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The Honourable Monique Bégin passes away – 1936-2023

Press Release

OTTAWA, ON, Sept. 9, 2023 – Surrounded by her family, the Honourable Monique Bégin passed away peacefully in Ottawa on September 8, 2023, at the age of 87, after receiving palliative care. She was born in Rome, Italy, on March 1, 1936, to a Canadian father (the late Lucien Bégin) and a Flemish mother (the late Marie-Louise Vanhavre). She was the eldest of a large family who moved to Montreal when she was young. She is survived by her sister Marie Bégin, her brother Sébastien Bégin, her nieces and nephews, and many friends.

Ms. Bégin began her education in 1942 at the local school in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood and obtained a teaching certificate from École normale Esther-Blondin in 1955. Ever eager to learn, she received her B.A. and master’s degree in Sociology from Université de Montréal and then completed her doctoral studies at the University of Paris (Sorbonne). She continued to be involved in numerous studies and research projects throughout her life.

In 1966, she distinguished herself as a feminist pioneer and a signatory of the founding charter of the Fédération des femmes du Québec, serving as its first vice-president. In 1967, she was appointed Secretary General of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Status of Women in Canada, which published its report in 1970.

In 1972, she became a Liberal MP, one of the first three Quebec 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 (1976-77) and then as Minister for National Health and Welfare (1977-79 and 1980-84), making an impact with her vision and social conscience.

As a passionate sociologist, she created the child tax credit and championed legislation to increase the guaranteed income supplement. Her greatest achievement was the unanimous adoption of the Canada Health Act by the Parliament of Canada in 1984, strengthening the universality and accessibility of the Canadian healthcare system. Still, in the health sector, she also launched the policy of devolution of health services to First Nations communities and created a development program for their health professionals.

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 (1986-90) and Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa (1990-97). 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 (1998-2010).

Ms. Bégin was an active member of several commissions in Canada and internationally (1993-2016): To name but two, she co-chaired the Royal Commission on Education (Ontario, 1993-95) and was a member of the WHO Independent International Commission on the Social Determinants of Health (2005-08). Recipient of 18 honorary doctorates, and an author and lecturer, she was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2020.

The family would like to thank the staff of the Riverpath Retirement Community and Bruyère Continuing Care, who provided Ms. Bégin with caring support during her final months.

A final tribute will be paid to Ms. Bégin during a public commemorative ceremony to be held on November 2 at the Tabaret Hall at 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.

For further information: Justin Meloche,, 514-995-9704


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