Jean Tremblay

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Jean Tremblay
Jean Tremblay01 cropped.jpg
Mayor of Saguenay
In office
January 1, 2002 – November 16, 2017
Succeeded by Josée Néron
Mayor of Chicoutimi
In office
Preceded by Ulric Blackburn
Succeeded by Position abolished
Personal details
Born Jean Eugène Gabriel André Tremblay
(1948-11-29) November 29, 1948 (age 69)
Chicoutimi, Quebec
Nationality Canadian
Alma mater Université Laval
Profession Notary

Jean Tremblay (born November 29, 1948) is a Canadian politician who was mayor of Saguenay, Quebec, Canada, serving from 2002 to 2017. This is the 5th-largest urban area of the province. Before that he was mayor since 1996 of Chicoutimi, which since amalgamation in the province is the major borough of the new city.[4][5]

Tremblay is from the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec. He is a notary by profession and a businessman. After the municipal reorganizations in Quebec, on 1 January 2002 he became the first magistrate of the new city of Saguenay. The popular mayor had his mandate renewed in the elections of November 2005,[6] receiving 72% of the vote, and again in November 2009 with 78% support, described as a "dazzling victory."[7] In the election of 2013, he received 63% of the vote.[8]

Tremblay has worked to promote the economy of Saguenay, initiating actions to attract more cruise ships, as well as support development of the city and industries. He worked to recover taxes owed by private hydroelectric plants within the city, as they were exploiting a city resource. In 2008 he was the first mayor of a major Quebec city to implement a new form of municipal management called « Gestion par activités » (City Stat Performance Strategy).[9]

He established the position of city ombudsman to serve residents. His administration initiated what was the city's first interactive website on the Internet, to improve communication and services for residents. In addition, the mayor's office makes use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter for communication.

While introducing technological innovation, Tremblay has been culturally conservative. He continued his practice of saying a prayer before city council meetings. The Commission on Human Rights ruled this violated freedom of conscience and religion after citizen complaints. The case was ultimately heard by the Canadian Supreme Court. In Mouvement laïque québécois v Saguenay (City) (2015), the court ruled that the prayers before city council meetings were unconstitutional, as the state had an obligation to be neutral, and ordered the city to end them and to pay damages.


Jean Tremblay was born in 1948 in Chicoutimi and attended local schools. He obtained a law degree from Université Laval in 1974. He received his diploma in notary law from the same university and became a member of the Chamber of Notaries of Quebec in 1975.

He became a practicing notary in Chicoutimi in 1975. In 1979, he became partner in a St-Hubert restaurant in Chicoutimi. He was also the majority shareholder in a real estate company from 1979 to 1997. He taught in the Department of Administrative Sciences University of Quebec at Chicoutimi during the 1980-1981 school year.

Municipal mayor[edit]

With a wide network, Tremblay decided to enter politics and was elected in 1996 as mayor of the city of Chicoutimi, serving from 1997 to 2001. Tremblay strongly supported the 21st-century merger of seven municipalities (Chicoutimi, Jonquière, La Baie, Laterrière, a portion of the territory of Canton-Tremblay, Lac Kénogami and Shipshaw) into a new city, later named Saguenay. His office issued the document entitled Le courage de changer les choses (The Courage to Change Things), to explain the benefits of creating the new city of Saguenay through improved administration and cost savings, and gained the support of regional voters for the measure.

Following the municipal reorganizations in Quebec, on November 25, 2001 Tremblay was elected mayor of the new city of Saguenay, which incorporated Chicoutimi and several other jurisdictions. In 2002, Trembly founded Promotion Saguenay, to help develop the regional economy by stressing the area's strengths. The same year he became a member of the Union of Quebec Municipalities (UMQ). He has sat on the executive committee from 2004.

