Dr Julien again in turmoil

The Dr Gilles Julien does not hide his bitterness in front of the employees of the Foundation that bears his name. On Tuesday, May 28, the famous pediatrician summoned his troops to Hochelaga headquarters to ask them to hold on in these turbulent times. “I have as bad a time as the rest of you at what is happening at the Foundation,” he confides to them straight away.


Posted at 5:00 a.m.

What’s happening at Fondation Dr Julian? One crisis, another. Troubling similarities with that which shook the same organization in 2018, against a backdrop of allegations of a toxic work climate generated by the Dr Gilles Julien and his wife, lawyer Hélène Sioui Trudel.

In March 2019, I collected testimonies from around ten former managers and employees, all deeply affected by their time at the Foundation. The government of Quebec, the organization’s main funder, nevertheless reiterated its confidence in the pediatrician. “The crisis is behind us, behind the Dr Julien,” assured Minister Mathieu Lacombe, then responsible for the file in Quebec. The working climate was “good”, the governance model had “changed”.

Read the column “Crisis at the Fondation du Dr Julian »

For a change, governance has changed. Several times.

No less than four general directors have succeeded one another at the head of Fondation Dr Julien since the 2018 crisis. The latest, Pascal Lépine, was fired on May 22, a few weeks after calling for an external investigation into… the working climate at the Foundation, according to a Source familiar with the matter.

As in 2018, many managers, doctors and employees have resigned or been on sick leave in recent months. As in 2018, the board of directors of the Fondation Dr Julien has shrunk in half, going from ten to five members.

At Ruelle d’Hochelaga, a social pediatrics center for vulnerable children in the neighborhood, the team was decimated: the general director, two pediatricians and two clinical coordinators slammed the door. The members of the board of directors of Ruelle d’Hochelaga – overseen by Fondation Dr Julien – resigned en bloc.

“Four directors general in five years is indicative of problematic governance,” notes Michel Magnan, professor of governance at Concordia University. The phenomenon is often observed in companies, he says, when the founder hangs on. “It hinders the development of talent within an organization and can compromise its survival. »

In 2018, the Dr Julien had attributed the wave of departures to an attempted coup by a deputy general director, accusing her of having engineered everything to take the helm of the Foundation. The pediatrician felt “betrayed” by this woman whom he saw one day taking over. “It’s as if she wanted to go too fast,” he told me at the time.

Six years later, the Dr Julien clearly feels like he’s facing the same problem. He did not respond to my request for an interview, but at the May 28 employee meeting, of which I obtained a recording, he suggested that power invariably goes to the heads of the general managers he recruits. “There is a shift that happens after a few months. Is it a power trip, is it egos? I do not know… “

The Dr Julien tells the employees gathered in front of him that after six months at the head of the Foundation, one of the last “three or four” general directors told him: “Sit down, I learned well, I am capable of doing the same speeches as you, go back to doing social pediatrics. » The pediatrician didn’t like it: “You say, oops, there’s something that’s not working…”

In a press release issued Monday, barely two weeks after this meeting, the Dr Julien, however, announces that he has had enough of management. He explains that he will transfer his responsibilities as clinical director to his daughter, Maude Julien, by the end of the summer.

I will now be able to concentrate on my role with children, while continuing to act as a spokesperson, but freeing myself from the management of the Foundation, which will continue to be in good hands.

Extract from a press release from the Dr Gilles Julien

In fact, it has been almost a year since the Dr Julien handed over his position as clinical director to his daughter. The transition was decided after an external report, dated July 28, 2023, found that the working climate had “deteriorated” within the Foundation.

This difficult work climate has pushed many people to leave the organization over the years. You have to reread the testimonies that I collected, a few months after the 2018 crisis, to understand to what extent the lives of many executives and employees have been disrupted by this rotten climate. These people, dedicated to the cause of vulnerable children, felt devalued, deeply despised. They continually walked on eggshells, fearing outbursts of anger.

An employee on sick leave contacted me last week after reading my report on the 2018 crisis. “When I read the article, I said to myself: this is not possible. We are experiencing the same thing!

– Nothing has changed ?

“Well, there are two people who haven’t left…”

These two people are the Dr Gilles Julien and Hélène Sioui Trudel, who continue to lead the organization as “co-founders”.

If this employee had the impression of reading her story while reading my article, it seemed to me, over the last few days, to hear the same testimonies… delivered by different people, a few years apart. People shaken by their experience. I granted them anonymity because they feared the impact that open testimony could have on their careers.

“We come out of there wounded, bruised,” says a former manager, who is now consulting a psychologist in the hope of rebuilding his life. It drives you crazy. We try to understand what is happening to us, these reactions towards us, in front of other people. It’s humiliating, degrading. The work climate makes no sense! »

Antoine Quinty-Falardeau, a social worker, says he had “an extremely painful experience” at the Garage à Musique, one of the three social pediatrics centers of the Fondation Dr Julien, with Ruelle d’Hochelaga and the Atlas center in Côte-des-Neiges. “It took me several months to get over it,” he says.

The Dr Julien, however, seemed to consider the young social worker as his friend… before taking a dislike to him.

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PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, THE PRESS

Antoine Quinty-Falardeau, social worker

He started not loving me anymore. He went so far as not to greet me, there was no more eye contact, he ignored me, I was a ghost, suddenly.

Antoine Quinty-Falardeau, social worker

After a year, Antoine Quinty-Falardeau was abruptly fired, without good reason, according to him. “I learned that I no longer had access, no email address. I was to meet a suicidal young man the next morning…” He was forbidden to say goodbye to him in person.

“You’re the flavor of the month, until you’re not.” And when you’re not, you’re not Really more. It’s all or nothing,” says an employee who has seen many colleagues leave Ruelle d’Hochelaga over the years. Several of them had to be scooped up with a teaspoon.

“It went from a dream to a sort of nightmare,” confides a psychoeducator who briefly worked at the Garage à Musique. “The Dr Julien spoke to us with great hope. He said that the future of the clinic rested on us. » It didn’t last. “I didn’t really understand what happened. At first he was very warm. As the weeks went by, it got colder. »

The Dr Julien showed him the door after a few months. “It was very hard to take because I didn’t have the chance to improve anything, not knowing what he was accusing me of. It was just a question of feeling. » She left the Music Garage in tears.

In recent weeks, two external surveys on the working climate have been carried out, first at the Garage à Musique, then at the Fondation Dr Julian. Their results were not disclosed to employees.

“Do people who read the report know that it’s still disgusting like that? wonders Antoine Quinty-Falardeau. It doesn’t make sense that the Dr Julien continues to have a good image even though he does so much harm to young professionals. »

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