Claudette Bradshaw, community activist, politician (born 8 April 1949 in Moncton, NB). Claudette Bradshaw’s early career was spent in nonprofit social work. She founded Moncton Headstart, an early family intervention centre, and advocated for at-risk youth. She was Member of Parliament for Moncton–Riverview–Dieppe from 1997 to 2006 and served in several ministerial roles in the Liberal governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, including Minister of Labour and Minister of State (Human Resources Development). Since then, she has become a major advocate for mental health, literacy and affordable housing.
Claudette Bradshaw was born in Moncton, New Brunswick, to Cyril and Corinne (Robichaud) Arsenault. She attended high school at École Georges-Vanier. She married Douglas Bradshaw, with whom she founded Moncton Headstart, an early family intervention centre.
Claudette Bradshaw started her career in social work in 1968 as program director for the Boys & Girls Club of Moncton. In 1974, she and her husband founded Moncton Headstart as a childcare program and the first licensed day care in New Brunswick. Its mandate was later broadened to be a “charitable community agency dedicated to providing quality early family intervention and support services to help children and their families realize their full potential.” This included programs for high-risk children and their families, a teaching kitchen, social housing and recycling.
It was the beginning of a long career advocating for the rights and well-being of marginalized people. In 2017, Bradshaw reflected on her experience and the continued need for advocacy. “If I ever wrote a book on what I lived and…stuff that I heard, people would think…no, that’s not happening in my city, but it is happening in your city.”
Claudette Bradshaw sought the Liberal nomination for Moncton–Riverview–Dieppe in the 1997 federal election. The nomination was hard fought since she was not the local party’s preferred candidate. Nonetheless, she won the seat on 2 June 1997 (with 44.6 percent of the vote) and embarked on a successful parliamentary career, taking on a number of ministerial portfolios that reflected her interests and expertise. She was re-elected in 2000 (58.7 percent) and 2004 (59.3 percent).
Bradshaw was appointed Minister of Labour in 1998. She was reappointed Minister of Labour on 15 January 2002 and again on 12 December 2003. During that time, she also held the subministerial post of Minister Responsible for Homelessness. According to one bureaucrat, Bradshaw’s social work background gave “instant credibility” to the newly founded homelessness portfolio. In this position, she advocated for improved access to affordable housing.
Bradshaw also served as Secretary of State (Multiculturalism) (Status of Women) from 2002 to 2003, Minister of State (Human Resources Development) from 2004 to 2006, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation from 1997 to 1998 and Minister Responsible for the Francophonie from 1997 to 1998. She served on many House of Commons, Cabinet and joint committees.
In 2000, Bradshaw championed the Canadian ratification of the International Labour Organization Convention on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour. Canada ratified the convention that year. She also advocated for literacy programs and strategies across the country.
Bradshaw did not stand for re-election in the 2006 federal election. She remarked that she had not planned to stay in politics for longer than 10 years.
In 2007, Claudette Bradshaw was named coordinator for the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), a position she held until 2011. In 2008, she agreed to lead the Housing First study, a $110-million research demonstration project commissioned by the MHCC. The At Home/Chez Soi project in Moncton offered a furnished apartment and professional help to more than 100 people from the streets and studied the effects of these changes on their lives. Bradshaw’s decision to participate was inspired by the story of Ashley Smith, a New Brunswick teen who committed suicide in an Ontario prison in 2007. Bradshaw and her co-chairs believe that the Housing First approach allows “dozens of communities across Canada to make the transition from treatment as usual to Housing First and ultimately to ending homelessness.”
From 2006 to 2007, Bradshaw was lead member of the New Brunswick Premier’s Community Non-Profit Task Force.
Bradshaw is also an advocate for awareness of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. She served on the board of directors for the Canada FASD Research Network until 2019. That year, the organization created the Claudette Bradshaw FASD Innovation Award to reward innovation in the field.
Claudette Bradshaw is co-chair of the board of directors for the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. She has also been a member and co-chair of the National Crime Prevention Council.Bradshaw has been a member of many organizations, including the Provincial Housing Task Force and National Council of Welfare.
Claudette Bradshaw is married to Douglas Bradshaw and has two sons, Chris and Nick. Nick Bradshaw is a successful comic book artist. The Bradshaws have also served as foster parents.
Claudette Bradshaw is known for her warmth and ability to connect with people. During Queen Elizabeth II’s 2002 visit to New Brunswick, she “executed one of her trademark bear hugs on the monarch,” according to The Globe and Mail. “And Ms. Bradshaw didn't stop there. According to reports in the local media, she asked the Queen to come back to New Brunswick for a longer stay, suggesting they tour the province together by car.”
Awards and Honours
- Ann Bell Award, New Brunswick Child Welfare Association
- Builder of Youth Award, Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada
- Community Leadership Award, Family Service Canada
- Outstanding Community Work Award, Médaille Richelieu International
- Muriel McQueen Fergusson Foundation Award, Business Woman of the Year, The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton
- Paul Harris Award for Community Leadership
- Honorary Doctorate in Social Work, Université de Moncton (2001)
- Honorary Doctor of Sociology, University of Ottawa (2014)
- Order of New Brunswick (2009)
- Order of Moncton (2010)