Interview with André Lebon | “Speaking up can make a difference”

The former vice-president of the Laurent commission, who often speaks out to denounce the injustices suffered by vulnerable children, takes stock of his long career.


Published at 12:53 a.m.

Updated at 7:00 a.m.

I met André Lebon in 2019, when we sat together, for two years, on the Special Commission on the Rights of Children and Youth Protection (CSDEPJ), more often called the Laurent Commission, of the name of its president.

A few weeks after the end of our work, André flew to Nunavik to once again try to improve youth protection services there. Going back and forth in all possible conditions, setting up new services, this is what nourishes this man, fills him and gives meaning to his life.

And what a life he lived! A psychoeducator since 1969, he has, among other things, worked for the organization specializing in juvenile delinquency Boscoville, fulfilling important mandates in mental health, with Aboriginal people and in early childhood. After several years of paid employment, he decided to take the leap and become, in 1986, a consultant in early childhood and adolescence. This new life has therefore lasted for 38 years!

Having returned to the South for a few months and continuing his mandate remotely and part-time, André Lebon is having difficulty adapting to his new reality. He speaks openly to me about his vulnerability in the face of his age (75 years old, now), his disappointments and his fear of heights. “My expiration date is coming!” This phasing out of active life is a difficult time for me. »

Now, as I have more free time, the old ghosts are coming back, that fear of emptiness and uselessness.

André Lebon

He finds it painful to abandon what has given so much meaning to his life without really knowing how to replace it. “I know what I’m losing, but I’m not sure what I’m gaining yet!” »

His career was built on development, starting projects and bringing together the right people to carry them out. “I built my credibility by saying what I think and doing what I say. I have had the chance to carry out many concrete projects and to do so with many exceptional people. I consider myself privileged. »

Returning to the report of our 2021 commission of inquiry, following the death of the little girl from Granby1he admits to being disappointed by the diluted application of several measures affecting the governance of youth protection and he still calls for general meetings on the situation of youth centers, not to mention the urgency of modernizing several infrastructures .

He adds: “I finished my career like Michel Chartrand, in criss ! » He has the impression that the reports he has written in psychosocial files for 40 years are being repeated, without the authorities putting in place the necessary measures. According to him, the important prevention-promotion shift and the work on the front line are still slow to be implemented and financed correctly.

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PHOTO FRANCOIS ROY, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

André Lebon, during the Laurent commission hearings, in May 2020

He looks back on the three reports he has written over the past 25 years to respond to political demands and concludes: “These are the three times when I got hurt the most because the expectations of improving the situations studied were high, but the results were not there. »

André Lebon currently feels like a whistleblower.

There is a unifying side in me and I am not comfortable in this role of whistleblower because I am not someone who bites ankles, I am someone who builds. But there are realities that must be said, that must be explained.

André Lebon

“When I tell you that I am bitter, it comes with a certain anger. I have no more breath and I have less patience. » He constantly tells decision-makers that they are not implementing the proposed changes. “I still dare to think that speaking out can make a difference and I hope so, but if that doesn’t happen and I end up remaining silent, the way I look back on my 55 years of professional work will be to say: I would have known a better time, one where we could make a difference for children, where projects were realized. » He recalls that, a few years ago, Youth Protection employees were proud of the work they accomplished. Not anymore.

According to him, our universal protection system has become incapable of meeting demand. He has the sad impression that we are squandering a Quebec social asset because we probably no longer have the means to achieve our ambitions.

We can criticize André Lebon for the severity of his observations, his intransigence regarding the future, a certain nostalgia for more effective interventions with children. But we will never be able to hold his authenticity and his total involvement in the causes he defended against him. He has the impression of ending his career on disappointing notes, but the future will confirm to us that his legacy will survive him, both for young people from the North and the South, as much for early childhood in Quebec as for vulnerable children and adolescents in youth centers.

What would he like to see written as an epitaph on his tomb?

“I got up every morning thinking I could make a difference. » We can reassure him, André Lebon did not get up in vain.

1. Read the article “Granby tragedy: warning signs four years before the tragedy”

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