A tribute to Nérée St-Amand

Faculty of Social Sciences
School of Social Work
In memoriam
Nérée St-Amand
It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of our former colleague and friend, Nérée St-Amand, on September 22. All our sympathies to his children François and Julie, as well as to his grandchildren, his brother, his sisters, his ex-wife and all the other people who were part of his network of family and friends.

Nérée was one of the founders of the School of Social Work and was a prominent figure in it, notably as co-creator of Reflets: Revue d’intervention sociale et communautaire. He was keen to build the School, to promote and defend it, and to infuse it with human and social warmth. A proud Acadian, he always sought to highlight the Canadian francophone minority roots of our School, but his attachment to French-speaking New Brunswick was also evident in his colorful expressions, his sense of humor and his accent. His beautiful pen and his calm assurance were examples for many Francophone minority students who saw in him the possibility of pursuing higher education, saying to themselves “why not” and “me too”.

Nérée had a particular concern for spirituality and alternative modes of intervention in social work. He devoted a great deal of writing and research to these themes, as well as his energies in supporting community initiatives such as the Dépanneur Sylvestre in Gatineau and the Ateliers de l'Élan at Montfort Renaissance in Ottawa. He also had a critical perspective on the psychiatric institution and a large place was reserved in his analyses for the words of persons who were or had been psychiatric patients. He helped found the Mad Studies movement, a field of research based on the principle of listening to mad people and approaching madness from their points of view. This perspective is radically different from that associated with more than a century of psychiatric research and institutional interventions, and Nérée defended it against all odds. He always attempted to make heard and visible the voices and practices which differ from those that are dominant in psychiatry and its institutions. In this regard, he co-founded in New Brunswick the magazine Our Voice / Notre Voix to allow psychiatrized people to speak out. 

Nérée had no fear when it came to defending the rights of marginalized and vulnerable people. Based on his critical views of social structures, he clearly saw the shortcomings of many support systems and decried the ways in which society can, through its institutions, oppress people and silence those who challenge them. Perhaps that's why he didn't hesitate to lend a hand to students who didn't always have the best grades or who couldn't make ends meet. He often gave them help, sometimes by calling out to people in positions of authority at the University, sometimes by dipping into his own pockets.

Nérée, your sudden death sent shock waves through our School. We had been pleased to occasionally enjoy your sense of humor since your retirement, during your visits to the School or in unexpected encounters in the Sandy Hill neighborhood, or at the graduation ceremony you recently attended. We will miss you, that is a certainty; but rest assured that despite your absence, the School you helped to build will remember you for a long time to come.

Your colleagues and friends at the School of Social Work.