ROCHON, ALFRED, lawyer, politician, and judge; b. 1 Feb. 1847 in Sainte-Thérèse-de-Blainville (Sainte-Thérèse), Lower Canada, son of Élie Rochon, a farmer, and Sophie Ouimet; m. 9 April 1872 Corinne Gaucher in Sainte-Geneviève (Sainte-Geneviève et Pierrefonds), Que., and they had one son; d. 17 Nov. 1909 in Hull, Que.
Alfred Rochon received his schooling at the Petit Séminaire de Sainte-Thérèse, and then decided to enter the legal profession. Called to the bar on 13 July 1869, he found himself caught up in the political excitement at the time that the union of Upper and Lower Canada was ended and confederation begun under the British North America Act. Meanwhile the ranks of the profession he had taken up were filling so rapidly that it was becoming difficult in Montreal to carve out a respectable niche. Thus Rochon moved to Hull to practise in 1876, just when the town had been incorporated and when it was bustling with enthusiasm and ambition. Rochon was immediately recognized by his peers as a man of talent, and hence he did not hesitate to respond to solicitations and accept public office.
Rochon was elected alderman for ward 4 on 25 Jan. 1877, served until 17 Jan. 1882, and was re-elected in January 1885. In 1886 he aspired to the mayoralty. At that time the mayor was elected by the aldermen. Within the municipal council the English speaking group was dominant but was losing ground to the French-speaking group, which was steadily growing. The fight for political power was conducted principally through the mayor’s office. On 19 January, following the annual resignation of the mayor, Rochon was nominated for the post; he was elected by five votes to three.
Rochon had a difficult first year. On 10 May 1886 a devastating fire left 150 families homeless and caused more than $250,000 damage. He himself lived in the district most affected, and he lost his own house. As mayor he had to organize assistance and begin rebuilding. His priority was to ensure food supplies.
During his term of office Rochon used his status as a lawyer to initiate a debate on legal institutions. In the course of 1886 discussions were opened on the possibility of transferring to Hull the court-house and prison which were then in the nearby village of Aylmer. After pressure from many quarters the provincial government finally agreed to put up the required buildings in Hull.
Rochon’s performance as mayor probably explains the support he received when he ran for the Quebec Legislative Assembly. He stood as a Liberal in the riding of Ottawa in the general election of 14 Oct. 1886 but was defeated by Narcisse-Édouard Cormier. He did not seek another term as mayor in 1887, but he continued as an alderman.
Certain irregularities in the 1886 election in the Ottawa riding came to light. On 21 July 1887 there was sufficient proof for the results to be formally contested. Cormier was forced to resign, and the first by-election in the riding since 1867 ensued. On 14 Sept. 1887 Rochon defeated Cormier by 1,236 votes. In January 1888 he again became mayor of Hull; he was thus alderman, mayor, and member of the Legislative Assembly at the same time.
In January 1889 Rochon, conscious of the importance of his responsibilities as mla and having new projects in view, gave up the offices of mayor and alderman. He was instrumental in creating the Hull bar. The bill he introduced in the assembly constituted in effect a bid for power against the provincial body, which controlled the legal profession and opposed establishment of a bar in the Ottawa region of Quebec. Through manœuvring and a well-planned strategy Rochon secured the incorporation on 21 March 1889 of the Ottawa bar (which in 1919 became the Hull bar).
Meanwhile, on 10 Jan. 1888, Rochon’s election had been contested, and on 30 Dec. 1889 it was held null and void by the Superior Court. He ran again in the provincial general election on 7 June 1890 and defeated Cormier by 961 votes. In the next election, on 8 March 1892, he lost in the Conservative sweep, being defeated by Nérée Tétreau. He also suffered the grievous loss of his only son a few weeks later. In recognition of his abilities, but also out of sympathy, the town council engaged him on 15 Aug. 1892 as legal counsel to the corporation for a three-year period. Among the matters on which he was commissioned to work was a general revision of the 1876 charter incorporating the town. When his contract expired in August 1895, he was not re-engaged.
Rochon was bâtonnier of the Ottawa bar from 1893 to 1896; in particular he represented his colleagues on the provincial bar, upon which he sat regularly. He remained on the executive until 1901 and was involved in the discussions following the great Hull fire of 26 April 1900 which made it necessary to rebuild the whole city.
On 21 June 1901 Rochon was made a judge of the Superior Court for the District of Ottawa, an office he held until his death. Naturally, the Ottawa bar celebrated this appointment as a tribute to its members, since it was the first time one of them had been named to the bench.
Alfred Rochon died on 17 Nov. 1909. The council of the Ottawa bar held a special meeting the next day to express its condolences. Two days after his death the municipal council in turn did the same. According to the Ottawa newspaper Le Temps, “Hull has lost one of its pioneers, Ottawa county one of its most zealous workers of yesterday, and the bench of the province of Quebec one of its most able members.”
AC, Hull, Qué., État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (Hull), 20 nov. 1909. ANQ-M, CE1-28, 9 avril 1872; CE6-25, 1er févr. 1847. Arch. de la Ville de Hull, Procès-verbaux du conseil de la cité de Hull, 1875–1909. Barreau de Hull, Bibliothèque, Reg. des minutes du conseil du barreau, sect. d’Ottawa, 1900–38, 1er, 28 mai 1900; 22 juin 1901; 18 nov. 1909. Chantal Berniquez et Luc Villemaire, Histoire du Barreau de Hull: des origines à nos jours, 1889–1989 (Hull, 1989). I.-J. Deslauriers, La Cour supérieure du Québec et ses juges, 1849–1er janvier 1980 (Québec, 1980). Que., Statutes, 1889, c.37. P.-G. Roy, Les juges de la prov. de Québec. RPQ.