LANDRY, DAVID-VITAL, doctor, politician, farmer, and office holder; b. 14 July 1866 in Memramcook, N.B., son of Vital J. Landry and Mathilde D. Cormier; m. 6 Oct. 1896 Annie-Marie Michaud in St Leonard, N.B., and they had three sons and five daughters; d. 18 Dec. 1929 in Bathurst, N.B.
David-Vital Landry attended public school and the College of Saint Joseph [see Camille Lefebvre*] in Memramcook. In 1892 he graduated md with highest honours from the Université Laval in Montreal. He had taught briefly in the public school system of New Brunswick before finishing his medical degree; he practised medicine from 1892 to 1894 in Memramcook and then in Buctouche, where he would reside until his death.
A municipal councillor for the parish of Wellington in 1900-1, Landry was elected as a Conservative for Kent in the provincial general election of 3 March 1908. He was named commissioner for agriculture in John Douglas Hazen*’s government on 24 March and he won the subsequent by-election by acclamation on 7 April. His appointment was not surprising; although Acadian influence in provincial politics was waning at the time, he was a prominent local figure and he owned a productive farm in Buctouche. In later years he would successfully raise black foxes.
As head of the department, Landry chaired a commission established in 1908 to investigate the state of agriculture in the province, attending hearings in many small rural communities. He actively promoted education through the development of agricultural societies and the appointment of a provincial horticultural expert. He also sought to improve rural life, proposing more telephones, fewer automobiles, increased immigration to New Brunswick, and the release of more government lands for colonization. His stand on immigration left him vulnerable to criticism from Acadians, who feared the introduction of anglophone settlers into their regions. In addition, he faced questions in the assembly about patronage and the expenses his department had incurred in importing Kentucky horses. He was, nonetheless, reappointed to his cabinet post by Hazen’s successor, Premier James Kidd Flemming, on 16 Oct. 1911.
Despite the efforts of Liberal Peter John Veniot*, the rising star of Acadian politics, to hold him accountable for his government’s actions, particularly on the issue of patronage, Landry successfully contested the general election of June 1912. That year the title of his portfolio was changed to minister of agriculture. On 22 Jan. 1914 he resigned the post on his nomination as provincial secretary-treasurer. He does not appear to have been personally involved in the major scandal that led to Flemming’s resignation as premier in early December. He continued as secretary-treasurer under Conservative premier George Johnson Clarke, but maintained an interest in promoting agriculture, especially among Acadians. In 1915 he urged Monsignor Marcel-François Richard* to start an agricultural college in Rogersville. Although he was the senior member of the Clarke government, it was clear that he could not deliver the Acadian vote. The Liberal opposition consisted of only two members and both were Acadian; the traditional Conservative hold over francophones in New Brunswick was gradually eroding. This situation may have prevented his appointment as interim premier in February 1917, when an election was pending and Clarke became too ill to continue. Landry retained his post as secretary-treasurer under the new premier, Conservative James Alexander Murray.
An enthusiastic supporter of the formation of an Acadian battalion in World War I, Landry seems to have been silent on the question of military conscription. His discretion, his reported disgust at the scandals that plagued successive Conservative governments, and a well-fought campaign did not, however, prevent his going down to defeat, along with his party, in the general election of 24 Feb. 1917. He resigned with Murray’s administration on 29 March. The anglophone hostility directed at Acadians because of their supposed failure to support the war effort and the unpopularity of the Conservatives, involved in scandals, meant that he had had little chance of re-election. He ran again in Kent in October 1920, as a candidate of the United Farmers of New Brunswick, but was defeated.
Landry identified with his fellow francophones, wrote some patriotic poems for the Acadian press, and supported the traditional view of his people’s history as a struggle for survival. In Saint-Louis de Kent in 1911, at the first Acadian teachers’ institute, he had announced government sponsorship of the first French-language Canadian history textbook for the province’s public schools, written by Philéas-Frédéric Bourgeois*. Pressure from Landry and from the two Acadian school inspectors, Jean-Flavien Doucet and Charles D. Hébert, had probably influenced Conservative policy on this issue. Acadians subsequently criticized the government for having delayed the book’s introduction until 1914.
A member of the Société l’Assomption [see Rémi Benoît*], almost from its beginning, in 1904 Landry had founded the first branch in Canada of this mutual benefit society. He actively promoted its scholarship program and served on its executive in various capacities from 1904 until 1927, including from 1913 to 1919 as president. In 1917 he was president of a committee it formed to purchase the land in Grand Pré, N.S., that had been the site of Saint-Charles-des-Mines church, from which Lieutenant-Colonel John Winslow* had announced the deportation of the Acadians of the region in 1755. The committee planned to create a park and erect a commemorative church. Landry had also been active in the Société Nationale de l’Assomption [see Pascal Poirier*], notably as a councillor and vice-president in 1907. In 1921 he presided over a congress of the national society in Church Point, N.S., which gave momentum to a massive fund-raising campaign for the commemorative church.
In 1925 there were rumours that the Conservatives might use Landry to muster Acadian support against Veniot, who had become premier two years earlier. Landry’s efforts to identify himself as the real defender of Acadian nationalism, since he supported the Société l’Assomption while Veniot was not even a member, appear to have embarrassed other members of the society. He was defeated in the provincial general election of August 1925. Two years later he was rewarded with a patronage post as health officer for the northern counties.
Landry died suddenly in Bathurst in 1929, just before he was to preside at a meeting of the board of health. In spite of his Conservative politics, he had served for several years as a conscientious director of the more Liberal L’Évangéline without attempting to impose his views. He had also been a member of the League of Nations Society in Canada and a supporter of the temperance movement.
Known for his oratorical skills and his diligent attention to his work, David-Vital Landry had maintained a reputation for honesty throughout his career, amid numerous political scandals. During a period when many Acadians were moving towards the Liberal party, he had given francophones a continued presence among the Conservatives.
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