In Memoriam: Louis Charland, PhD

Louis Charland: 1958-2021

The Western community lost a beloved member on Sunday, May 9, 2021, with the passing of Professor Louis Charland. He was 62.

Professor Charland held a joint appointment in the Faculties of Arts and Humanities (Department of Philosophy) and Health Sciences (School of Health Studies), a cross appointment in the Department of Psychiatry (Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry) and was a proud member of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy.

His teaching and research activities were truly interdisciplinary. He was first and foremost an expert in the history and philosophy of both emotions and psychiatry. He also distinguished himself as a bioethicist.

Louis completed his PhD in Philosophy at Western in 1989 and worked as a bioethicist at McGill, the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children before returning to Western in 1998. He was promoted to Full Professor in 2011.

During his tenure at Western, he acquired an international reputation for his work on decision-making capacity – a key element of informed consent to health care – and on treatments for anorexia nervosa, addictions and mental illness. His work, challenging traditional treatment strategies for patients with anorexia nervosa, was featured in the Globe and Mail in 2016.

As a teacher, Louis valued learning through personal experience, community engagement and the wisdom of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Recently, he was striving to make students in his courses more aware and appreciative of Indigenous knowledge practices.

He is survived by his wife, Anna, stepson, James, mother, Marguerite, sister, Anne Elizabeth and brother, Bernard. His full obituary can be found here.

Tributes and Memories

Louis was a wonderful friend, a brilliant scholar, a kind and generous human. I had known him through mutual friends since the early 1990s and we quickly became close friends after he was jointly appointed a few years later in Philosophy and Health Studies at Western. We would always speak French during our many chats over coffee or a meal because for Louis, French was the language of the heart. I miss him greatly and my thoughts are with Anna and the rest of his family.

Jeff Tennant
Associate Professor, Department of French Studies

We are all stunned and deeply saddened by the loss of Louis Charland. I will always remember his radiant smile. Louis’ office used to be situated across from the back door to enter the Dean’s Office. Every morning, he would greet me with a smile and a cheerful hello. What a gift that was! In my five years as Dean, I cannot remember Louis ever uttering an unkind word, a complaint, or a remark in frustration. He was truly a generous soul, with a deep interest in others, and a passion for the academy. Our hearts ache with his passing – he is deeply missed.

Jayne Garland
Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences

I first met Louis in 1998, when I sat on the appointments committee that brought him to Western. Over the next two decades I had the privilege to watch Louis become an eminent scholar who explored the complex areas where health and philosophy intersect, and where passion and reason collide to produce the fundamental elements of our humanity. Louis was a dedicated teacher and supervisor, and his dealings with colleagues were unfailingly directed at the common good. A sad loss for Philosophy, for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and for the University. My thoughts are with his family.

Michael Milde
Dean, Faculty of Arts & Humanities

It was easy to forget that Louis was jointly appointed to Philosophy, because he always felt like an integral and full-time member of the School of Health Studies. He was a consistent contributor to our School Council and our curriculum committee, and it was a rare day when Louis was not working out of his office in the Health Sciences building. Louis was committed to his students, and an unwavering supporter of his colleagues. His contributions to School Council often consisted of congratulatory remarks concerning the work of colleagues - or expressions of admiration for our students.

In his teaching, Louis cherished interaction and dialogue with students, favouring group discussions and reflective essays over other forms of instruction and assessment. Our remote instruction over the past year represented a particular challenge for Louis, as it was foreign to his preferred methods of interacting with students. Nonetheless, he met the challenge with enthusiasm - and delighted in sharing his triumphs as he mastered various technologies within the online environment. He was determined to maintain an engaging experience for students within his classes - and he succeeded in providing a quality educational experience.

Louis, you enriched the lives of all of us within the School of Health Studies with your casual reminders to cherish each other and to acknowledge our own successes. I will miss your depth of thought, and your unique viewpoints on the philosophical foundations of mental health. I will miss your irrepressible smile, and your positivity. But most of all, I will miss the kind and gentle soul who never failed to elicit a smile with every interaction.

Andrew Johnson
Acting Director, School of Health Studies

The School of Health Studies is a small collective of deeply connected educators and researchers and losing one of us is incomprehensible, like losing a family member or a body part. Louis was an anchor, one of our most senior members, a wise one. Always positive, optimistic and engaging, Louis’s gentle and caring nature drew us together, as did his hallmark chuckle. He taught us about fairness, justice, selflessness, ethics and about creating ‘good’ in the world though our research. Louis floated as he walked, dapper in a flowing scarf and paddy cap. He expressively waved his twirling fingers to make a point, and passionately talked about joys of swimming. We shared photos of cats, good food, and news about his family. He dreamed about retiring in Portugal, a good book in one hand and a bottle of Perrier in another. Our hearts are in spasm and our tears are flowing. But, we honour memories, laughter, thoughtfulness and passion for life that Louis instilled in us. He was truly one of a kind. We, the faculty, staff and students in our School salute you, Louis. We will miss your morning salute, the smell of toast in the kitchen and your jar of pickled eggs on the counter. Bonne chance. Thank you for leaving a mark in our hearts and our minds. Nous t'oublierons jamais (We will never forget you).

Aleksandra Zecevic (on behalf of faculty and staff)
Associate Professor, School of Health Studies

The news of Louis’s death came as a shock to everyone in Philosophy at Western. He was a much loved and respected member of our department. For me, he had been a friend for decades, in part because of our overlapping interests in bioethics and moral psychology, but also because we simply enjoyed one another’s company. I will miss his smile, his insights about topics that fascinated us both, and his friendship. I feel privileged that he was in my life as long as he was.

Carolyn McLeod
Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy

Louis was such an incredibly authentic, vibrant, kind and brilliant being. Every conversation with Louis offered an opportunity to laugh, share, learn and grow. He fully gave himself to others and to life. Louis shared this quote of Camus with me:

"Et si j’aimais alors en me donnant, j’étais moi-même puisqu’il n’y a que l’amour qui nous rende à nous-même. And if I loved while giving myself away, I was then truly whole, since only love can render us to ourself."

Louis, my friend, you most certainly lived your life wholly.

With deepest of gratitude,"

Arlene MacDougall
Director of Research, Department of Psychiatry