Joseph Dubuc

One of Riel's Wise Men from Quebec

By George Siamandas

Dubuc was a Quebecer who had been invited by Louis Riel to help run the fledgling province of Manitoba. Dubuc had been born Dec 26, 1840 in Chateauguay Quebec the oldest of 15 children. At age 18 he left home travelling to the USA in order to learn English and to find a well paying factory job. After returning to the College de Montreal where he met Louis Riel, (Riel attended from 1858 to 1865), Dubuc he entered the faculty of law at McGill. At the same time Dubuc began his life-long interest in journalism writing articles for Le Minerve.

He graduated in 1869 setting up a modest practise till invited to Manitoba the following year by Riel. Riel wrote him saying he needed "an educated assistant, a man of law, energetic and determined." It was Father Richot who had travelled to Ottawa to convince Dubuc to follow him back to Fort Garry. Dubuc arrived during the Riel rebellion. While Riel fled Manitoba, he had left Dubuc in charge of the Metis. Dubuc was a strong supporter of the Rebellion and later pleaded for amnesty for Riel.


Dubuc was a strong champion of the French Catholic duality of early Manitoba. He helped direct the first census, which created 12 English and 12 French speaking districts. Dubuc continued to write for the Minerve and together with his partner Joseph Royal began Le Metis. As a lawyer, Dubuc helped the Metis pursue their land rights.

Dubuc was elected to the first legislature and played an important role helping draft the School Act of 1871. It was a tumultuous time of ill feelings between the French and the new Canadians coming from Ontario. He Dubuc served as Attorney General in Girard's short-lived govt of 1874 and helped set up the court of Queens' Bench. Dubuc also served as Speaker of the House from 1875 to 1878. In 1878 Dubuc left provincial politics for a federal seat. But his political life was nearing its end.


Dubuc also tried to maintain the French Canadian balance of Manitoba by being the co founder of the Society De Colonization, which helped bring 15,000 Quebecois to Manitoba between 1875 and 1880. But it was not enough as enormous English speaking migration from Ontario was underway. Soon the French language had been removed from the legislature, the civil service and the courts.


In 1879 Dubuc left politics to serve on the Queen's Bench. He was happy to leave the turmoil of politics. He became a man of law and enjoyed the dignity of the judiciary.

He began to distance himself from the Metis and refused to sit as an appeal judge on Riel's trial in 1885. He termed Riel a dangerous maniac and could not sit in judgement, as he knew him personally.

He left the bench in 1909 after 30 years of service and was knighted in 1912. He was the first French Canadian in western Canada to receive this honour. Dubuc enjoyed the honours he was receiving. In retirement, Dubuc was able to spend more time with his large family and could now travel more.


Dubuc lived in St Boniface in a modest house on Notre Dame St near Tache Ave. In 1872 he had returned to Montreal to marry Marie Anne Hennault. They had five sons and five daughters. He died Jan 7 1914 in Los Angeles and was buried at St Boniface Cathedral.


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