In early 2002, he held a referendum on the name of the new city. On April 12, 13 and 14, citizens chose between two proposed names, Chicoutimi and Saguenay. Saguenay received 35,810 votes (52.23%) to Chicoutimi's 32,399 votes (47.26%) and became the official name.[10]

In 2004, Tremblay established the position of city ombudsman, as a central point for citizens seeking redress. In 2005, he launched a case against multinationals to recover payment of taxes on private hydroelectric dams on the territory of the city. In 2006, he reaffirmed his support for reciting a Catholic prayer before City Council meetings. This became a highly controversial issue (see section below).[11]

In 2007, Tremblay began promoting a port of call for cruise ships in the borough of La Baie. This has led to an increase of cruise ships and associated tourist business.[12]

In April 2009, the polling firm Influence Communication, hired by Le Journal de Quebec, published a study on the media weight of 11 mayors in Quebec. On this list, Jean Tremblay ranked third after Régis Labeaume, Mayor of Quebec; and Gérald Tremblay, Mayor of Montreal. Among the 11 mayors included in the survey, he received 7.5% of the local, national and international media coverage. 32% of this coverage concerned the regional economy and related issues, and 26% concerned the controversy over prayer and religious symbols at public meetings and facilities.

Tremblay was the first mayor of a major Quebec city to implement a new form of municipal management called « Gestion par activités » (City Stat Performance Strategy).[9] The implementation of this new model has enabled Saguenay to make substantial cost savings and improve the efficiency of municipal services. He has presented this strategy on many occasions to other municipalities.[13]

In November 2009, Mayor Tremblay and the City of Saguenay were fined over half a million dollars by the superior court of Quebec, to be paid to Bertrand Girard, the former general manager of the city, for 'wrongful dismissal' by Tremblay. Judge Yves Alain criticized Mayor Tremblay and said his testimony was rife with "hesitations and contradictions;" he said certain parts were "pure science fiction". Judge Alain said none of the reasons given by the mayor for his decision to fire Girard was valid; in his opinion the mayor was trying to hide a personal animosity toward Girard.[14]

In October 2010, the regional Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean of the Federation of Professional Journalists of Québec published a black file[15] on the municipal information in Saguenay. The eight journalists from different media reported intimidation in their trying to collect data and alleged that records were altered; they said that the city administration and Mayor Tremblay threatened the freedom of the press.[16] The next day, the mayor said, "The black file, it does not bother me too much. I think it's ridiculous. They would do it on any mayor, anyone. [...] My job is not to satisfy the journalists it is to satisfy the citizens." [17]

The same year, Tremblay's administration established the interactive site '' to improve communication with residents through the Internet. The new city website presents information in the form of capsules, informative videos, hyperlinks and e-mail, and also uses social networks like Facebook and Twitter.[18] Since October 2012 Mayor Tremblay has been on Twitter.[19]

Prayer of the City Council[edit]

In September 2006, Christian Joncas and Alain Simoneau, activists from the Mouvement laïque québécois (MLQ) and the Coalition of Citizens of Saguenay, filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Youth Rights (CDPDJ) against Mayor Jean Tremblay for reciting a short prayer at the beginning of each Saguenay City Council meeting. Tremblay had practiced this tradition as mayor of Chicoutimi.

The municipal prayer reads:

"Almighty God, we thank you for the great blessings which You have given to Saguenay and its citizens, including freedom, opportunities for development and peace. Guide us in our deliberations as members of City Council and help us to be well aware of our duties and responsibilities. Grant us wisdom, knowledge and understanding that will preserve the benefits enjoyed by our city for all to enjoy and enable us to make wise decisions. Amen."[20]

Despite the complaint, the City Council voted to retain this practice.[21] In October of that year, following an investigation by the Commission on Human Rights, a mediation session was held between the parties to seek a resolution.[22] Joncas withdrew his complaint.

