Memorable Manitobans: Joseph Bernier (1874-1951)
Born at St. Jean d’Iberville, Quebec on 16 August 1874, son of Thomas Alfred Bernier and Malvina Demers, 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 for the constituency of St. Boniface (Conservative) in 1901, replacing S. A. D. Bertrand, he was the first representative of his ethnic group to sit in cabinet after the Manitoba Schools Crisis of 1890. He was defeated by one vote in the 1903 general election by Horace Chevrier. He was returned again in 1907 and 1910 becoming, in 1912, Provincial Secretary in the government of Rodmond P. Roblin. Re-elected in 1914, he refused nomination in 1915 but was elected again in 1918, 1920, and 1922, 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 Bernie (?-1944) of L’Islet, Quebec. They had two sons: Robert Bernier and Maurice Deniset Bernier. 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.
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.
Members of the Legislative Assembly (deceased), Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.
“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.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 24 September 2018
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