BOILEAU, FRANÇOIS-XAVIER, Papal Zouave, educator, newspaperman, and public servant; b. 10 Jan. 1849 in Sainte-Geneviève (Montreal), son of François-Xavier Boileau and Azithe Théoret; m. first 12 Jan. 1875 Priscile Levasseur (d. 2 Sept. 1892) in La Prairie, Que., and they had eight children; m. secondly 24 Aug. 1895 Marie Nelly Flore Fanning (d. 1931) in the parish of Saint-Roch in Quebec City, and they had two children; d. 29 Oct. 1932 in Morinville, Alta.
After completing his studies at the Petit Séminaire de Sainte-Thérèse in Sainte-Thérèse-de-Blainville (Sainte-Thérèse), near Montreal, in 1868, François-Xavier Boileau departed for Europe with a contingent of French Canadian Roman Catholics sworn to defend the Papal States from the forces of Italian unification [see Ignace Bourget*; Hugh Murray*]. He served with the Papal Zouaves until Rome was annexed to the kingdom of Italy in October 1870. Boileau returned to Quebec and found employment as an elementary-school teacher in the town of New Carlisle on the Gaspé peninsula. There he met Priscile Levasseur, whom he married two days after his 26th birthday. The couple led an itinerant life as Boileau worked as a schoolteacher and a journalist. In 1878 in Pointe-Gatineau (Gatineau) he attempted to combine his teaching interests with journalism by setting up Le Jeune Âge, a bimonthly intended to encourage young people to read; it ceased publication after a few issues. In the 1880s he wrote for Montreal’s leading French-language newspaper, La Minerve. During this decade he was associated with at least three other newspapers. In September 1885, with Télesphore Rochon, he brought out La Nation (Plantagenet, Ont.), which had the motto “God, the pope, the country.” On 19 November the paper contained a passionate denunciation of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald* for not commuting the death sentence of Louis Riel*. The last issue was published in July 1886. In Saint-Jérôme, Que., Guillaume-Alphonse Nantel* had bought Le Nord in 1881 and then founded La Campagne in 1885. Boileau co-edited, with Nantel, the second, and in 1887 he served briefly as manager and editor of the first. The government of Quebec appointed him deputy registrar of the Department of Public Works in 1890; he was eventually promoted registrar. During the 1890s and early 1900s, Boileau played an active role in the province’s labour movement and as a regular contributor to the Bulletin mensuel du travail (Quebec City), a trade-union newspaper founded by Arthur Marois*. In 1902 Boileau served as a Knights of Labor delegate at the convention of the Trades and Labor Congress of Canada held in Berlin (Kitchener), Ont.
After retiring from the public service in 1905, Boileau moved west with his second wife and several of his children. They settled in Alberta, created a province that year. He purchased a homestead in the francophone hamlet of South Bend, located on the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River across from the farming community of Brosseau. It was decided that South Bend should be renamed following the province’s establishment. Boileau was on the selection committee, and he was largely responsible for the 1908 decision to change the name to Duvernay in honour of Ludger Duvernay*, owner of La Minerve from 1827 until his death in 1852, founder of the Association Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal, and a Patriote leader of the rebellion of 1837–38 in Lower Canada. Boileau was committed to asserting a strong French Catholic presence in the west. In 1906 and 1907 he served as an executive member of the Société de Colonisation d’Edmonton, through which Émile-Joseph Legal*, bishop of St Albert, and other church officials endeavoured to attract Quebecers and Franco-Americans to the central region of the province. In April 1912 he was elected first president of the Brosseau chapter of the Société du Parler Français au Canada [see Stanislas-Alfred Lortie*].
Boileau assumed a leading role in community life and political affairs of the Brosseau–Duvernay area. In 1908 he opened an information centre in Duvernay to assist new settlers. A staunch Liberal both federally and provincially, he was president of the Brosseau Liberal Association in the same year and president of the Duvernay Liberal Association the following year. Elected mayor of Brosseau–Duvernay in May 1909, he served only one term because he grew increasingly preoccupied with his business ventures. In 1908 he had been prominent among those working to form the Duvernay Creamery Association; he became its president in July 1910 and continued in this capacity for two years. Difficulties in transporting fresh dairy products forced the organization out of business in 1913.
