Joseph Giguère (1940-2020): activist for social justice

Joseph Giguère (1940-2020): activiste de la justice sociale

Joseph Giguère (1940-2020): activiste de la justice sociale

January 18, 1980 – From left to right, Gisele Harvey, treasurer of the syndicate of the employees of Vaillancourt, Joseph Giguère, president of the central council of Quebec, the CSN, Gaétan Laperrière, president of the union, and Pierre Caron, vice-president.


July 1, 2020

Updated July 2, 2020 at 4h20


Joseph Giguère (1940-2020): activist for social justice

Joseph Giguère (1940-2020): activiste de la justice sociale

Joseph Giguère (1940-2020): activiste de la justice sociale

Olivier Bossé

The Sun

Bombing, civil war, coma, STROKE : the life of Joseph Giguère has not been restful. But the ex-trade unionist-loving social justice has kept faith in humanity and in God until his last breath, on June 23, swept by a generalized cancer, overwhelming at 79 years old.

In the region of Quebec, the native of Saint-Sylvestre, in the Beauce region, became known as the president of the central Council of Quebec, the CSN, a position he held from 1976 to 1980.

Time when the strikes were on the rise : Sico, general Trust, provincial Agency, Standard Paper Box, to name the most notable. We are talking about a record number of strikes under his presidency! This was prior to the adoption of a law against strike-breakers, in 1977. The clashes with the forces of law and order were common.

His widow, Marie-Claire Nadeau, remembers that the couple would go in the early morning with their two babies, the one on the back of dad’s and the other in a stroller, to go and picket. The police believed that they used dolls, so the presence of young children proved to be incongruous on the lines of strike!

Family always also welded 45 years later, they have spent the last few days Mr. Giguère the four together.

“We have heard of cancer for the first time on 12 June,” said Ms. Nadeau, attached to Montreal, where they live for thirty years. “The doctors told us three to six months, but Joseph looked at me and said to me : “In 15 days, it will be finished.” It has taken 11. He was accompanied in his last days, with our two children. We were good together.”

“The doctors told us three to six months, but Joseph looked at me and said to me : “In 15 days, it will be finished.” It has taken 11. He was accompanied in his last days, with our two children. We were good together. ”

Marie-Claire Nadeau, wife of Joseph Giguère


“Joseph was the son of a farmer, which did not prevent him from being an intellectual. It was not a Michel Chartrand, but was flamboyant in his own way”, explains Yves Fortin, who has worked as a young activist to his entry into the executive of the central Council, before replacing the chair.

“It was an austere reminder of the pride of being a worker and highlighting the importance of each one in his union. He sought consensus and was very unifying. It is like this that he established the committee of solidarity”, where the trade unions of various businesses joining together to support each other in their conflict of each other’s work.

As a young activist at the time, François Saillant remembers to pass a picket line to another, day by day.

“It was necessary to block physically the access to the workplace to strike-breakers. Once, with Joseph, it had to attract the police officers behind the building to be able to continue to block the front. It was bardasser not bad…” says the one who coordinated the Front of popular action in urban redevelopment (FRAPRU) for nearly 40 years.

During the presidency of Mr. Giguère, each annual conference was an austere reminder of the debate on his salary, ” recalls Mr. Saillant. Mr. Giguère insisted to keep a pay equivalent to what he received as cutter heads of chickens at the Quebec Poultry, slaughter poultry, where he worked before joining the central Council, rather than the higher remuneration to which he was entitled.

The bomb

Recruiting trade union at the Quebec Poutry would be precisely at the origin of the attack to which he was subjected, in the evening of April 3, 1974.

A bomb with nails craft is placed between the entrance doors of their house to the 1st Avenue, at the corner of 11th Street, in Limoilou, finally had caused only “minor damage”, according to The Sun of the time.

Joseph and his dear Marie-Claire, the young married couples from moving in two months earlier, were not present at the explosion. They campaigned to replace the american union was in the pay of the bosses. It was the evening of the first meeting.

“Love activists”, as denise says, they remained inseparable for nearly a half-century, until the death of Mr. Giguère.

He who was left for dead by a hit and then proceeding to cycling in 1998, this earned him a few weeks of coma.

Then in 2010, a cerebral vascular accident (STROKE) was thrilled with the speech and writing of this great communicator and populariser, leaving him with aphasia. It has supported up to become president of the quebec Association for aphasic people in the last five years.

“Marie-Claire, it was more than his half. She was always by his side in all the battles,” said Mr. Fortin, who has just ended a career of nearly 30 years for the post of secretary general of the Conseil central de Québec–Chaudière-Appalaches.

Joseph Giguère (1940-2020): activiste de la justice sociale

President of the Syndicate of employees of Quebec Poultry (CSN), in march 1975.

Archives CSN

The vocation

Before you follow the path of trade unionism, the young Joseph had thought of the priesthood. How to get out of the Beauce to go to study. He chose theology at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, under the direction of the Oblates.

The accidents of life will take them many years later, from 1992 to 2002, to become the first director of the lay Centre Saint-Pierre, centre for popular education, located in Montreal, created by the Oblates. Upon his arrival, Mr. Giguère has unionized employees! Among other organizations, the FRAPRU had its premises.

“As the Centre Saint-Pierre has a lot of rooms to rent, Joseph called it the Palace of the congress of the people!” exclaims the father provincial of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Luc Tardif, who has worked during this period.

“He was an exceptional man with a charism that is very personal. It was very close to the people, and had a ease of expression, the attractive and intelligent. Without shouting it from the housetops, he is still a profound believer, but without ever being dogmatic.”

The father of Late recalled that in 1989, for the 30 years of the quiet Revolution, Mr. Giguère expressed in an article that the christian sense of solidarity and community was, in fact, the source of the movement of revival and universalization of social rights in Quebec, and not in opposition.

The policy

In fact, the political was never far. In the aftermath of the first referendum on sovereignty in 1980, Mr. Giguère said in The Sun having “the soul in grief”, echoing the words of the great Pauline Julien. He shows himself very critical of the Parti québécois, “which did not dare to ask the real question” and had “not been at the height of the situation,” according to him.

He then worked five years in international cooperation with unions of miners in Peru, from 1982 to 1987, sailing in the middle of a civil war between the authoritarian State to the guerrillas of the shining Path.

Back in Québec, the referendums of 1992, on the Charlottetown Accord, and 1995, on sovereignty, have not escaped. In 1995, he had resorted to men-spiders to climb on the roof of the Centre Saint-Pierre and unfurl a huge banner where one could read : “Yes, beyond parties”. Four years after, he denounced publicly the federal law on clarity.

Not to mention his presidency of the synod of Montreal, which was designed in 1996 to democratize the Church. Her co-chair, Louise Brais-Vaillancourt, is also recently deceased, on the 11th of may.

Throughout his life, Joseph Giguère will be valued, the social economy, and launching the Cooperative of ambulance technicians de la Montérégie, and the funeral Cooperative of the Island of Montreal.

“He was always the concern of equal opportunities,” says Pierre Patry, treasurer of the CSN since 2004 and a member of the board of directors of Fondaction CSN, with Mr. Giguère. “Joseph was a great humanist, summarizes-t-it. He was often the conscience of the board of directors. He put people before the economy, and not the reverse.”

Joseph Giguère (1940-2020): activiste de la justice sociale

Joseph Giguère some months ago, at an event organised by the Centre Saint-Pierre

Screen Capture of a video

Le Soleil

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