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BROCHU, MICHEL-DELPHIS (baptized Michel-Adolphus), doctor, professor, and asylum superintendent; b. 3 July 1853 in Saint-Lazare (Saint-Lazare-de-Bellechasse), Lower Canada, son of Pierre Brochu, a farmer, and Mathilde Naud; m. first 16 May 1878 Marie-Adéline-Eugénie Marois (d. 23 Nov. 1879) in the parish of Saint-Roch in Quebec City; m. secondly 21 Oct. 1884 Clotilde Fortin in the ecclesiastical district of Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Quebec City, and they had seven sons and four daughters; d. 12 March 1933 in that city.

Michel-Delphis Brochu (he used his baptismal first name until around 1866) pursued his classical studies at the Petit Séminaire de Québec from 1865 until 1873, when he obtained his baccalauréat ès arts. In 1873 he enrolled in the faculty of medicine at the Université Laval in Quebec City and he was awarded his md on 20 June 1876. A lecturer at that institution from 10 Oct. 1881, he became associate professor the following year. The faculty gave him the chair of hygiene in 1884 and made him a full professor on 22 July 1885. He furthered his training in 1888 during a visit to Paris, where he met several well-known French doctors, including Georges Dieulafoy and Pierre-Carl-Édouard Potain, professors of internal pathology and clinical medicine respectively. He undertook these additional studies with a view to becoming the chair of internal pathology at Laval, an appointment he would obtain two years later. He then held the chair of mental and neurological illnesses from 1903 until 1925.

Brochu was one of the pioneers of occupational hygiene in Quebec. In 1889 he published Mémoire sur la nécessité d’une inspection hygiénique médicale des ateliers et des manufactures in Quebec City, with the goal of encouraging the government to protect the health and safety of workers. From 1891 to 1892 and from 1896 to 1903, as the representative to inspectors of industrial establishments for the Board of Health of the Province of Quebec, he made recommendations for fixing unhealthly conditions.

From 1893 Brochu was on the medical staff of the Hôtel-Dieu in Quebec City, where he gave clinical instruction and treated patients. He was interested in the therapeutic benefits of electricity – notably to improve blood circulation and break down tissues causing obstructions – and in 1901, in collaboration with Abbé Joseph-Clovis-Kemner Laflamme*, he equipped the hospital with an “electrical service.” From 1900 Brochu was also an attending physician at the Villa Mastai sanitarium in Notre-Dame-de-Beauport (Quebec City). This branch of the Asile de Beauport [see James Douglas*] admitted, anonymously and for short periods, religious and political figures who were struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction.

Brochu was appointed medical superintendent of the Asile de Beauport in 1903 and continued reforms, such as the abolition of physical restraints, introduced by his predecessor Dr Arthur Vallée*, who had died that year. Brochu instituted routine bed-rest, a practice that gave the mentally ill “the dignity of genuine patients,” as he noted in a 1904 report. To help his patients return to their daily lives and to alleviate the problem of overcrowding in the asylum, he encouraged periods of trial release for those whose condition had clearly improved; those who had no family of their own were placed with host families, a highly innovative practice. In 1915 he organized courses for the Sœurs de la Charité de Québec, the owners of the asylum (which had become the Hôpital Saint-Michel-Archange), to prepare them to get their nursing diplomas. In 1923, when the Quebec provincial government required the medical staff of the hospital to work there exclusively, Brochu resigned. A pavilion of what would become the Centre Hospitalier Robert-Giffard was to bear Brochu’s name from 1976 to 1988.

Because of his scientific expertise, Brochu was frequently called upon to testify at criminal trials, the most famous being that of Marie-Anne Gagnon, the stepmother of Aurore the martyred child [Aurore Gagnon*], in 1920. According to the newspapers, Brochu, in his role as an expert witness, declared that the accused had “all her faculties and had the capacity to make moral judgements.”

Brochu was also known for his involvement in various organizations. He took part in founding the Société Médicale de Québec on 14 Jan. 1897 [see François-Xavier-Jules Dorion], as well as its journal, Le Bulletin médical de Québec, on 15 Sept. 1899. At a meeting that highlighted the third anniversary of the society, which took place on 25 and 26 June 1900 and was attended by more than 150 physicians, he suggested establishing an association to bring together Canadian and American francophone doctors. Its purpose would be to organize medical conferences in French and promote the creation of medical societies in all French-speaking communities on the continent. Brochu chaired the first congress of the Association des Médecins de Langue Française de l’Amérique du Nord, held in Quebec City from 25 to 27 June 1902 during celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Université Laval. On the death of Vallée, Brochu was invited to replace him as first vice-president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Province of Quebec (1903–7); he would reportedly refuse the presidency in 1907. Within these organizations, he focused on the question of funding for medical societies and he rallied his French Canadian colleagues in opposition to the Canada Medical Act [see Sir Thomas George Roddick*]. According to Brochu, the creation of the medical council stipulated in the act constituted an intrusion by the federal government into the education sector, as well as a threat to the practice of medicine by francophones in Canada.

