Last Saturday, the former minister Lucie Charlebois was on a golf course in Florida. Through the ambient noise on the coronavirus, the snowbird wondered if she was anticipating his return to the country. She then made a phone call to get the time right. She knew who to call: Horacio Arruda.
“Madam, come back-you-in, it’s news,” said the director of public Health. The ex-minister has not done neither one nor two, she was immediately taken to the road with his partner Luke.
“When is Horacio Arruda, who say to you, you listen,” said the ex-minister attached to the phone so that it was just the customs in the car and go back to the country.
Unknown to the general public there a few days ago, Horacio Arruda became in a week the idol of Quebec. Consecration of modern times, the same him, where he personifies a hero multiply on social networks and a page on Facebook “Horacio, our hero,” paid homage to him.
Present at all points of press government, he became the voice of reason, the face is reassuring, the co-captain of the ship with François Legault.
Horacio Arruda, who wanted to pursue a career in theatre plays today, at age 59, the biggest role of his life.
Quebecers are discovering a genuine character that sometimes eludes a coronation like in January when he swung at a press conference: “The fear fact of doing business that do not have the squeaks of common sense”.
It is also a person with a good sense of humor who makes you smile the whole world in advising teens to see “the trade in organic products”.
“We laughed a lot together,” recalls Ms. Charlebois, ex-minister for public health who has worked on important issues on the legalization of cannabis.
“This is someone eminently likeable, which is a very good communicator, emphasizes Réjean Hébert, minister of Health, from 2012 to 2014. It is natural and says what he thinks.”
Mr. Arruda also had managed the crisis of the H1N1 virus with the minister of Health then, Yves Bolduc, in 2009.
The son of immigrant
This only son of Portuguese immigrants is since 20 years the right arm of the government in matters of public health.
But in the eyes of Horacio Arruda, the challenges it faces in its work are in no way comparable to the difficulties his parents faced in leaving Portugal to settle in Quebec, according to what he has stated in an article of a website of the Azores, an archipelago in Portuguese.
“He had a great sense of responsibility and a lot of courage on the part of my parents when they decided to emigrate”, we read.
His father, Bento Arruda, who was a rural worker and her mother Maria José Botelho, a servant, arrived in Quebec in 1960. “At the time, there was no program of support to immigrants, my mother was understanding in the making of signs”, he says to the media of the Azores.
It is also because he was aware of the sacrifice of his parents, now deceased, and to avoid the stress he said, still in this article to Portuguese, having put his dreams of becoming an actor aside to devote himself to medicine.
Specialist of epidemics
Public health has become the passion of Dr. Arruda and more specifically with epidemics and emergency measures. Graduated in medicine from the University of Sherbrooke in 1983, he then made a certificate in community health and preventive medicine. He has also been a tutor at the Centre for epidemiology intervention in Quebec.
“For many years, he focused on the areas of epidemiology, intervention, and prevention and control of infectious diseases”, one can read in his biography of the members of the board of the pan canadian public health Network.
In 2000, he was appointed director of the protection directorate-general public health and then national director of public Health and assistant deputy minister in 2012.
“He had skills, he had a good judgment, he was able to keep his cool and explain clearly issues of public health,” recalls the ex-minister Yves Bolduc, who has been appointed to head the department of public health, in may 2012.
For the past 20 years, Dr. Arruda has driven major issues: the prevention of the west Nile virus (2001), the mass vaccination campaign against meningitis (2001-2002), the SARS outbreak of 2003-2004, avian influenza (2004-2005), the C-Hard (2007), outbreaks of salmonellosis and listeriosis in 2008, the H1N1 virus in 2009, the Ebola in 2014, the Zika in 2016.
“He quickly understands the issues and he was able to pass on messages,” remembers Dr. Bolduc, who has handled the outbreak of H1N1 with him. He projected a high level of credibility.”
Dr. Hébert has also been able to count on him during the disaster of Lac-Mégantic in 2013. “It happened in the hours that followed, and it stayed on for a few days and it is with him that we decided to evacuate the population that was under the cloud of smoke,” he says.
“It is very effective in a crisis situation,” says the ex-minister.
In the summer of 2014, he has also had to manage a crisis, internal this time, when the resignation in block of six regional directors of public health in a part of arm wrestling with the government Couillard and the minister Barrette about their status of wage.
Dr. Arruda had served as interim in four regions, sometimes for a few years.
“There is no policy, insists Ms. Charlebois. He has known the liberals, the pq and now with the caq and he does his job, and it’s still rely on the science.”
“This is someone who is very transparent, it gives the right time,” adds Dr. Hebert.
At the same time in his career, he married Nicole Mercier, a family physician in 1986. Together they had three children : Genevieve, Gabriel and Guillaume. The couple lives in Sainte-Thérèse, in the north crown of Montreal.
“It has always been for his family, ready to make return trips to Quebec, you won’t miss a gathering of the family”, stresses his cousin by alliance Tomy Botelho.
“It is very generous, it is he who taught me to drive,” he continued. The latter is described as a bon vivant, a world traveler and a lover of the arts.
Workers of the health network who have worked in recent years, to speak of a man as passionate and rigorous, which does not have the language of wood.
“This is an excellent popularizer,” says Ms. Charlebois.
“He is able to combine the scientific expertise with the practical aspect,” says Dr. Hébert. It is able to pick up the skills of the people with whom they work and to popularize science so that ministers can take decisions based on scientific data.
“He is ready to face the coronavirus,” said Ms. Charlebois. With him, we’re in business.”
– With the collaboration of Marie-Christine Trottier
Specialist of epidemics
- Doctorate in medicine from the University of Sherbrooke, 1983
- Certificate of specialist in community health and preventive medicine, 1988
- Tutor sessions epidemiology intervention of Quebec, 1998 – 2000
- Director of protection at the general Directorate of public health, from 2000 to 2012
- National director of public health and assistant deputy minister since 2012