In December 1912 Boileau, with his wife and some of his children, moved to Edmonton, where he was already a familiar figure in the city’s francophone community. In October 1905 he had collaborated with Philippe Roy, later appointed senator, Prosper-Edmond Lessard, and Joseph-Henri Picard, among others, in founding Le Courrier de l’Ouest, the only French-language newspaper in western Canada at the time. This weekly disseminated political propaganda in support of Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier* and the Liberal Party, and advertised the agricultural and commercial potential of northern and central Alberta to francophone readers in Quebec and the northeastern United States; in August 1907 a special issue on homesteading had also been distributed in France. Boileau edited Le Courrier from August 1913 until January 1916 (his son Adéodat had been managing editor between 1905 and 1909); financial difficulties during World War I then forced its closure. A second French-language weekly, L’Union, was launched in Edmonton on 15 Nov. 1917 with Boileau as editor-in-chief. He held this position until the spring of 1924, when he was succeeded by Georges-Charles-Jules Bugnet*.
Boileau relocated to Morinville in 1922, and he died there at the age of 83. His funeral drew mourners from across the province and occasioned a tribute in Montreal’s Le Devoir. Adorning his coffin was the cap of a Papal Zouave, which, according to the newspaper La Survivance (Edmonton), represented “a life of honour, devotion to a noble ideal, [and] religious patriotism.”
BANQ-CAM, CE601-S3, 12 janv. 1875. BANQ-Q, CE301-S22, 24 août 1895; CE301-S97, 2 sept. 1892. LAC, R233-37-6, Quebec City, Saint-Jean ward, dist.182, subdist.d-6. Le Courrier de l’Ouest (Edmonton), 14 oct., 28 déc. 1905; 1 févr. 1906; 7 mars 1907; 21 mai 1908; 18 févr., 27 mai 1909; 21 juill. 1910; 2 mai 1912; 9 janv. 1913. Le Devoir, 16 nov. 1932. La Survivance (Edmonton), 2 nov. 1932. Alberta newspapers, 1880–1982: an historical directory, comp. G. M. Strathern (Edmonton, 1988). Éloi DeGrâce, “Le Courrier de l’Ouest (1905–1916),” in Glimpses of the Franco-Albertan past: recollections and studies, ed. Alice Trottier et al. (Edmonton, 1981), 101–11. J. Hamelin et al., La presse québécoise, 2; 3. E. J. Hart, Ambition and reality: the French-speaking community of Edmonton, 1795–1935 (Edmonton, 1980). France Levasseur-Ouimet, 1899–1999, Saint-Joachim, la première paroisse catholique d’Edmonton (Edmonton, 1999). Our crossing: rivers to roads: a history of the Brosseau, Duvernay and surrounding area (2nd ed., Edmonton, 1981). Robert Painchaud, Un rêve français dans le peuplement de la prairie (Saint-Boniface [Winnipeg], 1986). Jean Pariseau, Les oblats de Marie-Immaculée dans les paroisses canadiennes-françaises de la région de Rivière-de-la-Paix, 1912–1967 (Ottawa, 2002). Jacques Rouillard, Les syndicats nationaux au Québec, de 1900 à 1930 (Québec, 1979). D. B. Smith, “A history of French-speaking Albertans,” in Peoples of Alberta: portraits of cultural diversity, ed. Howard and Tamara Palmer (Saskatoon, 1985), 84–108. Soc. Hist. du Nouvel-Ontario, Documents historiques (98v. parus, Sudbury, Ontario, 1942– ), 81 (P.‑F. Sylvestre, Les journaux de l’Ontario français, 1858–1983, 1984). Alice Trottier, “The beginnings of La Survivance,” in Glimpses of the Franco-Albertan past: recollections and studies, 113–21; “Les oblats et la colonisation en Alberta,” in Western Oblate Studies 1: proceedings of the first symposium on the history of the Oblates in western and northern Canada …, ed. R.[‑J.‑A.] Huel et al. (Edmonton, 1990), 107–16.