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GEOFFRION, CHRISTOPHE-ALPHONSE (baptized Christophe), lawyer, professor, and politician; b. 23 Nov. 1843 in Varennes, Lower Canada, son of Félix Geoffrion, a farmer, and Catherine Brodeur; d. 18 July 1899 in Dorion, Que.
Christophe-Alphonse Geoffrion began his classical studies in 1855 at the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe. In 1866 he graduated in civil law from McGill College in Montreal, where he had been a brilliant student, especially under Toussaint-Antoine-Rodolphe Laflamme. He was called to the bar on 4 June of that year, and then began working in the law office of Antoine-Aimé Dorion, to whom he had been articled. He was to marry Dorion’s eldest daughter, Eulalie, on 11 Jan. 1870, and they would have two daughters and a son, Aimé.
Geoffrion practised law with Dorion, Dorion et Geoffrion, which became Dorion et Geoffrion in 1874. By 1878 he was the senior partner in the law firm of Geoffrion, Rinfret, Archambault et Dorion, which became Geoffrion, Rinfret et Dorion the following year and Geoffrion, Dorion, Lafleur et Rinfret in 1885. During the 1890s Geoffrion practised primarily in Geoffrion, Dorion et Allan. Among his leading clients were the Montreal Banque du Peuple, the Montreal branch of the Banque Nationale, the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice, the Grand Trunk, and the Montreal Harbour Commission.
In addition to his law practice, Geoffrion gave the course in Roman law at McGill College from 1874 to 1876, and from 1891 he taught contracts and civil law at the same institution, which had become McGill University. He was made a qc by the provincial government in 1879 and by the federal government on 18 Feb. 1887. Elected bâtonnier of the Montreal bar for 1883–84 and 1884–85, he later became bâtonnier of the Quebec provincial bar. In 1893 his alma mater awarded him an honorary dcl.
Geoffrion started out in politics as a Liberal activist. During the provincial elections of May 1878, for example, he participated in the campaign in at least three ridings – Verchères, Hochelaga, and Terrebonne. Having been a member of the Institut Canadien of Montreal in his student days, he remained closely connected with the radical wing of the Liberal party throughout his career, while at the same time maintaining cordial relations with the clergy. He acted as counsel, for example, for Bishop Édouard-Charles Fabre in his suit against Canada-Revue (Montreal) from 1892 to 1894. As founding president of the Association Libérale of Montreal, created by a group of the party’s old guard in February 1883, Geoffrion was firmly opposed to the plans for a coalition with certain Conservatives which Honoré Mercier put forward that year when he became leader of the Liberals in the provincial Legislative Assembly. Members of the association, largely party activists of independent means who were not engaged in politics as a career but who made substantial financial contributions, claimed to be the true successors to the Rouges and repeatedly threatened to break away from the provincial Liberal party. Reconciled with Mercier in 1886, Geoffrion was one of the old guard who joined the executive of the Parti National, founded by Mercier on the eve of the provincial elections that October. As a mark of esteem and reconciliation, Mercier, now premier, chose Geoffrion in early 1887 to take a provincial case before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. An ardent republican, as were a number of his radical colleagues, Geoffrion was among the protesters when Philippe d’Orléans, Comte de Paris and pretender to the French throne, visited Quebec in 1890 accompanied by his son Philippe, Duc d’Orléans.
Geoffrion was Liberal party treasurer for the Montreal region during the federal elections of 1891. He then moved from behind-the-scenes activity into the political arena, winning a by-election in April 1895 for Verchères and thus taking the place of his brother Félix, who had died in office the previous year. As Wilfrid Laurier*’s faithful adviser, Geoffrion, along with other Liberals, launched Le Soir in April 1896, a Montreal newspaper intended to provide the party with a stronger voice than that of Honoré Beaugrand*’s La Patrie, in short, an instrument similar to Ernest Pacaud*’s L’Électeur in Quebec. Geoffrion defeated former Conservative premier Louis-Olivier Taillon* in the riding of Chambly and Verchères in the general elections of 1896 and was appointed minister without portfolio by Laurier, who had more men of talent around him than ministries. Although the appointment placed Geoffrion in the front ranks of the federal Liberals and enabled him to represent within cabinet the orthodox wing of the party, it still left him free to maintain his lucrative law practice.
On 18 July 1899, after a month’s illness, Geoffrion died at his country home in Dorion at the age of 55. He was buried in Montreal on the 21st. Among those present at his funeral were Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Louis-Amable Jetté*, lieutenant governor of Quebec.
McGill Univ. Arch., RG 7, Calendars, 1873–1900; RG 37, c.21. NA, RG 68, General index, 1867–1908. Le National (Montréal), 23 mars, 3, 13, 15, 18, 23 avril 1878. La Patrie, 3, 6, 12, 14 févr. 1883; 18 juill. 1899. La Presse, 18 juill. 1899. Le Réveil (Montréal), 22 juill. 1899. Le Soleil, 18 juill. 1899. Canadian directory of parl. (Johnson). J. Desjardins, Guide parl. Guide to Canadian ministries. Montreal directory, 1874–1900. Pierre Beullac et Édouard Fabre Surveyer, Le centenaire du barreau de Montréal, 1849–1949 (Montréal, 1949), 109–14. Caya, “La formation du parti libéral au Québec,” 477. C.-P. Choquette, Histoire du séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe depuis sa fondation jusqu’à nos jours (2v., Montréal, 1911–12), 2: 302. Rumilly, Hist. de la prov. de Québec, vols.3–9, 11.