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The Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons

 

Hon. Albert Sévigny
P.C. (1916–1917)

Albert Sévigny ran successfully in the 1911 federal election, one of 26 MPs from Quebec who supported Robert Borden, the new Conservative Prime Minister. Less than three and a half years later his dedication to the Prime Minister and his policies earned him the Deputy Speakership in February 1915 — an office that his son Pierre would also assume 43 years later.

In December 1915 Thomas Sproule resigned the Speakership because of ill health. Sévigny was nominated to fill the position by Sir George Foster, acting Prime Minister, who praised him for his pleasant personality, culture, and “affability and capacity.” The Leader of the Opposition, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, good-humouredly seconded the motion, observing that Sévigny started out in the House of Commons as “an ardent Nationalist,” denounced Laurier’s policies, and eventually “became a repentant sinner.” When the House met in the Victoria Memorial Museum Building after the tragic Centre Block fire in February 1916, Sévigny presided without the Speaker’s traditional robes: they had been destroyed in the fire. Members understood that the event had touched him particularly personally, because two of his wife’s guests in his parliamentary quarters had lost their lives.

Despite Sévigny’s having been a strong partisan and advocate of Canada’s participation in the First World War, he was generally considered to be an even-handed Speaker. By the end of 1916, however, the Prime Minister — by now Sir Robert — needed him in the Cabinet as a government spokesman in Quebec during the conscription crisis. The day after Sévigny resigned the Chair on January 7, 1917, Borden appointed him Minister of Inland Revenue, the first of three cabinet posts he would fill during 1917 before he lost his seat in the December 1917 general election.

Borden’s successor as Conservative Prime Minister, Arthur Meighen, appointed Sévigny to the Quebec Superior Court in 1921, and he served with distinction as a judge for the next 40 years.

One of Sévigny’s rulings allowed debate to proceed on the rights of French-speaking students in Ontario to be taught in their mother tongue.

Next Speaker: Hon. Edgar Nelson Rhodes

Previous Speaker: Hon. Thomas Simpson Sproule


Artist: Charles Huot
Date: circa 1918

Born: Tingwick, Quebec, 1881

Died: City of Québec, Quebec, 1961

Professional Background: Law

Political Affiliation: Conservative

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: