Napoléon Belcourt

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Napoléon Antoine Belcourt
Napoléon Belcourt.jpg
10th Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada
In office
March 10, 1904 – January 10, 1905
MonarchEdward VII
Governor GeneralThe Earl of Minto
The Earl Grey
Prime MinisterSir Wilfrid Laurier
Preceded byLouis-Philippe Brodeur
Succeeded byRobert Franklin Sutherland
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Ottawa (City of)
In office
Preceded byWilliam H. Hutchison
Succeeded byThomas Birkett
Senator for Ottawa, Ontario
In office
Appointed byWilfrid Laurier
Personal details
Born(1860-09-15)September 15, 1860
Toronto, Canada West
DiedAugust 7, 1932(1932-08-07) (aged 71)
Blue Sea Lake, Quebec, Canada
RelationsJoseph Shehyn, Father-in-law
CommitteesChair, Special Committee on Administration of the Canteen Fund and the Disablement Fund, and the Manufacture and Sale of Paper Poppies

Napoléon Antoine Belcourt, PC QC (September 15, 1860 – August 7, 1932) was a Franco-Ontarian parliamentarian in Canada.[1]


Early life[edit]

Belcourt was born in Toronto to French-Canadian parents, Ferdinand-Napoléon Belcourt and Marie-Anne Clair,[2] and raised in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. He studied law at Université Laval, was called to the Quebec bar in 1882[2] and began his legal practice in Montreal in 1653 before moving to Ottawa in 1884. Belcourt was called to the Ontario bar in 1884.[2] He joined the law faculty at the University of Ottawa in 1891, and became proprietor of the newspaper Le Temps which supported the Liberal Party of Wilfrid Laurier. Belcourt served as clerk of the peace and crown attorney for Carleton County from 1894 to 1896. In 1899, he was named Queen's Counsel.[2]

He was married twice: to Hectorine, the daughter of Senator Joseph Shehyn, in 1889 and to Mary Margaret Haycock in 1903.[2]


He first ran for a seat in the House of Commons of Canada in the 1891 election but was defeated. He won a seat in the 1896 election, and used his position as a Member of Parliament (MP) to lobby in favour of the Franco-Ontarian community.[1]

In 1904, he became Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada but only remained in that position for the rest of that Parliament's term. He stepped down following the 1904 election, but remained an MP.[1]

In 1907, he was appointed to the Senate of Canada by Laurier.[1]

Belcourt became a leader in the movement for French language Separate Schools in Ontario. He presided over the first Congress of Franco-Ontarians in 1910 called to oppose the Ontario government's attempts to suppress the use of the French language in schools. He was also a leader in the struggle against Regulation 17 which was implemented by the provincial government in June 1912 to limit the use of French as a language of instruction in both the public and separate school systems. Opposition culminated in demonstrations of several thousand people in Ottawa with Belcourt speaking on behalf of the protesters.

He unsuccessfully argued against Regulation 17 in Ontario's Supreme Court in 1914. He appealed all the way to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain, where he argued that the Regulation violated the rights of French taxpayers to have their money used in accordance to their wishes, and that it deprived citizens the right to use their own language and decide upon their children's language of instruction. While Belcourt lost in court, the protest movement he led prevented the Regulation from being fully implemented.

In 1924, Belcourt was made Canada's Minister Plenipotentiary to the Interallied Conference in London[2] and, the next year, he presided over the meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Ottawa.

He died at Blue Sea Lake in Quebec at the age of 71.[2]

The Municipality of Belcourt in Quebec, Canada, was named after him.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d Napoléon Belcourt – Parliament of Canada biography
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Johnson, J.K. (1968). The Canadian Directory of Parliament 1867-1967. Public Archives of Canada.
  3. ^ "Belcourt (Municipalité)" (in French). Commission de toponymie du Québec. Retrieved 13 January 2011.

External links[edit]