About a year later in September 2007, Jean Tremblay presented a paper about the issue, "Memoir of reasonable accommodation, Ville Saguenay"[23] to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission during its hearings. It was gathering information on how cultural, ethnic and religious minorities are and should be accommodated in the province under existing law. His paper defended the traditional place of the Catholic religion in public life in Quebec, where 95% of the people identify as Catholic. Community participation in church life has declined. This paper, published online in Les Classiques des sciences sociales, generated controversy.[24]

On May 15, 2008, the CDPDJ (Commission on Human Rights) ruled that the prayers at Saguenay City Council meetings violated provisions for freedom of conscience and religion in Quebec and Canadian society. With the support of the City Council, the mayor continued his practice. In August 2008, supported by the MLQ, Alain Simoneau filed a civil suit, claiming $100,000 in damages and fees for extrajudicial rights abuses and violation of freedom of religion and conscience. Simoneau asked that the city stop the practice of prayers at city meetings, and that it remove religious symbols in municipal spaces: a statue of the Sacred Heart in a public room used by the Chicoutimi district, and a crucifix from the boardroom of the Bay district.[25]

In February 2011, the Court of Human Rights ordered Jean Tremblay and city of Saguenay to stop the prayer, to remove the religious symbols from the public rooms of city facilities, and to pay 30 000 CAD as damages to Simoneau.[26] The mayor said he intended to appeal the ruling, and with the city council launched a fundraising campaign for donations to take the case to the Canadian Supreme Court.[27][28]

This case was covered nationally, and the mayor attracted wide media coverage. He has interviewed by such news organizations as CBC News, Agence France-Presse, The Cross, and Sun Media.[29] In late March 2011, the appellate court authorized the Mayor and City Saguenay to appeal the decision.[30] Mayor Tremblay said, "[...] This battle, I do it because I love Christ. When I reach the other side, I can be a little proud. I will say, "I fought for you, I even went on trial for you."[31] On July 12, 2011, Canadian Press said the mayor's fundraising campaign had raised $181,000, compared to the MLQ, which had received $25,000 in that period.[32] The hearing was scheduled for Monday, November 26, 2012 in Quebec before Judge France Thibault.[33] Tremblay argued that the prayer was part of the Catholic heritage of Quebec.[34]

On April 12, 2015 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Mouvement laïque québécois v Saguenay (City) against Tremblay and the city, saying recitation of the prayer at the municipal meeting was unconstitutional because of freedom of conscience and religion. It said the state had an obligation to be neutral, and "This neutrality requires that the state neither favour nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non-belief. It requires that the state abstain from taking any position and thus avoid adhering to a particular belief."[34] It did not address the religious symbols, as it said the Tribunal had not ruled on this, and the Appeals Court was in error to make a ruling about their use.[35][36]

Media relations[edit]

Tremblay has frequently appeared on regional television stations and provincial governments. He was host of a television series shown on Channel Community Saguenay Canal Vox.[37] He was invited by national networks such as LCN to discuss various topics. In April 2009, the firm Influence Communication, initiated by Le Journal de Quebec, published a study on the media weight of 11 mayors of Quebec. On this list, Jean Tremblay ranks third after Régis Labeaume, Mayor of Quebec, and Gérald Tremblay, Mayor of Montreal. Of the 11 mayors surveyed, the first magistrate of Saguenay gets a percentage of media coverage locally, nationally and internationally valued at 7.5%.[38]



