Jacques Ferron was born in Louiseville, Quebec, the son of Joseph-Alphonse Ferron and Adrienne Caron. On March 5, 1931 his mother died. He attended Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf but was expelled in 1936. He continued his education at Collège Saint-Laurent and then was readmitted at Jean-de-Brébeuf, only to be expelled again. In September 1941, he was accepted at Université Laval where he studied medicine and on July 22, 1943 he married a fellow student, Madeleine Therrien, whom he divorced in 1949.
November 1943, he enrolled in the Canadian army as a medic and received the acceptance in June 1945. He trained in British Columbia and Ontario and after that was sent to Quebec and New Brunswick as a medic. When relieved of duty in 1946, he settled in Rivière-Madeleine, Quebec. His time in Gaspésie was the inspiration for many of his stories written later. He may have had to leave Rivière-Madeleine because he was denounced from the pulpit as a communist by the local parish priest. In 1947, his father died.
In 1948, he returned to Montréal. In 1949, he moved to Longueuil, Quebec and his first book, L'ogre, was published. He lived among working-class people that lived in Longueuil-annexe in those years, often offering his services for free-refusing to be paid, or omitting to ask. Not in the name of charity, but rather of solidarity- his giving was politically motivated, and he understood that his training as a doctor-his privilege- was paid for by the misery that the francophone working class was experiencing at that time.
In 1951, he began a 30-year collaboration with L'Information médicale et paramédicale. On June 28, 1952, he married Madeleine Lavallée. In 1954 he became a member of the board of the Canadian Peace Congress. In 1959 he helped in the foundation of the magazine Situations. In 1960, with the help of Raoul Roy, he created l'Action socialiste pour l'indépendance du Québec.
In 1962, he received the Governor General's Award for French fiction for his book Contes du pays incertain.
In 1963 he founded the Parti Rhinocéros, which he described as "an intellectual guerrilla party". He also began to write for the magazine Parti pris. In 1969, he became a member of the Parti Québécois.
He died of a heart attack 1985 at his home in St-Lambert, Quebec, aged 64.
- Celebrating The Physician Writer Texts from the Jacques Ferron Symposium, April 25, 2006. Dalhousie Medical Journal (2006) vol 34; no 2. available at 
- Jacques Ferron, écrivain
- Interview with Radio Canada 28 Aug 1971 available at
- Vivian C. McAlister and Christiane I. McAlister. In Search of the Anglophone Doctor in Jacques Ferron's Story "Le petit William" Dalhousie Medical Journal Apr. 2006: 23–30. available at