A Crime Brought to Light
The death of a child is a particularly tragic event today, all the more so because it is fairly rare, thanks in part to improved medical care, nutrition, and hygiene. But in a not-too-distant past, many Quebec families experienced the grief of losing a child at a young age. The poor quality of food, the numerous childhood diseases (which were still fatal just 50 years ago), the lack of pasteurization of milk and the resulting development of bacteria and germs – all these factors contributed to the deaths of many young children. Most Quebecers in the 1920s would have had more or less direct experience with infant mortality. But what happened when a child from down the road or from the parish, who had passed the critical stage of early childhood and who was in good health, fell into a coma and died without any specific illness being diagnosed? And what if that child’s body was covered with bruises and scars? And if, before her death, her parents had told anyone who would listen that their daughter misbehaved badly, that she wouldn’t listen, and that they had to beat her until her blood ran in order to “straighten her out”? In the case that we are examining here, the case of Aurore Gagnon, such a situation prompted neighbours, the local doctor, the justice of the peace to intervene – but their intervention was too little and too late to save the life of Aurore Gagnon.
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