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FUTVOYE, GEORGE, journalist, office holder, lawyer, civil servant, and militia officer; b. 13 May 1808 in London, England; m. Catherine Hedwige Lozeau; he had at least two sons; d. 29 Dec. 1891 in Saint-Jean (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), Que.

Shortly after his arrival in Lower Canada in 1837, George Futvoye began working on the editorial staff of the Montreal Morning Courier. Under the administration of Lord Durham [Lambton*], he was appointed inspector of Protestant schools in the province, a position he left in 1840 to serve as city clerk at Quebec for four years. He was interested in law and in 1845 became secretary of the commission inquiring into the Crown Lands Department. Subsequently he was in charge of drawing up the land register for Upper Canada. Futvoye was called to the bar in Lower Canada on 18 Aug. 1848 but continued his career in the public service. From 2 May 1852 until confederation he held the post of permanent clerk in the Crown Law Office. In this capacity he became well acquainted with the most powerful politicians in Lower and Upper Canada, since he had to ensure harmony and consistency in the laws.

Futvoye carried out other administrative duties as well. In 1854 he was secretary for the commission to investigate the causes of the fire that had burned down the parliament buildings in Montreal [see James Bruce*], and in 1862 he was inspector of registry offices in Lower Canada. In addition, he sat on several commissions of inquiry into the public administration and was a lifelong member, ex officio, of the Civil Service Board and the Board of Audit [see John Langton]. In 1867 he was appointed a qc, proof of a successful career both as a man of the law and as an official who had reached the upper echelons of the small public service of his time. George-Étienne Cartier*, who became minister of militia and defence in 1867, recognized Futvoye’s talents, made him his secretary, and was ready to entrust him with important administrative responsibilities.

Throughout the 1860s Canada was faced with some thorny defence problems: the fear of an American invasion following the defeat of the southern states in 1865; the threat of Fenian raids [see John O’Neill*]; the possibility that Great Britain might withdraw her troops; and the first Métis rebellion under Louis Riel* in 1869–70. The British government strongly encouraged the formation of a Canadian military organization capable of mobilizing part of the population. As a result, in Lower and Upper Canada during the mid 1860s there was a large volunteer militia equipped with modern weapons, and the funds allocated at the time of confederation were adequate. The volunteer militias of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were also in good shape. In 1867, moreover, the British North America Act gave Canada the authority to maintain both permanent and volunteer armed forces. It was thought, therefore, that a department should be organized to deal with all defence matters; on 29 May 1868 Cartier appointed Futvoye as its deputy minister.

Evidently Futvoye, who was by then 60 years old, showed no particular interest in military concerns and had little experience in the art of war. The rank of major that he had held since 1865 was purely honorary; it had no standing in the volunteer or “true” militia, but only in the reserve militia, which included all men fit to bear arms and was rarely called out. However, he quickly discovered the advantages of his new post. On 3 July 1868 his son Isaac Booth was commissioned a first lieutenant in the artillery battery of the volunteer militia of Saint-Jean, Que.

During Futvoye’s tenure, the situation in the volunteer militia deteriorated slowly but surely, despite Cartier’s martial speeches to the battalions he inspected. The weapons of the 1860s were outdated when the powerful Martini-Henry rifle came into use in the British army in 1871; the artillery’s antiquated equipment was even the subject of a pamphlet that won a prize from Governor General Lord Dufferin [Blackwood*] in 1877. The sums allocated to the Department of Militia and Defence were considerably reduced and the number of volunteer militiamen declined as a result. In October 1871 the government could raise only a tiny regular force of two artillery batteries to garrison the forts at Quebec and Kingston, Ont., and to be a school for training gunners as replacements for the British troops. At Winnipeg, too, there was only one scanty infantry battalion. These regular troops, called permanent militia, were as badly armed as the volunteers. The founding of the Royal Military College of Canada at Kingston, which was approved in May 1874 [see Edward Osborne Hewett], was without doubt the greatest achievement of Futvoye’s term of office. Although, from a strictly military point of view, the usefulness of this establishment may be debatable, it was the first college in Canada to train engineers.

On 10 Jan. 1875 Futvoye retired and moved to Saint-Jean. He was later appointed lieutenant-colonel in the reserve militia. He died on 29 Dec. 1891 and his body was interred two days later in the cemetery of the Catholic parish of Saint-Jean-l’Évangéliste. As deputy minister, George Futvoye was not an innovator. Working in an unfamiliar field, he stayed behind the scenes and failed to tackle the important questions of national defence that adjutants-general Patrick Leonard MacDougall, Patrick Robertson-Ross*, and Edward Selby Smyth did. Moreover, it appears that these officers did not have the full support of the deputy minister and that this pattern continued until the turn of the century.

René Chartrand

AC, Iberville (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), État civil, Catholiques, Saint-Jean-l’Évangéliste (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), 9 janv. 1879; 31 déc. 1891. NA, MG 26, A: 162488; MG 30, D1, 13: 653–55; RG 8, I (C ser.), 184: 34, 181; 604: 231. Can., Parl., Sessional papers, 1868–75 (annual reports of the Dept. of Militia and Defence). G. [-É.] Cartier, Discours de sir George Cartier . . . , Joseph Tassé, édit. (Montréal, 1893). LÉvénement, 30 déc. 1891. Gazette (Montreal), 30 Dec. 1891. Volunteer Review and Military and Naval Gazette (Ottawa), 1867–74. F.-J. Audet, “Commissions d’avocats de la province de Québec, 1765 à 1849,” BRH, 39 (1933): 594. Canada directory, 1857–58: 787, 1001. Cyclopædia of Canadian biog. (Rose and Charlesworth), 2: 782. Mariages du comté de Saint-Jean (1828–1950), Irénée Jetté et al., compil. (Sillery, Qué., 1974), 192. The militia list of the Dominion of Canada (Ottawa), 1868–75. Political appointments, 1841–65 (J.-O. Coté; 1866), 13. Political appointments and judicial bench (N.-O. Coté; 1896), 130. P.-G. Roy, Les avocats de la région de Québec, 179. The year book and almanac of Canada . . . (Montreal), 1868. John Boyd, Sir George Étienne Cartier, bart., his life and times; a political history of Canada from 1814 until 1873 . . . (Toronto, 1914), 291–95. E. J. Chambers, The Canada militia, a history of the origin and development of the force (Montreal, 1907). Chouinard et al., La ville de Québec, 3: 19. R. H. Davis, The Canadian militia! Its organization and present condition (Caledonia, Ont., 1873). C. E. Montizambert, Dominion Artillery Association: prize essay (Quebec, 1877); Prize essay, on the supply, care, and repair of artillery material, including small arms and ammunition for Canadian militia (Quebec, 1877).

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Cite This Article

René Chartrand, “FUTVOYE, GEORGE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 22, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/futvoye_george_12E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/futvoye_george_12E.html
Author of Article:   René Chartrand
Title of Article:   FUTVOYE, GEORGE
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1990
Year of revision:   1990
Access Date:   September 22, 2023