Memorable Manitobans: Ovide Charlebois (1862-1933)
Born at Oka, Quebec on 17 February 1862, son of Hyacinthe Charlebois and Emergence Chartier, he was educated at the College de L’Assomption (Quebec) and Ottawa College. In 1883, he entered the Oblate Order at Lachine, Quebec and took his vows two years later. He was ordained a priest in July 1887 and was assigned to the Diocese of Saint Albert, being posted for 16 years to the mission of St. Joseph at Fort Cumberland. In 1900, he was given administrative responsibility for surrounding missions, including one at The Pas and most of the lower Saskatchewan River.
In 1903, he went to the Indian Industrial School at Duck Lake, Saskatchewan, where he put the financially-troubled facility on a firmer economic basis. Seven years later, he became vicar-apostolic of the newly-formed Diocese of Keewatin, a vast territory on the shores of Hudson Bay. He moved to The Pas in 1911 where he remained for the rest of his career, becoming one of the best known and beloved clerics of the north.
He died in The Pas on 20 November 1933, of a chill sustained while travelling by dog team to a community south of town, and was buried in a small Roman Catholic cemetery overlooking the Saskatchewan River. Having lived simply throughout his life, Charlebois left a will stating that “I personally possess absolutely nothing, and I bequeath absolutely nothing to my natural heirs.” He was succeeded as Bishop by his nephew and former secretary, the Rt. Rev. Martin Lajeunesse. In 1955, his remains were transferred to the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Cathedral. He is commemorated by the Charlebois siding on the Herchmer Subdivision of the Hudson Bay Railway.
Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.
“Keewatin Bishop, Ovide Charlebois, dies at The Pas,” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 November 1933, page 4.
“Will of Bishop Charlebois short, nothing to leave,” Winnipeg Free Press, 24 November 1933, page 15.
Manitoba History Scrapbook M7, page 122, 1914-1916, Manitoba Legislative Library.
We thank Ralph McLean for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 12 July 2020