A ‘voice for change,’ actress and former city councillor Sonya Biddle dies at 64

Sonya Biddle, actress, singer and former city councillor for Montreal’s west end, has died of cancer. She had recently turned 64.

Biddle, the daughter of renowned jazz bassist Charles Biddle and his wife Constance, was a champion of arts and culture in the city. Charlie Biddle, who died in 2003, was involved in founding Biddle’s Jazz and Ribs on Aylmer Street, which later became House of Jazz.

One of Sonya’s two sisters, Stephanie Biddle, is also a jazz musician.

Their brother, singer-songwriter and actor Charles Biddle Jr., remembers his sister Sonya as someone who always stood up for the underdog.

“Sonya would fight for the common person,” he told CBC Thursday. 

“She would always be there on the side of people, people that were disenfranchised or people that were in a position where they couldn’t really speak for themselves. Sonya was the voice for change.”

‘Beautiful, brilliant, unbridled, unfiltered’

Sonya Biddle is survived by her sons Charles and Callum, and her longtime spouse, Allan Patrick. 

On Facebook Thursday, Patrick said he was “totally in love with this woman” for 35 years.

“My heart is broken. She was always the sunshine, the light, the laughter and the love in my life,” he wrote.

Sonya Biddle, left, attends her father’s funeral with her mother, Constance Biddle, and former Quebec Premier Bernard Landry, right, in 2003. (André Forget/The Canadian Press)

Patrick described his wife as a mother, actress, director, producer, writer, model, nightclub manager, volunteer and a fighter for social justice, and “a friend and inspiration to so many.”

“Each role she played with passion and panache.”

“More than all of this, she brought laughter and light to everyone she met, from world leaders to the man in the street,” he said.

“She was beautiful, brilliant, unbridled, unfiltered, honest and passionate.”

Biddle was a Montreal stage performer, and she acted in several movies between 1987 and 1999. She and Patrick were deeply involved in the city’s theatre arts community for many years.

She defeated longtime city councillor Sam Boskey in 1998, taking over what was then the Décarie district in Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. 

She won by only 68 votes under the Vision Montreal party banner. She held the seat until 2001. She ran for mayor of the borough in 2005, but came in second to Michael Applebaum.

“She fought hard for people for different causes when she was in NDG,” said Biddle Jr., noting she was among those who tried to preserve the old Empress Theatre on Sherbrooke Street.

“She always fought for the good side.”

Biddle Jr. said his sister had an “amazing sense of humour” that she got from their father.

“She had this way of always making things feel right,” he said, struggling to hold back tears.

“She always had this way of making it feel like tomorrow is another day: the storm will pass and the sun will shine. So just hang in there.”

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