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Former PQ minister Lise Payette remembered as role model for female politicians


MONTREAL — Members from across Quebec's political spectrum gathered at a downtown Montreal theatre to celebrate the life of Parti Quebecois cabinet minister Lise Payette, who died in September at the age of 87.

A large group of citizens also lined up to pay their respects to the Quebec feminist, author, journalist, politician and television personality.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault described Payette as an "audacious" person who always fought for women's equality.

"She showed in many ways that women were as strong as men, and I think she contributed a lot to modern Quebec," he said outside the memorial at The Imperial theatre that was organized by the Quebec government.

He said his best memory of her came before the recent Quebec election, when he promised her that he'd name a gender-balanced cabinet if elected.

"Ms. Payette, I kept my word," he said.

Several of the women who attended said Payette's fearlessness had paved the way for them as female politicians.

"She was one of the first to really break this wall we have above our head in politics," said Manon Masse, who is a spokeswoman for the left-wing party, Quebec solidaire.

"She brings a powerful message, and it's 'women, take your place.'"

Parti Quebecois legislature member Veronique Hivon, for her part, noted that Payette would likely have been proud to see that 40 per cent of those elected to the legislature in October were women.

The public was also invited to pay their respects by signing a book of condolences at City Hall.

One of those who showed up was Mayor Valerie Plante, who described Payette as an inspiration for herself and other women with political ambitions.

"I keep saying it over and over, but in politics we need to have more models, so more women can picture themselves, can see themselves in those leadership positions," she said.

The ceremony featured speeches from former Parti Quebecois premier Pauline Marois, as well as Legault and Payette's granddaughter, Flavie Payette-Renouf.

There was no religious element to Saturday's service in accordance with Payette's wishes.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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