Jacques Bensimon, former head of the National Film Board, former Vice President of the Banff Television Foundation, former Director General of TFO (Télévision Franco-Ontario), recipient of the Order of Canada, filmmaker, culturalist, friend and colleague, dedicated husband and father, took his leave this past Sunday, at a youthful 69.
As the profoundly sad news of his passing began to sink in and spread across the Canadian broadcasting community, friends and colleagues, online and through late night and early morning calls, began expressing their sadness to each other, acknowledging the incredible loss.
Assimilating the news, we defaulted to happier times: early days at TVO/TFO, where you'd run into Jacques in the hall and squeak out "Salut m'sieu" as you made your way to your desk to begin the day. Then on through time, witnessing his work, his passion for the craft and his business acumen, we'd happily greet him at breakfast meetings, executive meetings, chance meetings, industry conferences, executive programs, business dinners, sometimes enjoying ad hoc one-on-one catch ups on the telephone or through holiday greetings at the end of each year, or reading of new successes in the press.
He was one of the busiest men in (Canadian) show business -- yet always had time, nay, made time, for absolutely everyone, at all levels. We watched from the wings as Jacques took on increasing responsibilities -- those under him always sad to lose him to another stewardship role -- yet always delighting in his accomplishments. Each chance meeting through the years became more cherished with brighter smiles, firmer handshakes, and sometimes, if you were lucky, a crushing hug.
Jacques had astonishing generosity of spirit. No matter if you were an executive, a junior producer, the editor on the night shift, or a new international contact or a Board Member, Jacques spent his lifetime leading and guiding creatives and broadcast executives alike towards one goal: the preservation of Canadian culture.
Jacques was a true creative, and a true professional. While the broadcasting community enjoyed some 20 years of crazy successes, and although recent years have given us a series of egregious set backs, we had one constant: Jacques Bensimon. Now, all we have is our history and each other.
Everyone in the broadcast community shared a unique collective experience -- one that lasted well over 20 years. That experience was what it will never be again: the maturation of the Canadian broadcasting industry. And Jacques Bensimon was at the heart of it. Indeed, it could be said Jacques was its heart. Not only responsible for business leadership in the preservation of Canadian culture, Jacques also saw it as a personal responsibility to mentor everyone who crossed his path in pursuit of that very goal.
By mid-day Monday, the beleaguered broadcast community was coming alive. Tributes were being written, condolences offered, shared grief became shared stories, greater perspective, clear gratitude, genuine love and renewed connections.
The true mark of this man lies not just in his personal and professional accomplishments, though they have been nothing short of exceptional. The true mark of this accomplished and enlightened man is how he has brought us together one last time, helping us rejoice in our shared history, helping us muster the strength to shoulder the current changes, and ultimately, hopefully, help us re-invent Canadian media, and preserve both our industry and our culture.
A leader to the end, Jacques wouldn't have it any other way.