A coffee with… Claudine Bourbonnais | The shy girl who conquered television

This place was his! Fortunately, his bosses saw it that way. A month ago, Claudine Bourbonnais was appointed head of the antenna of the weekend newscast from Radio Canada. What do we know about this woman who has been coming to us for more than 30 years to give us the news of the day? Not a big deal. It was enough for me to offer her a latte while she bombarded her with questions. A difficult exercise for her.

Posted at 5:00 am

mario girard

mario girard
Press

I have always been fascinated by shy people doing public work. When we meet them in everyday life, it is difficult to find the person we know from television, theater or cinema. I had this impression with Claudine Bourbonnais who received me in her house.

Arriving a few minutes early (my specialty), I was greeted with a torrent of apologies as I put away their vacuum. Her apartment is immaculate. The decoration is careful. On her coffee table are artist’s books, the latest essay by Alain Saulnier and a novel by her idol, Joyce Carol Oates.

“It was by reading it that I found my voice as an author,” says Claudine Bourbonnais. Indeed, whoever tells us about the conflict in Ukraine or the pandemic through reports and specialists is also a novelist. her novel, metis beach, published in 2014, was well received, especially by my former colleague Nathalie Petrowski, who was impressed by the quality of his writing. She is preparing a second one, she told me.

One is tempted to believe that everything smiles on this woman and has been since her birth in LaSalle and her adolescence in Brossard.

I didn’t like being a child. I felt like I was in a waiting room. I couldn’t wait to be an adult, to have my house, to have a career.

Claudine Bourbonnais

This modest young woman, whose father was a talent scout and whose mother was a press agent in the world of visual arts, has always liked being in the world of knowledge. “I liked the contact with these adults who had knowledge that I did not have. With friends, we would visit a teacher on weekends or at night after school. »

Around the age of 17, friends who lived in Montreal inspired him to come to study in the “big city”. He did the necessary paperwork to be accepted at the Brébeuf college. “I changed two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. »

In one of his classes, a professor agrees to dissect the complex conflict that is raging in Lebanon right now. He does it so well that young Claudine becomes addicted. She majored in political science at McGill University, specializing in the Arab world.

One night, he ate at the restaurant with his father and a friend of his. Over the meal, she expressed her desire to work in international diplomacy and politics, particularly in the Middle East. “Don’t think about it, you’re a woman,” her father’s friend told her.


PHOTO DAVID BOILY, THE PRESS

Claudine Bourbonnais

it shook me. It was the first time someone told me that because I was a woman I couldn’t choose what I wanted to do. Before I left him, I told my father that this man had just given me the reason why he needed to go further.

Claudine Bourbonnais

Therefore, he went to England to do his master’s degree at Durham University.

It was during these two years that he discovered journalism. For his thesis, he had the idea of ​​doing a comparative study of British and American media coverage of the Palestinian question between 1967 and 1987.

“Because there was no internet, I took the train from Durham to go to London,” he recalls. I rented a small room and spent days and days looking at microfilm from the St. James Library. It seems so far away, all of that,” she adds with a laugh.

From London to Edmonton

When he returned to Quebec in 1989, he began looking for work in the media world. He was told about a job as a reporter at Radio-Canada radio station in Edmonton. He passed the exams with flying colors and set his sights on Alberta. There he met two other young up-and-comers: Philippe Schnobb, who would become a journalist and newscaster on Montreal’s Radio-Canada television before taking over as president of STM, and Isabelle Craig, host of Ici Première. “These were formative years in which I made solid friendships,” says Claudine Bourbonnais.

He returned to Montreal in 1991, where he was asked to be a journalist on the show. Montreal Express with Gérard Gravel, then with Michel Desautels and Jean Dussault. His foray into the world of TV is with the program Good Morning which was presented daily by Suzanne Lévesque.

In 1994, he obtained the North-South scholarship and went on a journalistic trip to the Gaza Strip. “Yasser Arafat was returning from exile,” he says. He was emotion. One had the impression that the Palestinian issue was on the way to being resolved. We feel very optimistic. »

Upon his return, public television undergoes a major upheaval: RDI, the first continuous news channel offered to French-speaking Canadians, is born with great enthusiasm. She gets on the train and becomes a news anchor.

