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GIARD, LOUIS, doctor and office-holder; b. 1 Nov. 1809 at Saint-Ours, Lower Canada, son of François Giard, a farmer, and Marie-Charles Daigle; m. 22 June 1840 at Saint-Pie, Lower Canada, Lucille, daughter of Joseph-Toussaint Drolet, a Patriote, and they had four children; d. 4 Jan. 1887 at Montreal, Que.

After receiving an education at the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe from 1821 to 1830, Louis Giard taught as a cleric at the Collège de Chambly until 1834. Because he did not feel called to the priesthood he left teaching in that year and went to Montreal to study medicine. During this period he was also on the editorial staff of the Montreal paper La Minerve. In April 1837 he obtained his licence and went into practice at Saint-Pie.

In 1848 Giard accepted the post of secretary to the Education Office for Canada East (the predecessor to the Department of Public Instruction established in 1856), bringing him into association again with a medical colleague, Jean-Baptiste Meilleur*, the superintendent of education. Giard was to work in the field of education for 34 years. He was closely connected with the events marking Meilleur’s service as superintendent: the guerre des éteignoirs after the school act was passed in 1846, the appointment of the first school inspectors, and the inquiry of Louis-Victor Sicotte in 1853 which resulted in Meilleur’s departure in 1855. Despite the latter’s resignation Giard continued to collaborate with his three successors: Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau, who was superintendent of education until 1867 and minister of public instruction for the province of Quebec from 1868 to 1873; Gédéon Ouimet* (1873–74); and Charles-Eugène Boucher* de Boucherville (1874–75).

In his position as secretary to the department Giard’s duties were primarily those of comptroller general and included responsibility for distributing government subsidies for education to the school commissions, and for ensuring that each municipality raised as much by taxation as the government supplied. In addition he was required to assist the superintendent in drafting the annual report on all the schools in the system, expenditures undertaken, and suggested improvements. When he began in 1848 Giard received an annual salary of £175 which was increased the following year to £225.

Louis Giard was acting superintendent of public instruction for the province of Quebec from 15 July 1867 to 24 Feb. 1868 when an act defining the duties of the minister of public instruction was passed, after which time he resumed the position of secretary under the new ministry. On 17 Dec. 1859 he had been appointed recording clerk to the Council of Public Instruction for Canada East which, like the department, had been established in 1856, and in August 1869 he was also appointed one of the secretaries for the new provincial council. This body was divided into two committees on the basis of religion; Giard was secretary to the 14-member Catholic council and Henry Hopper Miles secretary to the 7-member Protestant one. The council made most of the important decisions concerning education, which the ministry then had to implement. During the years immediately following confederation the council adopted measures to develop a denominational structure for schools, to standardize instruction in normal schools, to set up boards of examiners, to improve the salaries of teachers, and to promote the teaching of agriculture and the sciences.

In 1875 the ministry of public instruction again became a department (Ouimet was to serve as its superintendent from 1876 to 1895). The council also underwent an important change; all Roman Catholic bishops with dioceses in the province of Quebec were allowed to sit on the council and determine the direction given to teaching. The Catholic committee thus had seven bishops and eight lay members, including the superintendent, while the Protestant committee was composed of a number equal to the lay section of the Catholic one. It may be surmised that Giard played an essential role in the reorganization. Probably for this reason he submitted a petition about this time, requesting monetary compensation for his many years of voluntary service on the council. However, it is not known what result his action had.

In September 1882 Jules Ferry, the minister of public instruction in France who was responsible for the secularization of the public school system, appointed Giard an officier dacadémie. Despite the fact that this was an honorary title, Ultramontanes in Quebec decried it as a national dishonour and accused Giard of being a freemason. That year Giard resigned as secretary to the department (and probably to the council) on grounds of advanced age. In 1880 he had been assigned a deputy, Oscar Dunn, who succeeded him and held the post until 1885.

Giard also contributed to the Journal de lInstruction publique, published at Quebec City, and served as its editor from 1868 with assistance of Pierre Chauveau, the prime minister’s son. According to André Labarrère-Paulé, “Giard’s role appears to have been purely nominal. As secretary to the ministry of Public Instruction he is a safeguard, nothing more.” Responsibility for the paper seems to have fallen more upon Abbé Hospice-Anthelme-Jean-Baptiste Verreau*, the principal of the École Normale Jacques-Cartier. Nonetheless, when Giard and Chauveau came to the paper, its content became more diverse, and the reader could find articles on pedagogy and general culture, studies on settlement, biographies, and practical arithmetic exercises suggested for teachers. After Chauveau left in 1872, the quality of the paper deteriorated and partisanship and prejudice began to shape the tenor of too many of its articles. It ceased publication in 1879.

Louis Giard was a key official in the field of education and on several occasions was able to influence the decisions of ministers and superintendents in political and legislative matters. He died in January 1887 at the age of 77 at the home of his son-in-law Louis-Wilfrid Sicotte.

Louis-Philippe Audet

J.-B. Meilleur, Mémorial de léducation du Bas-Canada . . . (2e éd., Québec, 1876), 354. Procès-verbaux du conseil de l’Instruction publique (2v., Québec, s.d.), I. Le Canadien, 17 avril 1837; 3 juill. 1840; 23 août 1869; 22 sept. 1874; 5, 15 janv., 8 oct. 1877;15 sept. 1882; 10 mai 1883; 4, 5 mars, 3 juill. 1886. La Minerve, 5, 8 janv. 1887. L.-P. Audet, Hist. de lenseignement, II: 350–51; Histoire du conseil de lInstruction publique de la province de Québec, 1856–1964 (Montréal, 1964); Le système scolaire, V. [Pierre] Boucher de La Bruère, Le conseil de lInstruction publique et le comité catholique (Montréal, 1918). André Labarrère-Paulé, Les laïques et la presse pédagogique au Canada français au XIXe siècle (Québec, 1963), 7–35, 83–121. Georges Côté, “Le département de l’Instruction publique,” Contact (Québec), no.11 (octobre 1952): 63.

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Louis-Philippe Audet, “GIARD, LOUIS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 29, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/giard_louis_11E.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/giard_louis_11E.html
Author of Article:   Louis-Philippe Audet
Title of Article:   GIARD, LOUIS
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1982
Year of revision:   1982
Access Date:   September 29, 2023