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Sir Antoine-Aimé Dorion

Photograph: Hon. Antoine-Aimé Dorion, March 1868.


Hon. Antoine-Aimé Dorion, Member of Parliament. Ottawa, March 1868.

(January 17, 1818 - May 31, 1891)

Antoine-Aimé Dorion received his classical education at the Séminaire de Nicolet between 1830 and 1837. Having a strong interest in law, he was accepted to article under Côme-Séraphin Cherrier in 1838. Dorion was called to the bar of Lower Canada in 1842 and became a partner at Côme-Séraphin Cherrier's law practice.

The influence of Dorion's father and grandfather gave him a taste for politics. Although his younger brother Jean-Baptiste-Éric was quite radical in his ideas, Antoine-Aimé was mainly liberal. Antoine-Aimé was a member of the "parti rouge," but a moderate one.

1851 marked, for the Dorion brothers, the end of the peaceful coexistence between the radical and moderate wings of the "parti rouge." The paper Le Pays (founded in 1852) was chosen as the party's official paper. It took a more moderate stance than the radical L'Avenir, with which Antoine-Aimé's brother Jean-Baptiste-Éric was associated.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion actively entered politics in 1854. His moderation and his popularity in Montréal made him Louis-Joseph Papineau's successor as leader of the "parti rouge." Dorion's party leadership was practically undisputed from 1854 to 1867. He was re-elected in 1857 and in 1858, but defeated in 1861 by George-Étienne Cartier. The defeat was bitter, but allowed him to withdraw from politics for some time before accepting the offer of John Sandfield Macdonald and Louis-Victor Sicotte to join Cabinet as secretary and treasurer of the Province of Canada.

In 1862, Antoine-Aimé Dorion resigned from both Cabinet and government in protest of the Sandfield Macdonald-Sicotte government's position on the Grand Trunk Railway. He did, however, accept Sandfield Macdonald's offer to form a new government. Sandfield Macdonald and Antoine-Aimé Dorion became the first joint premiers of United Canada, from May 1863 to March 1864.

From 1864 to 1873, Antoine-Aimé Dorion sat in the opposition and prepared the federal Liberal Party to play a key national role.

Sir Antoine-Aimé Dorion participated in the Québec Conference, but opposed the confederation project from the outset. In November 1864, he published a speech against union in several newspapers, and helped to draft a manifesto. Nevertheless, Confederation became a reality in 1867.

When Alexander Mackenzie became prime minister of Canada in 1873, Antoine-Aimé Dorion agreed to be minister of justice. Nevertheless, he accepted the office of chief justice at the court of Queen's Bench in Quebec without hesitation in 1874. He was chief justice there from 1874 until his death, in 1891.


Soulard, Jean-Claude. -- "Dorion, Sir Antoine-Aimé." -- Dictionnaire biographique du Canada. -- Vol. XII. -- Québec : Presses de l'Université Laval, 1983. -- P. 282-287