Dorion, Antoine Aimé (DNB01)

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DORION, Sir ANTOINE AIMÉ (1818–1891), chief justice of the court of queen's bench, Quebec, born in the parish of Ste.-Anne de la Perade, in the county of Champlain, Lower Canada, on 17 Jan. 1818, was son of Pierre Antoine Dorion by his wife Genevieve, daughter of P. Bureau. Educated at the Nicolet College, Dorion studied law and was received as advocate in January 1842. He took a leading position at the Montreal bar from an early date, and maintained it with ease until he retired in 1874. He was created queen's counsel in 1863.

Dorion's name is found among the 325 subscriptions to the annexation manifesto of 1849. About the same time he joined the very advanced Rouge party founded by Louis Joseph Papineau [q. v.], and became a frequent contributor to the columns of its organ, 'L'Avenir.' In 1854 Dorion was elected member for Montreal, and retained the seat till 1861. A clear, easy, and ornate speaker both in English and French, he be- came leader of the extreme wing of the French Canadian liberal party. In 1857 he declined to join the Taché-Macdonald government; but the year following he cast in his fortunes with George Brown [q. v. Suppl.] Their administration lasted only forty-eight hours, yet it gave rise, directly and indirectly, to many intricate questions of a constitutional character that troubled the peace of Canada for nearly twenty years (Mackenzie, Life of Brown, chap. x.; Todd, Parliamentary Government in the British Colonies, 1894, pp. 762-9).

Although he suffered defeat in Montreal at the hands of (Sir) George Etienne Cartier [q. v.] in 1861, Dorion joined the Sandfield Macdonald-Sicotte cabinet as provincial secretary in May 1862, and found a constituency in Hochelaga, which he continued to represent for the next ten years. He withdrew from the ministry within a year avowedly on the ground that he had no faith in the intercolonial railway project then advocated by the government. A few weeks later the cabinet was reconstructed with a view to the forthcoming elections and on the basis of abolishing, in so far as representation in the assembly is concerned, the dividing lines between Upper and Lower Canada. Thereupon Dorion became attorney-general east and the acknowledged leader of the French-Canadian liberals (June 1863). The change of programme gave little strength to the ministers. After a severe struggle for existence the administration resigned (March 1864).

The Quebec resolutions, the basis of the present system of Canadian federation, came up for consideration in 1865. Dorion opposed them with great force, expressed his preference for a federal union of the Canadas only, with guarantees for the special interests of each section, and declared that a scheme of that kind would have been laid before the house by the Brown-Dorion government if it had been permitted to unfold its policy.

In 1872, having continued to represent Hochelaga after the federation, he announced his intention to retire from public life, but he was induced to offer himself as a candidate for Napierville at the general elections of that year, and was triumphantly returned. He was named in the ensuing session with Mr. Edward Blake to represent the opposition on a select committee appointed to inquire into certain charges which were made against the government in connection with the Pacific Railway charter (1873). The committee took no evidence and made no report. Other disclosures brought about the resignation of the ministry, and, on the accession of the liberals, Dorion became minister of justice and member of the privy council (7 Nov. 1873). The laws of the dominion which pertain to elections and election trials are his work. On 1 June 1874 he was appointed chief-justice of the court of queen's bench in Quebec. He was administrator of his native province for a short time during 1876, from the death of Lieutenant-governor Caron to the appointment of Luc Letellier de St.-Just. The order of knight bachelor was conferred on him on 4 Oct. 1877.

Dorion's judgments have contributed much to the elucidation of the Canadian federal system. They bear principally on the provincial taxing power, on the meaning to be attributed to the words 'direct taxation within the province.' Among them may be mentioned the case of the Queen's Insurance Co. (1 Cart. 151), Reed's case (1 Cart. 196), and the Bank of Toronto v. Lamb (4 Cart. 44). A more general review of the Canadian division of power will be found in Dobie v. The Temporalities Board (1 Cart. 393), where Dorion's decision, leaning in favour of the province, was reversed on appeal to this country. But, whether set aside or sustained, his judgments in all cases carry the impression of calm deliberation, wide juridical culture, logical training, and a happy power of expression.

He died on 31 May 1891. In 1848 Dorion married the daughter of Dr. Trestler of Montreal.

[Taylor's Port. of Brit. Americans, i. 229-246; Bibaud's Le Panthéon Can. p. 77; Dent's Can. Port. Gall. iv. 65; Morgan's Legal Directory, p. 212; N. O. Coté's Political Appointments, p. 86; Gray's Confederation, i. 196, 229, 230-43; Turcotte's Canade sous l'union, pt. iii. c. ii.; Dent's Last Forty Years, chaps, xxxvii. xxxviii.; Gerin-Lajoie's Dix Ans au Can. pp. 485-529; Toronto Globe, 1 June 1891; Canadian Hansard.]

T. B. B.