Ex-labour leader, politician Yvon Charbonneau dies

MONTREAL – Ex-Quebec union leader and Liberal MP Yvon Charbonneau has died at the age of 75.

His former union says Charbonneau passed away peacefully on Friday surrounded by family in a Florida hospital where he’d been since suffering a stroke on April 7.

Charbonneau was born in 1940 in the Laurentians community of Mont-Saint-Michel and spent two different stints at the helm of the Centrale de l’enseignement du Québec, the province’s main teachers’ union.

He served as leader between 1970 and 1978 and again from 1982 to 1988.

In 1972, Charbonneau and fellow union leaders Marcel Pepin and Louis Laberge were ordered jailed for contempt of court for encouraging their members to defy injunctions to return to work during labour strife.

Charbonneau sat in the national assembly as a Liberal in the riding of Bourassa between 1994 and 1997 before representing the federal Liberals in Anjou-Riviere-des-Prairies between 1997 and 2004.

From 2004 to 2006, he served as Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

In recent years — and right up until his recent hospitalization — Charbonneau had been writing his memoirs, which are due out in a few months.

The Centrale des syndicats du Quebec —as Charbonneau’s former union is known today — praised him in a statement.

“He made a deep impression on our organization and at the same time he helped write an important page in our history,” said union president Louise Chabot.

Daniel Boyer, head of Quebec’s largest labour federation, also lauded Charbonneau.

“In 1972, he…agreed to pay a heavy personal price by going to prison to defend his ideas and the interests of his members and the public during the labour conflict between public-sector employees and the government,” said Boyer of the Quebec Federation of Labour.