Legendary Actress Viola Léger, La Sagouine, Passes Away at 92

Actress, teacher, and former senator Viola Léger has died

Viola Léger, a well-known Acadian actress, teacher, and former senator, passed away at the age of 92 on January 28, 2023. She was born and raised in New Brunswick, Canada and made her mark in the world of Acadian theatre and art.

Known for her portrayal of La Sagouine in the play by Antonine Maillet

La Sagouine was performed by Léger over 3,000 times (Radio-Canada).

She was best known for her portrayal of the character La Sagouine in the play of the same name by Antonine Maillet, playing the role more than 3,000 times and winning the Dora Mavor Moore Award in 1981 for her performance.

Léger’s start in acting was accidental when Maillet asked her to perform a few excerpts of the play before its launch. Maillet said Viola Léger had an instinct for the role and knew how to do it right away.

Performances in the U.S., France, and Belgium

Her first performance of the play was in 1971, and she went on to perform the role in the U.S., France, and Belgium in both French and English. She was also recognized with the Lifetime Artistic Achievement for theatre award by the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards in 2013.

Appointed to the Senate in 2001 by then Prime Minister Jean Chretien

In addition to acting, Léger also served in Canada’s Senate from 2001 to 2006 and taught high school literature and drama for 15 years.

Started her own theatre company and created a scholarship foundation

In 1985, she started her own theatre company, the Compagnie Viola Léger, and in 1999, she created the Viola Léger Foundation, which awarded scholarships to actors at the beginning of their careers. Léger received a range of awards and honors over the years, including the Officer of the Order of Canada in 1989, the Order of New Brunswick in 2007, and four honorary doctorates.

Retired from public life after suffering a stroke in 2017

Léger was a symbol of great pride and tenacity for all Acadians, and as per federal Minister of Official Languages Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Acadia will never again have such a loyal ambassador. Léger suffered a stroke in 2017 and withdrew from public life.

Honoured by the Acadian community with lowered flags and tributes

An elementary school in Ontario was named after her, and flags at Bouctouche town hall were lowered to half-mast on Sunday in her honor. Mayor Aldéo Saulnier of Bouctouche said Léger was leaving the whole community with good memories, and Le Pays de la Sagouine, where she performed the role of La Sagouine, praised her for giving hope to Acadie.


In conclusion, Viola Léger was a legendary figure in the world of Acadian theatre and art. Her role as La Sagouine was not just her career, but a symbol of pride and tenacity for all Acadians. Her talent and contributions to the arts will always be remembered, and her legacy will live on.

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