Oliver Mowat Biggar

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Oliver Mowat Biggar
1st Chief Electoral Officer of Canada
In office
Preceded by position established
Succeeded by Jules Castonguay
Personal details
Born October 11, 1876
Toronto, Ontario
Died August 6, 1948[1]
Nationality Canadian
Spouse(s) Muriel Elizabeth Whitney (m. April 30, 1908 in Toronto, Ontario)
Relations Charles Robert Webster Biggar (Father), Jane Helen Mowat (Mother)
Alma mater University of Toronto

Colonel Oliver Mowat Biggar (1876-1948) was a Canadian lawyer and civil servant. He was the first Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.

Early life and education[edit]

Biggar was born in Toronto to lawyer Charles Robert Webster Biggar and Jane Helen Mowat (whose grandfather was Sir Oliver Mowat, a former Premier of Ontario).

Biggar attended both Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto, graduating from the latter in 1898. He became active in the militia. In 1901 Biggar graduated a gold medalist from Osgoode Hall Law School and began practicing that profession. By 1903, having moved to Edmonton, Alberta, he was called to the bar there. In 1908 he married Muriel Elizabeth Whitney.[2]

During this period he enlisted with the Edmonton Fusiliers and rose to become Judge Advocate General for Canada with the rank of Colonel. Over the years he built a distinguished career as a trusted and competent public servant.[citation needed]

Senior advisor to the Prime Minister[edit]

At the conclusion of World War I, Sir Robert Borden, Canada's then Prime Minister invited Biggar to attend the peace conferences in Paris and Versailles as chief legal adviser and member of the Canadian delegation. Biggar was also asked to serve as British Secretary of the War Guilt Commission and Assistant Secretary of the British delegation.[2]

Upon his return to Canada, Biggar was named vice chairman of the air board where he organized Canada's Air Department. This was subsequently divided into its civilian (Canadian Air Transport Board) and military (Royal Canadian Air Force) components.

Chief Electoral Officer[edit]

In 1920, The Canadian House of Commons unanimously voted him as Canada's first Chief Electoral Officer. He increased the accuracy and completeness of the voter rolls, in particular by adding women, who had been allowed to vote in federal elections for the first time in 1921 but had often been prevented from voting by inaccurate voter rolls.[3] In 1927 Biggar resigned and returned to the practice of law with the firm of Smart & Biggar, in Ottawa.

Second World War[edit]

In 1940, then Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King selected Biggar to be one of his senior advisors and appointed him to the Canada-U.S. Joint Defense Board. This entity was co-chaired by Biggar and Fiorello La Guardia, the former mayor of New York.[2]

In 1942, Biggar was asked to create a single agency for the purpose of effective wartime censorship out of five separate operations. These became one branch of the National War Services Department that was staffed successfully by volunteers. Biggar was also invited to be a member of the Wartime Information Board.

In 1945, due to ill health Biggar relinquished his duties to General Charles McNaughton.

Biggar died in 1948.


  1. ^ "Selected Families/Individuals - pafg17 - Generated by Personal Ancestral File". Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  2. ^ a b c Library and Archives Canada
  3. ^ "Oliver Mowatt Biggar". Elections Canada. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
Government offices
Preceded by
new position
Chief Electoral Officer
Succeeded by
Jules Castonguay