Death of Louise Gareau, an exceptional nurse

“Super Nurse” before the hour, great activist for the right to abortion and feminist-socialist, Louise Gareau, who devoted 50 years of her life to the health of women here and elsewhere, died Tuesday afternoon at the age of 79, just weeks after being diagnosed with two cancers.
Theouise Gareau has participated with five other women to set up in the early 80s, the Women’s Health Center (CSDF) of Quebec, the first clinic to perform abortions in the region, at a time when the practice was still illegal but nevertheless tolerated in Quebec.

Located in the CSN building on Charest Boulevard, the CSDF defended the right to abortion and its support by the public health system, but also, more generally, to develop the power to act. and women’s self-determination, sums up the professor at Laval University’s Faculty of Nursing Bernard Roy in his book Louise Gareau, a combat nurse , published in 2009.

D Dr. Henry Morgentaler, with whom Louise Gareau fought for the right to abortion, tell the nurse that she was one of those people “who made that I felt supported in the fight of my life dignity, for the right of women to freely choose their motherhood and to have free and dignified access to a voluntary termination of pregnancy in good conditions, “says Bernard Roy in his book.

One of the women behind the creation of the CSDF and a great friend of Louise Gareau, Pauline Gingras, says that the co-founders of the center preferred to have their own institution rather than a clinic of Dr. Morgentaler in Quebec, as it is had proposed them. “We thought we could handle that ourselves. We found doctors who agreed to do abortions with us, “says the former social worker, who knew Louise Gareau in the 70s, while the two women were part of the first team of the CLSC of the Lower Quebec City.

“Woman of conviction”

“Louise was a very committed woman, a woman of conviction who always defended her ideas with ardor, but also with great respect for others,” recalls Pauline Gingras.

In an interview given to the Sun in 2009, when she had just received the YWCA Grand Prix for the Advancement of Women and the Florence Award from the Quebec Order of Nurses, Louise Gareau explained that the CLSC Lower Quebec City, located in an area where drugs, prostitution, STDs and infant mortality were common, was the ideal place to act and make a difference.

Empowered by autonomy, Louise Gareau wanted nurses to occupy their rightful place. “I never thought that a doctor was better than a nurse and I always said that it was two independent professions that complemented each other,” she told our colleague Josianne Desloges, 10 years before the government Legault authorizes specialized nurse practitioners to perform diagnostics.


Louise Gareau has also been involved internationally, having practiced as a nurse in Nicaragua following the Sandinista revolution, promoting measures and programs to improve the health of women and men. children.

After this experience, she will be involved as a researcher in an HIV research project with Maria De Koninck, for whom “Louise is one of those little-known women who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement [of the cause] of women”.

The nurse also worked in Rwanda in the early 1990s, where she will provide training on HIV / AIDS and STDs. The genocide will force her to leave the country. To Bernard Roy, she confided to having been inhabited by a feeling of guilt, saying that it “should have been there, with them [Rwandans], during the genocide”.

In A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali, Gil Courtemanche writes that his book “would not have existed without Louise Gareau”. “We met for the first time at the bar of the Hotel des Milles Collines in Kigali. I did not know anything about Rwanda or the problem of AIDS in this country. […] Louise knew all the blood and all the pains, all the lies and all the hypocrisies “, testifies the journalist and writer.

In recent years, Louise Gareau, who has also worked with Aboriginal communities, took a close interest in the development of the SABSA (Low Accessibility Services) Cooperative, a non-physician clinic that treats vulnerable patients in the Low Income Community. -City of Quebec, often disaffiliated from the traditional health network. “She followed what we did, always gave us a hand by testifying of her experience,” reports IPS Isabelle TĂȘtu, for whom Louise Gareau will remain “an inspiration”.

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