Memorable Manitobans: Vital Justin Grandin (1829-1902)
Born at St. Pierre-sur-Orth, Diocese of Laval, France on 8 February 1829, son of Jean Grandin and Marie Veillard, after studying at the Lesser Seminary of Précigne he entered the Seminary of Foreign Missionsin Paris in 1851 but was forced to leave on account of ill health. Later the same year he entered the novitiate of the Oblates and in 1854 was ordained a priest.
Archbishop Taché had visited France in 1852 and had aroused in the young novitiate a desire to be a missionary at Red River. He arrived at St. Boniface on 2 November 1854. In June 1855 he left Red River for the mission on Lake Athabaska, the Nativity, and spent the winter at Ile-à-la-Crosse. In 1859 he was consecrated Bishop of Satala and Coadjutor to Taché. In June 1861 he set out to visit the missions in the far north and west, experiencing hardships through the bitter winter. In 1867 he was named Vicar of the Saskatchewan missions and in the same year he visited France with Taché, returning the next spring with nine workers.
In 1869 Grandin took up residence at Saint Albert, north-west of Edmonton, among Crees and Blackfeet. In 1871 he was named first Bishop of Saint Albert. In 1873 he went again to France and returned with 17 recruits, including his nephew, Abbé Henri Grandin. In 1882 he journeyed to Ottawa to protest the expropriation of the Métis land and in 1887 he made a similar journey on behalf of Catholic schools. In the 1880s, he instigated the construction by the federal government of three industrial schools in western Canada where Indigenous children were isolated from their culture in hopes of assimilating them into general society.
Grandin died at Saint Albert, Alberta on 3 June 1902. He is commemorated by Grandin Street and Bishop Grandin Boulevard in Winnipeg. The settlement of St. Vital, founded in 1860, was named after him.
Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 6 December 2018