Brochu was a member of several other learned societies: the Société Médico-Psychologique de Québec, the Canadian Medical Association, the American Medico-Psychological Association, the Société de Thérapeutique, and the Société Médicale des Hôpitaux de Paris. On 21 Sept. 1902 the French government awarded him the title of officier de l’Instruction publique, and on 4 March 1907 he was decorated with the Ordre de l’Étoile Noire by the Grand Chancellery of the Legion of Honour.

In the last ten years of his life, Michel-Delphis Brochu continued to practise medicine at the Hôtel-Dieu. He also directed the Sanatorium Hygiénique in Saint-Romuald-d’Etchemin (Lévis) and the Brochu et Brochu clinic in Quebec City. He died in 1933 after a long illness and an operation. In 1921 and 1935 respectively a township and a lake were named after him. Colleagues recalled the strength of his convictions and his facility with words. As the founder of the Association des Médecins de Langue Française de l’Amérique du Nord (now known as the Association des Médicins de Langue Française du Canada), his memory is tied to an organization that at the start of the 21st century still brings together francophone doctors, not just from Canada but from all of North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Guy Grenier

In addition to the book mentioned in the biography, Michel-Delphis Brochu wrote the following articles: “De l’épilepsie jacksonnienne,” L’Union médicale du Canada (Montréal), 26 (1897): 385–403, and “De l’intervention électro-thérapeutique dans le traitement de l’occlusion intestinale aigue,” La Rev. médicale (Québec), 1 (1897–98): 1–6.

BANQ-Q, CE301-S22, 16 mai 1878, 25 nov. 1879; CE301-S97, 21 oct. 1884; CE302-S5, 9 juill. 1850; CE302-S19, 4 juill. 1853. Le Devoir, 13 mars 1933. L’Événement, 13 mars 1933. La Presse, 20 avril 1920. Renaud Brochu, Les Brochu (5v. parus, Sainte-Foy [Québec], 1999–    ), 3: 192–205. “Le bureau des gouverneurs du Collège des médecins et chirurgiens de la province de Québec à Montréal,” L’Union médicale du Canada, 32 (1903): 428. Directory, Quebec City, 1924–25. Denis Goulet et André Paradis, Trois siècles d’histoire médicale au Québec: chronologie des institutions et des pratiques (1639–1939) (Montréal, 1992), 357–60. Guy Grenier, 100 ans de médecine francophone: histoire de lAssociation des médecins de langue française du Canada (Sainte-Foy, 2002). “Officiers de l’association,” Le Bull. médical de Québec, 3 (1901–2): 451. Que., Parl., Sessional papers (report of the commissioner of agriculture and colonization, 1891–92; reports of the commissioner of public works, later the commissioner of colonization and public works, 1897–1904; reports of the secretary and registrar of the prov. of Que., 1904, 1906). [P.]‑Z. Rhéaume, “Chronique,” LUnion médicale du Canada, 36 (1907): 608. François Rousseau, La croix et le scalpel: histoire des Augustines de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec (1639–1989) (2v., Sillery [Québec], 1989–94), 2: 59–60, 227–28. Univ. Laval, Annuaire, 1865–1925, 1933–34. Arthur Vallée, “Nécrologies – Michel Delphis Brochu, 1853–1933,” L’Union médicale du Canada, 62 (1933): 285–88. Hubert Wallot, La danse autour du fou: survol de l’histoire organisationnelle de la prise en charge de la folie au Québec depuis les origines jusqu’à nos jours (1v. paru, Beauport [Québec], 1998–    ), 1: 91–92, 107–10.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Guy Grenier, “BROCHU, MICHEL-DELPHIS (baptized Michel-Adolphus),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 31, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/brochu_michel_delphis_16E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/brochu_michel_delphis_16E.html
Author of Article:   Guy Grenier
Title of Article:   BROCHU, MICHEL-DELPHIS (baptized Michel-Adolphus)
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   2014
Year of revision:   2014
Access Date:   May 31, 2023