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Monday January 14, 2013

I REMEMBER / LAURIER LAPIERRE

Bill Fearn of Toronto remembers Laurier Lapierre, who died on Dec. 16.

I met him in September, 1962, as a sophomore, in the first class he taught at McGill University in his Canadian history course. His first act was to read to the class a paragraph from the course text, and he said: "That is your final examine question, so let's learn something and have fun." McGill's stodgy history department forced him to set a four-question exam - his response when he came into the examination room to speak to us was "all the marks you get on questions 2 to 4 will be deducted from your marks on the first question."

Notwithstanding that I was a lowly commerce student, because I was in his class in his first year, I was "grandfathered" and able to attend his highly sought-after classes the next two years as the student body came to realize who he was and the influence he was having on the airwaves and at McGill. What a three years it was - Friday classes with two-fours, visiting speakers from Quebec's Quiet Revolution - Premier Jean Lesage, Paul Gerin-Lajoie, René Lévesque - and being able to interact with one of the most caring and dynamic teachers I have ever had.

I kept in contact with him after university and, at the time of the October Crisis when he was under close surveillance by the RCMP because of their perception of his politics, I can recall stories he told me about his children picking up their home phone, knowing that it was tapped, and asking, "Hello police, is that you?"

I will always recall comments as to how he learned English by listening to recordings of Shakespeare's plays made by John Gielgud. He added a dynamic to my life - a love of Quebec, its people, and Canada, which to today I still cherish. Canada is a poorer place for his passing.

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