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TRUDEAU, TOUSSAINT (baptized Toussaint-Richard), civil engineer and civil servant; b. 28 Sept. 1826 in Montreal, son of François Trudeau, joiner, and Angélique Lock; m. 24 April 1855 in Montreal Corinne Perrault, daughter of Louis Perrault*, and they had three sons and two daughters; d. 27 June 1893 in Ottawa.

Toussaint Trudeau received his early education in Montreal, but as a young man he moved to New York City where he studied civil engineering. He remained in the United States for several years before returning to Montreal, probably in 1853. For personal reasons, he decided to remain in Canada. He devoted some of his time to the question of a railway link between Montreal and Quebec, and it was this interest in railway matters and especially his knowledge of engineering that brought him to the attention of public officials, including George-Étienne Cartier*, member of the Legislative Assembly for Verchères. As a consequence Trudeau was appointed in July 1856 to two commissions of inquiry: the first to investigate the collapse of the Montmorency Bridge in April, and the second to look into the financial and administrative operations of the Quebec Turnpike Trust. On both commissions Trudeau worked closely with Quebec City mla Charles Joseph Alleyn*, later chief commissioner of public works (1857–58). This association was probably a factor in Trudeau’s appointment on 13 Dec. 1859 to the public service as secretary of the Department of Public Works, of which John Rose* was chief commissioner.

For the next 33 years Trudeau was at the heart of the government’s involvement in the development of transportation in the province and then in the Dominion of Canada. In addition to his regular duties, he served in 1860–61 on the commission of inquiry into the financial management of the Grand Trunk Railway. In March 1864 he was appointed deputy commissioner of public works and four years later, when the new dominion’s Department of Public Works was organized, Trudeau carried on as deputy minister. So too did John Page as chief engineer and Frederick Braun as secretary. Trudeau was a faithful and competent administrator who remained untainted by the scandals often associated with the construction of railways and public works in the last half of the 19th century [see Thomas McGreevy]. He carefully steered his way through the politics of public works and remained particularly inconspicuous under two high-profile ministers, Conservative Hector-Louis Langevin* and Liberal Alexander Mackenzie.

The rapid development of rail transportation in the 1870s and the decision to construct a line to British Columbia led to the creation of the Department of Railways and Canals in September 1879 under Sir Charles Tupper*. Trudeau was entrusted with the deputy ministership. The new department was responsible for the construction, maintenance, and operation of the Intercolonial and Prince Edward Island railways, a portion of the planned transcontinental railway, and the administration of federal assistance to railways. It also had charge of Canada’s system of canals, including the supervision of their operation, maintenance, and enlargement.

During his tenure in railways and canals, which lasted until his retirement on 1 Dec. 1892, Trudeau carefully guided the department through a period marked by the extensive expansion of railways and the revitalization of canals. He became secretary of the railway committee of the Privy Council and, from November 1890, following the death of John Page, was chief engineer of canals. As a civil engineer, Trudeau was never associated with any great project or accomplishment, but as an administrator he was a knowledgeable and trusted public servant whose integrity and devotion to duty were never in question throughout his long career. Toussaint Trudeau died at Ottawa on 27 June 1893.

Glenn T. Wright

Toussaint Trudeau left no personal papers, nor did he ever write about his experiences. He seems to have been a very private individual. The only contemporary biographical account, one published annually in the CPC, provides a minimum of detail. Trudeau and his career are described in F.-J. Audet, “Toussaint Trudeau, 1826–1893,” BRH, 47 (1941) 182–86, which is based on information supplied by the family. Trudeau’s career and family history are documented at the NA in sundry sources: in the Gravelle coll. (MG 25, 6271, 17); the Macdonald papers (MG 26, A); and the Audet papers (MG 30, D 1, 29); and in the records of the Executive Council (RG 1, E7 and E8); the Provincial Secretary’s Office of Lower Canada (RG 4, C1); the Board of Works and the Department of Public Works (RG 11, A and B); Transport Canada (RG 12); and Railways and Canals (RG 43).

ANQ-M, CE1-51, 29 sept. 1826. Montreal Daily Witness. Montreal Transcript. Ottawa Citizen. Mariages Perreault, 1647–1900, de la province de Québec, Canada, Robert Perreault, compil. (Danville, Qué., 1976). Political appointments, 1841–65 (J.-O. Coté; 1866). D. [R.] Owram, Building for Canadians: a history of the Department of Public Works, 1840–1960 ([Ottawa], 1979), 87, 93–94, 107, 119–20, 123, 129, 131–32, 134, 136, 140. Gérard Lebel, “Étienne Trudeau,” Nos ancêtres (Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Qué.), 1 (1980): 123–27.

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Cite This Article

Glenn T. Wright, “TRUDEAU, TOUSSAINT,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 21, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/trudeau_toussaint_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/trudeau_toussaint_12E.html
Author of Article:   Glenn T. Wright
Title of Article:   TRUDEAU, TOUSSAINT
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 21, 2023