The passing of the Honourable Monique Bégin
We pause to reflect on the immeasurable contributions of this Canadian treasure and pioneer in Canadian health care.
The Honourable Monique Bégin was dedicated to service and to making society better for all of us. She curated these national conversations at a time when few considered how best to serve those who were marginalized throughout Canadian society. She brought this passion to the highest levels of service as a parliamentarian when, in 1972, she became a Liberal Member of Parliament, one of the first three Québec women ever elected to the House of Commons. She was appointed to Cabinet by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1976 as Minister for National Revenue (1976 to 1977) and then as Minister for National Health and Welfare (1977 to 1979 and 1980 to 1984), making an impact with her vision and social conscience.
Following twelve years in politics, she rediscovered her love for teaching and academia, becoming the first holder of the Joint Chair in Women's Studies at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University (1986 to 1990) and Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa (1990 to 1997). Named Professor Emeritus in 1997, she continued her career as a visiting professor in the Master of Health Services Management program at the University of Ottawa (1998 to 2010).
Her passion and vision for equity in healthcare continued to be the thread she wove throughout her life as she continued to shape and represent Canada, both as a moral compass and as a work in progress. She advocated for a strengthened social infrastructure, saying we need to build a quilt, not a net where people can easily slip through. This work led her to represent Canada on the WHO Independent International Commission on the Social Determinants of Health (2005-08). Over her distinguished career, she received 18 honorary doctorates, and as an author and lecturer, she was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2020. She was a mentor and teacher to many of us, including Peggy Taillon, VP of Strategy, Engagement and Communication at Bruyère, who was honored to collaborate with her on the Canadian Collaborative on the Social Determinants of Health at the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Her life, characterized by compassionate, impactful, and humble leadership, serves as an example to us all. She had tremendous affection for Bruyère and the Sisters of Charity; it was fitting that we were blessed to have supported her in her last days. Bruyère's values and commitment to those we serve exemplify her vision of compassionate, equitable care for every member of Canadian society; we believe, as she did, that equality and equity in health care are acts of simple justice that we need to keep working on, together.
A final tribute will be paid to Ms. Bégin during a public commemorative ceremony to be held on November 2 at Tabaret Hall at the University of Ottawa, located at 550 Cumberland Street in Ottawa. Relatives will later gather at the Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery in Montreal to lay her ashes to rest.