PARENT, AMAND (baptized François-Amant), day labourer and Methodist minister; b. 14 July 1818 at Quebec, son of Pierre Parent, a carpenter, and Marguerite Le François; d. 18 Feb. 1907 in Troy, N.Y.
When Amand Parent was just four years old his parents settled near Saint-Hyacinthe. In 1834 his father died and he had to help his mother, who was left with six children. He went to work for a blacksmith and continued his apprenticeship until the rebellion broke out in 1837. He supported the Patriote cause and was present at the battle of Saint-Charles-sur-Richelieu on 25 November. After the defeat he fled to the United States and settled in Hinsdale, Mass. He began working there as a day labourer, and then offered his services to a man named Lyman, who was a blacksmith and a Methodist missionary. Under Lyman’s influence Parent became a convert to Methodism in 1840, and he decided to dedicate his life to converting his fellow-countrymen.
Parent returned to Lower Canada in 1843 and, after meeting Henriette Feller [Odin*], agreed to take charge of the Presbyterian mission at Berée, which was affiliated with Mme Feller’s mission at Grande-Ligne. He also worked for the Baptist mission in Berée, and it was here that he met his first wife, Hortense Brissette. His calling as a missionary took him next to West Farnham, Ball’s Corner, and Roxton Pond, where he preached the Methodist doctrine in French.
In 1856 Parent went to Clarenceville, where the regional assembly of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada was being held, intending to offer himself as a minister. After being examined, he was recommended to the church’s Canadian conference, which received him on trial. He was immediately sent to Roxton Pond, where he set up the first Methodist class to be offered to French Canadians in their own language. In 1858 the conference put him in charge of the congregation in Saint-Armand-Ouest and for several years he served the congregations of Dunham and Bedford as well. His wife died on 23 Jan. 1860, leaving him with five children. Shortly afterwards he married Maria Stewart of Saint-Armand-Ouest. In 1860 Parent became the first French Canadian to be ordained by the Wesleyan Methodist Church. While retaining his responsibilities in Saint-Armand-Ouest, he also had to serve the congregation in Saint-Pie from 1866.
Parent attended the meeting of the Canadian conference held in 1870 in Hamilton, Ont. He stayed for a short time in the village of Bayfield and was then appointed by the conference a missionary to the Indians of Oka (Kanesatake), Que. Except for the year he spent in Lacolle from 1872 to 1873, Parent worked at the Oka mission, which was made up largely of Iroquois (Mohawk) and Algonkin, until 1879. His presence lent considerable support to the Protestants, who were mainly Iroquois. Under the leadership of their chief, Joseph Onasakenrat*, they were demanding freedom to practise their religion and claiming property rights to the seigneury of Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes, which had been granted to the Sulpicians in 1718 so that they could settle there with the converts for whom they were responsible. Since 1787 the Iroquois had been trying without success to get their rights to the seigneury recognized; in 1875 the federal government sought to settle the dispute by moving them. That year Parent was part of a mission that went as far as the Mattawa River in Ontario, attempting to find a reserve for them. The Iroquois, however, chose to remain on their ancestral territory. The Sulpicians then attempted to put a stop to the practice of Protestantism at Oka by appealing to the courts. They obtained a court order to dismantle the Methodist chapel that Parent and Onasakenrat had built, and the demolition was carried out by agents of the court on 8 Dec. 1875. The affair was brought to public notice through articles in the Montreal Witness. Following this incident, the Sulpicians’ church was burned down on 15 June 1877, an act for which a number of Iroquois from Oka were taken to court. The trial, at which Parent was called as a witness, again attracted press attention. Throughout these events, Parent steadfastly defended the Protestant Indians of Oka, claiming that they had been victims of exploitation and persecution, both by the Sulpicians and by the Catholic hierarchy of Quebec.
In 1879 the General Conference of the Methodist Church of Canada relieved Parent of his responsibilities at Oka and appointed him to the district of Waterloo, in the Eastern Townships. Two years later he returned to Roxton Pond, where he appears to have finished his career as a minister. In 1887 he published his autobiography, The life of Rev. Amand Parent, the first French-Canadian ordained by the Methodist Church. The book described his conversion to Methodism and the obstacles he encountered in attempting to preach among his compatriots. Parent was particularly harsh towards the Catholic clergy of his native province, declaring that Catholicism had plunged its people into ignorance. In his condemnation of French Canadian Catholicism, he repeated in every detail the criticisms made by contemporary English-speaking Protestants, and emphasized the cultural isolation that resulted from his conversion and his missionary zeal. These were themes to which he frequently returned in his autobiography. Feeling persecuted himself, he easily identified with the cause of the Iroquois in Oka, and they accepted him as one of their own.
Amand Parent apparently spent his last years first in Waterloo, and then near Missisquoi Bay. He died in 1907 in the course of a visit to the United States, and was buried in the Methodist cemetery at Philipsburg, Que.
Most of the information on the life of Amand Parent is drawn from his autobiography, The life of Rev. Amand Parent, the first French-Canadian ordained by the Methodist Church . . . (Toronto and Montreal, 1887).
AC, Bedford (Cowansville), État civil, Méthodistes, Philipsburg Methodist Church, 20 Feb. 1907. ANQ-E, CE2-87, 25 janv., 4 juin 1860; 23 avril 1863. ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 15 juill. 1818. Waterloo Advertiser (Waterloo, Que.), 22 Feb. 1907. Cornish, Cyclopædia of Methodism. Paul Villard, Up to the light; the story of French Protestantism in Canada (Toronto, 1928), 9–35.