• Together...
    quality of life
    for residents

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Helene Rumak
Gisèle Allard (1960-2009), resident of the Saint-Charles-Borromée Hospital, representative of the collective action / class action of HVD

In 1991, Hélène Rumak and Johanne Ravenda decided to cofound La Fondation Lise T., which changed its name to Handicap-Vie-Dignité (HVD) in 1996. In order to honour the memory and life of Lise, their protégée, their mission is to work towards improving the quality of life of people with severe disabilities to ensure that their needs are met and their rights respected.

Their approach is inspired by the thinking of Bernard Kouchner, founder of Doctors Without Borders, an organization that addresses the "collective and individual duty of advocacy" towards the suffering of our society’s most vulnerable. Here are a few vulnerability factors:

  • severe physical, intellectual or psychological limitations
  • reliance on others to meet their basic daily needs
  • inability to be understood by the various workers
  • isolation from the community

Through their volunteer involvement, Hélène and Johanne developed expertise in the area of abuse, especially towards the most vulnerable individuals living in a long-term care environment.

They provide education and play a pioneering role with collaborators and researchers interested in this issue. Handicap-Vie-Dignité promotes proper treatment of these vulnerable individuals through public statements, conferences, training workshops, and articles, with the hope of contributing to improving the quality of life of these individuals.



HVD organized its first national HVD seminar: Let’s break the silence... Uncovering institutional abuse, in conjunction with the Montreal Consortium on Human Rights Advocacy Training, under the auspices of McGill University’s School of Social Work.


HVD published the proceedings of this very seminar with the support of York University’s Roeher Institute in Toronto.


HVD produced a bilingual training and awareness video dealing with the issue of abuse and neglect of vulnerable individuals who are institutionalized:Advocacy – The Art of Speaking out.


HVD asked the Court to study their claim for a class action suit on behalf of the residents of the Saint-Charles-Borromée hospital for the poor quality of care and services provided, citing in particular the mistreatment allegedly perpetrated against the residents of this long-term care facility.


HVD was authorized by the court to launch this class action suit on behalf of the residents. It was the first time since the introduction of the Class Action Proceedings Act that such a proceeding was authorized against a public long-term care institution for systemic mistreatment of residents.


HVD requested and eventually received permission to amend the dates of the period in question in order to add new victims to the list of plaintiffs.


Death of HVD cofounder, Hélène Rumak.


In a declaration at the Quebec National Assembly, Mr. Bernard Drainville, Deputy for the Marie-Victorin Constituency, commended the life and the work of Madame Hélène Rumak and expressed his gratitude in the following comment:

“Mr. President, on September 30th, 2009, Mrs. Hélène Rumak, co-founder of the organization, Handicap-Vie-Dignité, passed away. Few people know about Mrs. Rumak's immense contribution to Quebec society. All through her life, Mrs. Rumak invested herself in order to give a voice to the most vulnerable people among us…she fought to ensure that handicapped people and institutionalized seniors be treated respectfully and with dignity… She described life as a reality that goes beyond the physical body. Whatever their handicap or their disease, everybody had the same value, everyone had a right to the same dignity...” (Extract from the Quebec National Assembly (Journal des débats), May 6, 2010)


Fourteen years after launching the class action suit, HVD negotiated an out-of-court settlement on behalf of the residents of the Saint-Charles-Borromée hospital who were victims of abuse between the years 1995 and 2006. It was a historic settlement in the amount of $8.5 million, creating a precedent that would make public institutions "accountable".



Hélène Rumak (1947-2009)
“We will have taken a great step when the most vulnerable elderly people are treated as human beings.”
( ref.: Noel, André. “CHSLD: des conditions de vie scandaleuses”, La Presse. le 20 octobre 2003, p. A3)

This Fund was named in honour of the late Hélène Rumak, President and Co-Founder of Handicap-Vie-Dignité, who passed away on September 30, 2009.


It is a restorative measure, in the amount of $250,000, as part of a class action settlement agreement signed on April 15, 2013 between Handicap-Vie-Dignité and the Saint-Charles-Borromée Hospital.


The Fund is managed by Handicap-Vie-Dignité, who shall report on a yearly basis on their activities to Ménard Martin, prosecutors.

  • HVD must work to improve the quality of life of persons with severe disabilities
  • HVD must ensure that their needs are better understood.
  • HVD must ensure that their rights are respected.

The amount attributed to this Fund must serve all the users of the public CHSLD in the Quebec Health System.

As noted in the goals of Handicap-Vie-Dignité, this Fund must serve to provide training and to plan activities regarding the rights of and the advocacy for the users.

It must ensure that information and training be given to residents, their representatives, their families and volunteers on the rights of residents and the means to assert them.


The Board of Directors of Handicap-Vie-Dignité are responsible to choose the activities and services offered, according to:

  • the goals and the mission of Handicap-Vie-Dignité
  • the needs of residents, their representatives, their families and volunteers.


Information and training activities on rights and the exercise of rights must be accessible to all public CHSLD users and not only to the residents of the Centre d’hébergement Paul-Émile-Léger (formerly recognized as the Hôpital Saint-Charles-Borromée and the Centre d’hébergement du Centre-Ville-Montréal.)

  • HVD must ensure that the use of this Fund respects their goals and their mission.
  • HVD must ensure that the use of this Fund respects obligations towards residents, their representatives, their families and volunteers.
  • HVD must present an Annual Report of the management of the Fund to the Prosecutors Ménard Martin, lawyers acting in the appeal.
  • HVD must present to the Court an Annual Report of the use and the management of the Fund, as of August 31st, 2019.


Logo HVD Conference 2018


Johanne Ravenda,
since 1991-05-07

Daphne Nahmiash,
since 2016-10-09

Nicole Jaouich,
since 2017-07-05

Michel Gervais,
since 2014-01-15

Diana Marandola,
since 2010-01-01

Michel Allard,
since 2014-01-15

Hélène Durand
since 2019-11-18