Memorable Manitobans: Joseph Bernier (1874-1951)
Born at St. Jean d’Iberville, Quebec on 16 August 1874, son of Thomas Alfred Bernier and Julie Malvina Demers (1848-1927), he came to Winnipeg in 1880. He was educated at St. Boniface College and the University of Manitoba (BA 1893) then he articled in law to Perdue and Robinson. He was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1896 and practised alone for a time before affiliating with the firm of Andrews and Pitblado. In 1902, he organized the firm of Bernier and Bernier. Nine years later, he was a barrister in the firm of Bernier, Blackwood, Bernier and Beaupre.
Elected as a Conservative for the constituency of St. Boniface in November 1900, replacing Simon Amable Damien Bertrand, he was the first Francophone to sit in cabinet after the Manitoba Schools Crisis of 1890. Horace Chevrier defeated him by one vote in the 1903 general election. He was returned again in 1907 and 1910 becoming, in 1912, Provincial Secretary in the government of Rodmond Palen Roblin. Re-elected in 1913 and 1914, he refused nomination in 1915 but was elected again in 1920 (as a Conservative) and 1922 (as an Independent), and remained active in Conservative politics through the 1920s, running unsuccessfully in the 1926 federal general election, and being elected for St. Boniface in the 1927 provincial general election. Defeated in the 1932 provincial election, he was appointed a County Court judge in June 1933, serving until retirement in November 1949.
During the First World War, he helped with French-Canadian recruiting in District No. 10 in his capacity as honourary colonel with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. In 1910, he married Rose Marie Bernier (1888-1944) of L’Islet, Quebec. They had a sons, Joseph Jean Robert Bernier (1911-?) and they adopted their nephew Maurice Deniset (1920-2010). He was a member of the Adanac Club and Carleton Club. He was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Manitoba in 1937.
He died at Montreal, Quebec on 9 June 1951. His body was returned to St. Boniface for burial in the Archibald Street Cemetery.
Birth and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.
Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.
“Whitla, Bernier are sworn in as Manitoba judges,” Manitoba Free Press, 15 June 1933, page 2.
“Wife of judge Bernier dies,” Winnipeg Tribune, 6 January 1944, page 9.
“Judge Bernier dies at 76 in Montreal,” Winnipeg Free Press, 9 June 1951, page 1.
Ramsay Cook (editor), The Dafoe-Sifton Correspondence, The Manitoba Record Society, page 281.
Members of the Legislative Assembly (deceased), Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.
We thank Oliver Bernuetz (Legislative Library of Manitoba) for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 14 May 2021