  1. ^ Pierre Demers, Le Saguenay autrement et Abécédaire de maire, Les éditions des Poèmes Animés, 2012, 184 p. (ISBN 978-2-9813005-0-8) Online presentation
  2. ^ Pierre Gingras, "Échos sur la ville, anniversaires", Le Journal de Québec, 29 November 2011, p. 26
  3. ^ Isabelle Hachey, "Une journée avec Jean Tremblay: le maire omnipotent", La Presse, 2 April 2011, p. A22-A23
  4. ^ Catherine Delisle, "Jean Tremblay élu maire : Le règne d'Ulric Blackburn prend fin après seize ans", Le Quotidien, 3 November 1997, p. 3
  5. ^ Denis Bouchard, "Une victoire de tous les citoyens", Le Quotidien, 26 November 2001, p. 4
  6. ^ "Jean Tremblay vainqueur", Le Quotidien, 7 November 2005, p. 1
  7. ^ Sylvain Dufour, "Victoire éclatante pour Jean Tremblay", Le Quotidien, 1 November 2009.
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ a b François Bourque, « Le modèle de Saguenay », Le Soleil, 29 mars 2008, p. 2
  10. ^ Isabelle Labrie, "Nom de la future ville: Saguenay l'emporte de justesse", Le Quotidien, 15 April 2002, p. 3
  11. ^ "Saguenay mayor defends Catholicism at accommodation hearings", CBC, 21 September 2007
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-10-20. Retrieved 2011-09-16.  [archive]
  13. ^ Stéphane Bégin, « Des sourires approbateurs de ses pairs », dans Le Quotidien, 26 avril 2008, p. 3
  14. ^ [archive
  15. ^ Section régionale de la FPJQ, « Dossier noir de l'information municipale au Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean [archive] », Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec, 14 octobre 2010
  16. ^ "Information municipale — Un dossier noir dénonce Jean Tremblay" [archive] sur [archive], Société Radio-Canada, 15 October 2010
  17. ^ a et b "Jean Tremblay répond au dossier noir" [archive] sur [archive], 15 Octobre 2010
  18. ^ "Des vidéos du maire. Saguenay se lance sur Youtube", Le Quotidien, 6 October 2010, p. 18.
  19. ^ [2]
  20. ^ Serge Lemelin. "Prière au conseil: la parole à Simoneau", Le Quotidien, 2 April 2009, p. 2.
  21. ^ "Le maire Tremblay tient à sa prière", Le Quotidien, 27 September 2006, p. 12.
  22. ^ "Joncas propose au maire une séance de médiation", Le Quotidien, 4 October 2006, p. 12.
  23. ^ Jean Tremblay, "Mémoire sur les accommodements raisonnables, Ville Saguenay" (numérisé par Les Classiques des sciences sociales), 20 Septembre 2007 lire en ligne [archive] présentation en ligne [archive]
  24. ^ François St-Gelais, "Les gens s'arrachent le mémoire! : Jean Tremblay à la commission Bouchard-Taylor", Le Quotidien, 26 September 2007 texte intégral [archive]
  25. ^ "Avis au Procureur général du Québec" [archive] sur [archive], 27 novembre 2008
  26. ^ "Droits de la personne -Plus de prière au conseil municipal de Saguenay" [archive] sur [archive], Société Radio-Canada, 14 février 2011
  27. ^ "Vous voulez faire un don dans le dossier du procès de la prière à Saguenay" [archive] sur [archive], 2011
  28. ^ Jeanne Corriveau, « Prière au conseil municipal — Saguenay en appel [archive] », Le Devoir, 23 février 2011
  29. ^ Anne-Marie Gravel, "Les convictions du maire [archive]", Le Quotidien, 13 June 2011
  30. ^ Richard Hénault, « Prière à Saguenay: le maire pourra faire appel [archive] » sur [archive], Le Soleil, 30 mars 2011
  31. ^ Laurent Busseau, "De Saguenay à Saint-Césaire : un Fondamentaliste catholique renaissant... [archive]", La Voix de l'Est (The Voice of the East), 26 March 2011
  32. ^ Patrice Bergeron, « Prière à Saguenay: Jean Tremblay a recueilli 181 000 $ [archive] » sur [archive], La Presse canadienne, Quebec, 12 July 2011
  33. ^ [3] [archive]
  34. ^ a b "Prayers at Quebec city council meetings violate constitutional rights: Supreme Court", National Post, 15 April 2015, accessed 17 October 2015
  35. ^ SCC, Mouvement laïque québécois v Saguenay (City) (2015), par. 53
  36. ^ SCC, Mouvement laïque québécois, par. 61
  37. ^ Patrick Voyer, "Jean Tremblay deviendra historien," Le Quotidien, jeudi 14 août 2003, p. 4.
  38. ^ Samuel Tremblay, "Tous les yeux vers Jean Tremblay", Le Quotidien, 18 February 2011.

Municipal policy papers[edit]

External links[edit]