For 20 years it occupied the morning slot. She adopts a new “way of life” that requires her to get up at 2 in the morning to immerse herself in the fresh news of the day. “There is something extraordinary in this schedule, because you leave with a blank page. The dynamic of the night is completely different. »

During all these years, Claudine Bourbonnais has lived through a thousand and one situations.


PHOTO DAVID BOILY, THE PRESS

Claudine Bourbonnais

I remember the shuttle landing. Columbia, in February 2003. It broke while we were in commercial court. When I got back on the air, I had to hold the antenna while we were in a vacuum. But in record time, we managed to phone an expert who was there.

Claudine Bourbonnais

Over time, he gained great confidence and learned to deal with the vagaries of life. “Weirdly, when something big happens, the more excitement there is around me, the more the tone rises on set and the calmer I become. »

I ask him if there is anything he still fears. “Not really, because I work with a solid team and we always have a plan B. I recognize that giggling is the worst thing that can happen, because there is a loss of control. »

One of these moments of loss of control is played by Marie-Claude Lavallée, who used to come and present Claudine Bourbonnais with the themes of her show. RDI Health. When he wanted to name the microbiologist Karl Weiss, it was a superb “baldness” that came out of the mouth of Marie-Claude Lavallée. The seriousness that reigned on the set left here in a second.

Branch manager position

Claudine Bourbonnais has been appointed head of the antenna of the weekend newscast after the storm caused by the departure of Pascale Nadeau in 2021. It is the same team that surrounds the new chef. “I work with such brilliant people,” says Claudine Bourbonnais. Among them are talented young people with a thirst for knowledge. I talk about this and it touches me a lot. In fact, speaking of these colleagues, their eyes filled with water.

After 32 years at Radio-Canada, Claudine Bourbonnais was obviously hoping for this position. “I wanted to, but I didn’t create any expectations. I’m a long-distance runner, I’m patient. That pretty much sums up my personality. »

Do not count on her to ignite the debate about the place of women in information or about the difficulty of aging for women on television (she resolves the issue by saying that to be happy in life you have to accept that, whether they are men or women female).

On the other hand, he has no qualms about addressing the phenomenon of polarization that we are witnessing at the moment.


PHOTO DAVID BOILY, THE PRESS

Claudine Bourbonnais

I covered the 1995 referendum, the Maple Spring, and the current pandemic, three extremely polarizing events. But right now, we’re seeing the effects of social media. These create a sounding board. It is accompanied by anger. Well, that worries me.

Claudine Bourbonnais

People on the street, when they go to a singer or an actress, many times it is to tell them that it makes them feel good. What do you say to an announcer who is the bearer of not always pleasant news?

“After my date, two women came to see me while I was at the restaurant. They told me that they expected me to get the job. It is as if they have won their elections. It made me so happy. We present news, but we are not always aware that we are entering people’s homes. And that is the case. »

Unfiltered Questionnaire


PHOTO DAVID BOILY, THE PRESS

Claudine Bourbonnais

coffee and me “I only take one and it is in the morning. That’s what gets me out of bed. The smell of coffee calls me to life. »

A person who inspires me: “Without hesitation, Joyce Carol Oates. I discovered this woman and recognized in her a kind of alter ego. She takes a very interesting look at American society. »

My worst flaw: “Not knowing how to say no. But I’m learning to do it more and more. I think it arises from the fear of hurting or displeasing. »

People, dead or alive, that I would like to gather around my table: “I would do a girls’ dinner with Joyce Carol Oates, as well as journalist Christiane Amanpour, Louise Arbor and Simone Weil. Oh worse, being there, I would also invite Fabienne Larouche. »

A time I would have liked to live: “I wish I was 20 years old in the mid-1960s. We were building everything. This period is fascinating. »

Who is Claudine Bourbonnais?


PHOTO DAVID BOILY, THE PRESS

Claudine Bourbonnais

  • Born in LaSalle (Montreal) on October 9, 1964
  • Studies at McGill University and Durham University (England) in political science
  • Started at Radio-Canada (Edmonton) in 1989
  • RDI debut in 1995
  • Appointed branch manager weekend newscast in february 2022

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