A coffee with… Émile Proulx-Cloutier | “Our generation will be a subject of study”

Émile Proulx-Cloutier is convinced that his generation – which is also mine – will be a day studied in the great universities. Unfortunately, not for his exploits, but for his inertia in the face of the climate emergency.

Posted on August 14

Laura-Julie Perreault

Laura-Julie Perreault
The Press

“When we are elders, it will be difficult for us to have a posture of wisdom”, dictates the actor and singer-songwriter who is not 40 years old.

“We’re going to be like, ‘What? You were in power in the first 20 years of the XXIand century ! We won’t have any alibi. We have access to a crazy amount of information. We can’t say we didn’t know. That the solutions were not within our reach. We won’t even have the pretext of fear of repression if we put forward changes. Our slowness to react — from which I don’t exclude myself — will be a subject of study,” adds the artist, seated in a park in Little Italy with an espresso in a cardboard glass.

Father (discreet) at the front

On the morning of May, Émile Proulx-Cloutier had just returned from Quebec, where he had taken part in a demonstration by the Mothers at the front. His spouse, Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, set up this collective with other mothers outraged by the inaction in the face of planetary danger. “It’s called the Mothers at the front, but I feel totally excluded! he laughs.

The couple — together and apart — are known for their art as well as their social engagement. Moreover, when the National Assembly designated a medal to life partners in 2016, it did so both for their contribution to Quebec culture and for their contribution to civic life.

It was the demonstration, which fell on Mother’s Day, that gave me the opportunity to have a coffee with Émile Proulx-Cloutier. That and his show, with bare handsa clever mix of songs and monologues.

Over coffee, I wanted to talk to him about the art of raising children when one has an acute ecological conscience. During our one-hour interview, even though I had announced my colors in advance, that was the only question he refused to answer. “When it comes to talking about the citizen approach to parenthood, either we fall into the anecdotal, or we seem to be giving lessons,” he told me. And lecturing isn’t his cup of tea.

The ball of demands

Moreover, when I try to explain our collective difficulty in taking the necessary turn to preserve the planet, he prefers the path of empathy. The us. “There are so many worries swirling around in our heads. Things to fix, lunches to cook, obligations to the bank. We are always behind in a requirement. In these circumstances, the time to think, to have a collective thought, even when you are comfortable in life, there is little,” he says.

In addition to this hectic life, there is also our democracy which leaves little room for real discussion, for divergent ideas within the same party, he adds.

I will jump to the ceiling the day when I will hear three members of the same party say that they do not agree! This kind of dissension should be described as an internal conflict, when it should be described.

Emile Proulx-Cloutier

He’s not wrong. The political system in force here, whether in Ottawa or Quebec, leaves much more room for the party line than in the democracies around us, whether we think of the American or British model.

Whose fault is it ? A little that of journalists, believes Émile Proulx-Cloutier, more also of partisan logic. “With us, the sporting game [entre deux partis] too often takes precedence over discussion. We are going to use one cause to erase another. We prefer to display a facade of unity within a party rather than admit that the proposal of the other camp makes good sense. And by doing that, we collectively shot each other in the foot. We unlearn to like the exchange and the common search for a precise and strong solution to a problem”, he believes.

And the role of the artist in all this? Émile Proulx-Cloutier notes that there is no change in the world with a song, a novel, a show, more than the artist can contribute to the lens changing mentalities. “We can be a relay. Make people who have busy lives permeable to certain subjects, he notes. The trap as an artist is that people feel that they are looked down on. The interesting subjects, in creation, are those that we have not understood. What separates us. [À nous] to add some chair, some humanity. To blur the lines between what is intimate and collective, what concerns the other and what concerns you. »

In other words, to create a “we” of empathy.


Emile Proulx-Cloutier

Questionnaire without filter

coffee and me

He accompanied me in so many moments, soft as hard. I imagine that he knows me better than myself… I like this sentence from Alphonse Allais about this trivialized drug: Coffee is a drink that makes you sleep when you don’t drink it. »

The people I would like to gather at the table, dead or alive

Nina Simone, Frida Kahlo, George Sand… and a virtuoso translator. I would fill the glasses and I would listen! Or, if the table is really, really big, my whole family tree for the past five centuries. I have lots of questions!

The last book I read

The birds by Tarjei Vesaas. A Norwegian novel from 1957, so cleverly retranslated, it looks like it just came out.

A historical event I would have liked to watch

It hasn’t arrived yet. I would like to see the day when a majority of scientists could affirm that we have collectively succeeded in reversing the trend of our negative impact on the climate, and that we have managed to stick to the least bad scenario. I know that sounds naive. The more hope remains: I know many of us want to witness this victory.

Who is Emile Proulx-Cloutier?

  • Not in 1983, he is the son of actors Danielle Proulx and Raymond Cloutier.
  • He was 10 years old when he took his first steps as an actor and has since held dozens of roles on television, on the big screen and in theatre. He is also a director, director and scriptwriter in his spare time.
  • Singer-songwriter, he has three albums to his credit, including high tide and love monsters. He is currently on tour with the show A main nude.

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