Quebec syndicalist leader Michel Chartrand dies at 93 from cancer
by Melina Giubilaro
Michel Chartrand, 93, Quebec’s outspoken union leader, activist and politician, died Monday night from kidney cancer.
“He was both monk and pirate,” his son Alain Chartrand once told a reporter.
“He would take the shirt off his back for anyone, but if you crossed him, he’d use the same shirt to strangle you.”
While living in the monastery, Chartrand was informed that his father had been fired inexplicably after 44 years from Quebec’s Public Work department.
“My father was as honest as the day is long, and I was shocked that he didn’t do anything about it,” Chartrand told The Gazette.
“In the monastery, I had time to think about values, social justice and crimes against humanity. In short, I had time to to dream about how to build a better country. I knew then that my true calling was to speak out against injustice.”
In 1935, he quit the monastery and became a typesetter. Later he became member of the Confederation of Canadian Catholic Workers and in 1942 he became founding member of the Bloc Populaire and the Ligue de Défense du Canada. Known for being a fighter, Chartrand was jailed for insulting a Quebec Provincial Police officer in 1949.
Chartrand came in third after running for public office in 1998 at the age of 81. He continued being active in political life until spring 2008 where he helped with activities organized by Quebec solidaire, a left-wing provincial party.
Chartrand’s son Alain made a documentary about his parents in 1991 called Un homme de parole. Chartrand’s wife, Simonne
Monet died two years later. Chartrand was father of six, grandfather to 12 and great-grandfather to six.
Joseph Michel Raphael Chartrand was born in Montreal on Dec. 20, 1916. He was the 13 of 14 children and lived in Outremont. He studied at College Brébeuf until the age of 16 where he joined the Cistercian monastery in Oka and was known as Brother Marcellin.
“He was very frank, perhaps too much so for some people. But I think he was very generous,” Suzanne Chartrand said about her father to The Gazette. “And he was also a man of great faith. He knew where he was headed when he died.”