||Désiré Girouard was a lawyer, politician, Canadian Supreme Court judge, and author. He born on July 7, 1836 in Saint-Timothée, Lower Canada to Jérémie Girouard and Hyppolite Picard. He married his first wife, Mathilde Pratt, on January 20, 1862 in Montreal and the couple had one child. He had six children with his second wife, Essie Cranwill, whom he married on February 6, 1865. On October 6, 1881, Girouard married his third wife, Edith Bertha Beatty, with whom he had three children. Girouard attended parish school in Saint-Timothée from 1844 to 1848 before attending the College of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in Beauharnois between 1848 and 1850. He then went to Petit Séminaire de Montreal from 1850 to 1857, where he was a prize-winning student. Girouard studied law at McGill College between 1857 and 1860 and was the valedictorian at his graduation. McGill later gave Girouard an honourary degree of DCL in 1874 and named him a QC in 1880. In 1857, Girouard became a member of the literary circle of the Cabinet de Lecture Paroissial where he nurtured his deeply religious beliefs and developed lifelong conservative views. Girouard was a fierce opponent of the Institut Canadien and his ejection from a meeting in March 18, 1858 contributed to internal tensions within the organization that led to the foundation of Institut Canadien-Français, where Girouard was welcome. In 1857 Girouard also began working at Edward Cater’s law office. Before being admitted to the bar in October 1860, Girouard published an important legal text: Essai sur les lettres de change et les billet promissoires. Girouard excelled at commercial law and partnered with leading lawyers in Montreal to serve with many wealthy corporate clients during his 35 years of practice. Girouard increased his political involvement throughout the 1870s. In 1871 he founded La Revue critique de legislation et de jurisprudence du Canada with William Warren Hastings Kerr, Louis-Annable Jetté, John Adams Perkins, and Henri-Félix Rainville. Girouard’s contributions were frequently political, such as "The Treaty of Washington", which criticized Sir John A. Macdonald’s government for not protecting Canadian interests, and Girouard’s articles on church and state. During a juridical crisis in 1873 and 1874, Girouard gave a speech before the Montreal bar about members’ longstanding grievances with certain judges of the Court of Appeals and called for a royal commission to inquire into the court’s affairs. This speech led a boycott of the court for the entire winter session and the issue was not fully resolved until June 1874. During this time Girouard also attempted to enter federal politics. In 1872, he ran as a Conservative in Montreal’s Jacquest-Cartier riding, but lost to Toussaint-Antoine-Rodolphe Laflamme, his former law professor. Girouard ran as an independent in 1874 and lost Beauharnois. When Laflamme was nominated as Minister of Inland Revenue in 1876, Girouard, partially motivated by involvement in legal suits against Laflamme regarding land dealings, decided to contest the required by-election in Jacques-Cartier. Girouard lost by 28 votes and contested the results up to the Supreme Court of Canada, which dismissed the case in 1878 while Laflamme was Minister of Justice. That same year Girouard lost another election to Laflamme, but Girouard’s initial 12-vote deficit became a 2-vote victory after a juridical recount. Girouard remained undefeated in Jacques-Cartier for the next 17 years. Girouard introduced many private bills in the House of the Commons, the most famous of which was his bill in 1879 to legalize marriage to a deceased wife’s sister. The bill was so controversial with conservative church authorities that Girouard had to withdraw it, but he was able to pass a modified version in 1882. Girouard gave his most notable speech in the House of Commons on July 7, 1885, when he spent over 6 hours defending the governments’ handling of the Riel affair. He concluded by asking the government to exercise clemency in favour of the prisoners in Regina. Subsequently, Girouard was furious with Macdonald’s apparent willingness to let the death sentence stand and thought that Riel’s trial was legally flawed and very unfair. Girouard emphasized the question of Riel’s sanity to avoid the execution. He also initiated meetings with leading Quebec Conservatives to put pressure on the government, resulting in a telegram sent on November 13, 1886 signed by 16 Conservative members from Quebec telling Macdonald that they would not take responsibility for Riel’s execution. When Sir Alexander Campbell, Minster of Defense, published a defense of the government’s actions, Girouard responded with a printed open letter on December 7, 1885 condemning Riel’s execution. When the issue of Riel came before the House in March 1886, he and 16 other Conservatives from Quebec ("the Bolters") voted against their own government as a matter of conscience. Several months after Riels’ execution, Girouard supported Honoré Merciers’ attempt to form the Parti National, but eventually withdrew from the cause and rejoined the Conservatives. Nonetheless, the Riel affair dimmed Giourad’s passion for partisan politics and he declined cabinet positions in 1891 and 1895. Girouard remained involved in several government initiatives. In 1890 he led a special parliamentary committee investigating the conduct of Major-General Sir Frederick Dobson Middleton in the North-West Territories. In 1891, as chairman of the committee on privileges and elections, he presided over an investigation into corruption charges against Sir Hector-Louis Langevin and Thomas McGreevy. Girouard also acted as counsel for Quebec in cases before the Supreme Court of Canada involving Indigenous claims under the Robinson treaties of 1850. In 1892, Girouard became the first mayor of Dorval, where he lived in his residence Quatre Vents. On September 28, 1895 he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, where he served for 15 years. In 1920 Girouard acted as administrator of Canada, in his role of senior puisne judge, during several absences of the Governor General and the Chief Justice. Girouard received negative press in Ontario for his message of welcome to Vincenzo Cardinal Vannutelli, a pontifical legate attending the International Eucharistic Congress and Montreal and also for Girouard’s participation in the congress itself. There is speculation that this negative press may be the reason Girouard was never knighted. In addition to his political and legal career, Girouard was also a keen genealogist and local historian. He authored many historical pamphlets, some of which formed the basis of Lake St. Louis, old and new, illustrated, and Cavelier de La Salle, which was translated into English by his son Désiré Howard and published in Montreal in 1893. In 1895, Girouard received the Confederation Medal from the Earl of Aberdeen in recognition of Girouard’s literary contributions. Girouard also researched his family’s heritage in Canada and origins in France, resulting in L’album de la famille Giourard, which was published in Montreal c. 1906. On March 6, 1911, Girouard, already in failing health, was thrown from his sleigh on a street in Ottawa and died two weeks later. Funerals were held in Ottawa and Montreal and Girouard was buried in the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery in Montreal on March 24, 1922.
1) Culture et Communications Québec. (2013). Girouard, Désiré. Retrieved from <http://www.patrimoine-culturel.gouv.qc.ca/rpcq/detail.do?methode=consulter&id=16539&type=pge>
2) Library of Parliament. GIROUARD, the hon. Désiré, K.C., B.C.L. Retrieved from <http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/ParlInfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=b751ee4d-e377-4f83-af5b-c9b4106ae886&Language=E&Section=ALL>
3) Smith, M. L. (1998). Girouard, Désiré. Dictionary of Canadian Biography, 14, 01/14/2017. Retrieved from <http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/girouard_desire_14E.html>
4) Supreme Court of Canada. (2008). The honourable Désiré Girouard. Retrieved from <http://www.scc-csc.ca/court-cour/judges-juges/bio-eng.aspx?id=desire-girouard>