as Dear Enemies/Chers ennemis (1963). In 1977–79, Chaput-Rolland toured Canada as a member of the federally-appointed Pépin-Robarts Task Force on Canadian Unity. Contemporaries commented that without her, the final report would not have so eloquently articulated the possibilities of an asymmetrical federalism that would recognize Québec’s national history and aspirations. Chaput-Rollandwas deeply disappointed when the federal government did not implement the Commission’s recommendations.
In 1979, Chaput-Rolland accepted the invitation of Claude Ryan, then leader of the Liberal Opposition in the Québec National Assembly, to run in a by-election. As an opposition MNA, she campaigned vigorously for the “Non” side in the referendum on sovereignty-association conducted in 1980 by the Parti Québécois (PQ) government led by René Lévesque. She was often a featured speaker at the successful “Yvette” brunches and rallies organized by “Non” supporters after Lise Payette, a high-profile feminist and member of the PQ Cabinet, suggested that women who opposed Québec’s claim to autonomy were good little “Yvettes” who did what they were told. Although the “Non” side prevailed in the referendum, the PQ were re-elected in 1981 and Chaput-Rolland lost her seat to the PQ candidate. Returning to her media career, she co-wrote, with Michèle Bazin, the popular television drama “Monsieur le ministre.”
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney appointed Chaput-Rolland to the Senate in 1988 on the recommendation of Québec PremierRobert Bourassa, and in accordance with the formula for Senate appointments agreed on by premiers in the Meech Lake Accord. Chaput-Rolland supported the Accord, which would have recognized Québec as a distinct society, but the Accord failed to obtain the necessary level of approval in provincial legislatures. As a Senator, Chaput-Rolland maintained the independence of mind that had characterized her career; she voted against some of the financial perks of the position, and declined to collect them herself. She retired from the upper chamber in 1994 when she reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.
Awards and Legacy
Over her career, Chaput-Rolland wrote more than 25 books, including three novels, many works of political and social analysis, and a cookbook with her daughter. She received the Memorial Award (Media Club) in 1972 and the Don MacArthur Award in 1975 for a series of articles on the Middle East. She was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1975 and an Officer of the Québec National Order (Ordre national du Québec) in 1985. In 1983, she became the first woman from Québec to receive an honorary doctorate from Queen’s University.
Journalist Marc Laurendeau, commenting on Chaput-Rolland’s life and work, described her as a pioneer of opinion journalism, who, by her example, encouraged women in Québec and Canada to develop and express their own point of view on political questions. Chaput-Rolland identified herself foremost as a Quebecker, but she remained a federalist, although an increasingly disenchanted one, because she believed that both Québec and Canada would be stronger if the Canadian federation could accommodate Québec nationalism.
Fumées (Beauchemin, 1943).
Solange Chaput-Rolland and Gwethalyn G.E. Brown, Chers ennemis (Les Éditions du Jour, 1963). Published in English as Dear Enemies: A Dialogue on French and English Canada (Macmillan of Canada, 1963).
Mon pays, Québec ou le Canada?,foreword by Claude Ryan (Cercle du livre de France, 1966). Published in English as My Country, Canada or Québec? (Macmillan of Canada, 1966).
Québec Année Zéro (Cercle du livre de France, 1968). Published in English as Reflections: Québec Year One, forewordby Hugh MacLennan (Chateau Books, 1968).
Une ou deux sociétés justes? (Cercle du livre de France, 1969).
La seconde conquête (Cercle du Livre de France, 1970). Published in English as The Second Conquest: Reflections II (Chateau Books, 1970).
Solange Chaput-Rolland and Gertrude Laing, Face to Face (New Press, 1972).
Les heures sauvages (Cercle du livre de France, 1972).
Watergate (Cercle du Livre de France, 1973).
Les maudits journalistes (Cercle du livre de France, 1975).
Lettres ouvertes à treize personnalités politiques (Pierre Tisseyre, 1977).
Solange Chaput-Rolland and Suzanne Monange, Une cuisine toute simple (Éditions du Jour, 1978).
De l'unité à la réalité (P. Tisseyre, 1981).
Le Mystère Québec (P. Tisseyre, 1984).
Les quatre saisons d'Isabelle (Libre expression, 1994).
Et tournons la page (Libre expression, 1989).
Le tourment et l'apaisement (Libre expression, 1990).
Solange Chaput-Rolland and Brenda Robertson, Chère sénateur (Libre expression, 1992).
Nous Deux (Libre expression, 1993).
Où es-tu? (Libre expression, 1995).
Les élus et les déçus (Libre expression, 1996).