Claudette Bradshaw, former MP and advocate for the homeless, dies at 72

Former MP Claudette Bradshaw, a tireless advocate for the homeless, has died. She was 72.

Born and raised in Moncton, NB, Bradshaw spent much of her career at the forefront of the non-profit sector in her community addressing homelessness, mental health and at-risk children and youth.

Bradshaw was known to have lung cancer. She died Saturday afternoon, according to her family.

Bradshaw spent 10 years in federal politics elected as the Liberal member for Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe.

She served as parliamentary secretary to the minister for international cooperation, minister responsible for the Francophonie, minister of labour, minister of state and minister responsible for homelessness.

She also served as secretary of state for multiculturalism and status of women.

Despite her many accomplishments on the national scale, Bradshaw maintained a strong advocacy presence in New Brunswick, including raising awareness of the dangers of fetal alcohol syndrome and improving access to affordable housing.

In 2010, she was named a recipient of the Order of Moncton and praised for being the “voice and defender of the impoverished and underprivileged” in her home community.

Nick Bradshaw, one of her two sons, said his mother’s legacy was knowing how to give a good hug and how she kept a strong relationship with everyone in her midst.

He said everybody could count on a warm hug from Bradshaw.

“You can ask anybody who got one of her hugs, they’ll tell you that she was a very affable person who loved people,” he said.

“That’s something I know I’m going to miss, a lot of people are going to miss.”

He said Bradshaw, then a federal minister, broke protocol when greeting Queen Elizabeth on her last trip to New Brunswick. She couldn’t resist the urge to give her a hug.

“They knew she was a hugger, so the RCMP warned her and said, ‘Look, you’re not supposed to address her unless she talks to you and you’re not supposed to touch her,'” he said.

He said his mother placed her hand on the Queen’s back when she stepped down on the tarmac.

“I said, ‘She’s going to hug that woman and they’re going to taser her in front of all of Moncton.'”

He said Moncton is where his mother was most comfortable.

Bradshaw was known nationwide for her hugs. (RADIO-CANADA / Patrick Lacelle )

He said what he’ll miss most about his mother is calling her and watching her interact with others.

“She really took our life through a lot of ups and helped us through the downs,” he said. “She was our captain.”

He said his mother lived a high-stress life, constantly working to reach her goals. That took a toll on her body and in 2015 she suffered a stroke.

While she recovered from that, she developed various cancers and was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer near the end of 2021. She was receiving chemotherapy treatments.

He said she didn’t feel well on Saturday. The family called for an ambulance, but it was too late.

“By the time they got here her heart just gave out,” he said. “We were here with her, you can’t ask for better than that.”

She died peacefully at home with her two sons and husband of over 50 years, Douglas Bradshaw.

Where it began

Claudette Bradshaw began her social work career in 1968, as the program co-ordinator for the Boys and Girls Club of Moncton for six years, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia.

She Moncton founded Headstart Early Family Intervention Center and she acted as its executive director.

The non-profit child care program was the first licensed daycare in New Brunswick.

“What a legacy this woman has left behind,” said Caroline Donnelle, the current executive director of Moncton Headstart.

“She was an extraordinary woman, a formidable woman at that, and one that created an organization that’s almost 50 years old and is still going strong.”

Donnelle said the services available to at-risk youth and families wouldn’t be the same today without Bradshaw’s work in the field.

Bradshaw died peacefully next to her two sons and husband Saturday. (RADIO CANADA)

Bradshaw’s career took a turn in 1997 when she stepped on the political floor.

She received the Medaille Richelieu International and an honorary doctorate in social work from the Université de Moncton

By 2006, Bradshaw was ready to depart federal politics and did not stand for re-election.

That’s when Bradshaw was appointed as New Brunswick Premier’s Task Force on the State of Community Non-profit Agencies.

She was named co-ordinator for the Mental Health Commission of Canada one year later, which led her to launch Housing First, a $110-million research project on chronic mental illnesses and homelessness.

That led to the development of the At Home/Chez Soi program in Moncton, offering furnished apartments and support to more than 100 people who were living on the street.

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