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The Speakers of the Senate of Canada


Hon. Sir Charles Alphonse Pantaléon Pelletier
P.C., K.C.M.G., K.C., B.C.L. (1896–1901)

Called to the bar in 1860 as a lawyer, Charles Alphonse Pelletier graduated from the Military School of Quebec and enlisted as a volunteer in 1861 at the time of the “Trent Affair.” In the United States Civil War, the Navy of the northern Union forces illegally boarded a neutral British ship and seized two Confederate diplomats; war nearly broke out between Canada and the United States. Pelletier was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 9th Battalion of the Voltigeurs de Québec, and during the 1866 Fenian raids he was a major on active service.

In the 1867 election, Pelletier ran as a Liberal for the House of Commons, but the returning officer for the riding of Kamouraska nullified the election because a brawl broke out during the voting. He won in the by-election of 1869, and sat in the House until 1877. He also ran successfully for the Quebec Legislative Assembly in 1873, and during the campaign was slightly wounded in the head when an attempt on his life failed. He resigned his provincial seat in 1874 when dual mandates were abolished.

Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie appointed Pelletier to the Senate in 1877, principally because of his continuing value as a significant Quebec organizer for the Liberal Party. He was appointed to the Cabinet at the same time, but the government fell the next year. In the Quebec election campaign of 1890, Pelletier was kidnapped while he was on a train; 26 people were arrested and charged for the offence.

Following his efforts on behalf of the Liberal Party in Quebec, Pelletier was appointed Speaker of the Senate in 1896 by Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier. As Speaker, his reputation was that of a mediator and conciliator. Pelletier was knighted in 1898. He resigned the Speakership in 1901, and left the Senate in 1904 for a position on the bench of the Superior Court of Quebec. Four years later he was appointed as Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec; he died in office in 1911.

Pelletier is the only Speaker of the Senate to have been the victim of both an assassination attempt and a kidnapping.

Next Speaker: Hon. Lawrence Geoffrey Power

Previous Speaker: Hon. John Jones Ross

Portrait of the Honourable Sir Charles Alphonse Pantaléon Pelletier

Born: Rivière-Ouelle, Lower Canada, 1837

Died: Sillery, Quebec, 1911

Professional Background:
Law, Military

Political Affiliation: Liberal

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: