Biography of Bernier, T. Alfred (Thomas-Alfred), 1844-1908

Thomas-Alfred Bernier was born in Henryville, Lower Canada in 1844. He studied law and gained some experience in journalism while articling in Saint-Hyacinthe. Called to the Bar in 1869, he set up a law practice and continued to edit a pro-Conservative paper, Le Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe. A meeting with the Oblate missionary, Albert Lacombe, who was recruiting families for the West, persuaded him to move to Manitoba. Arriving in St. Boniface in April 1880, he began farming near Sainte-Agathe. The following year, he was convinced by Archbishop Taché to accept an appointment as Superintendent of Catholic Education for the province, a position he held until 1890 when the Liberal government under Thomas Greenway abolished the dual public school system, as well as the use of French in the legislature, in the courts, and in official documents. In 1892, Bernier was appointed to the Canadian Senate by the Conservative government. As Senator, he defended the rights of Catholics to publicly-funded denominational schools, and later denounced the Laurier-Greenway Compromise which had been intended to settle the Manitoba School question. Bernier argued that the agreement was unsatisfactory for Catholics and that it would not allow for greater concessions in educational matters in the future. He also took an interest in advanced education and served as registrar of the University of Manitoba from 1883 to 1893. Bernier was mayor of St. Boniface for five terms and president of a colonization society. In 1887 he published a brochure entitled Le Manitoba, champ d’immigration (Ottawa), which was aimed at encouraging his compatriots in Quebec and New England to settle in the West. He died in St. Boniface in 1908.

Mentioned in:


  1. Lettre du 10 avril 1894 de Thomas-Alfred Bernier à P. Boucher de la Bruère, extrait


  1. Rapport du surintendant des écoles catholiques pour l'année 1886, page couverture, extrait


  1. Bureau d’Éducation de la Province de Manitoba.Section catholique. Diplôme de deuxième classe, cours français, accordé à Mlle Victoire Moreau 31 juillet 1885
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