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 about what’s happening at the Foundation,” he tells them straight away.

What’s happening at the Dr Julien Foundation? One crisis, another. Troubling similarities with the one that shook the same organization in 2018, against a backdrop of allegations of a toxic work climate generated by 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 Dr. Julien,” assured Minister Mathieu Lacombe, then responsible for the file in Quebec. The working climate was “good”, the governance model had “changed”.

For a change, governance has changed. Several times.

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

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 – headed by the Dr Julien Foundation – resigned en masse.

“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, Dr. Julien attributed the wave of departures to an attempted coup by a deputy executive director, accusing her of having schemed everything to take over the Foundation. The pediatrician felt “betrayed” by this woman 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, 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’s a shift that happens after a few months. Is it a power trip, is it egos? I do not know… “

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

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

In fact, it has been almost a year since 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 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 Garage à Musique, one of the three social pediatrics centers of the Fondation Dr Julien, along with Ruelle d’Hochelaga and the Atlas de Côte center. -of snow. “It took me several months to get over it,” he says.

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

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 from saying goodbye in person.

“You’re the flavor of the month, until you’re not. And when you’re not, you’re really not. 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. “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. »

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 Garage à Musique, then at the Dr Julien Foundation. Their results were not revealed 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 Dr. Julien continues to have a good image when he does so much harm to young professionals.”