PELTIER, HECTOR, doctor and teacher; b. 15 Sept. 1822 at Montreal, L.C., son of Toussaint Peltier*, lawyer, and Émélie Herigault; d. 29 Jan. 1878 at Montreal, Que.
At the age of 16, Hector Peltier went to France to study philosophy at the Collège Henri IV in Paris. He began medical studies in Paris, went to Edinburgh to complete them, and after two years obtained his doctorate there. On 21 Feb. 1846, after his return to Canada, he received authorization to practise medicine, and was appointed professor of physiology in the new Montreal School of Medicine and Surgery, which had been established three years earlier.
No doubt because of his European training, Peltier was closely connected with the evolution of the medical profession in Montreal. For example, he was one of the 180 signatories who sought from the parliament of the Province of Canada official recognition of the study and practice of medicine; this was granted in 1847.
In 1849 Peltier was instructed, with Dr Louis Boyer, to present to the Hôtel-Dieu of Montreal a draft agreement, soon to be realized, for the organization of clinical instruction for the school’s pupils. On 13 June 1850 the school delegated him to appear before the committee of parliament on private bills, in order to obtain amendments to its charter which would allow it to issue certificates to practise. This request was refused; indeed, in 1853, 27 Montreal doctors, joined by those of the Université Laval, presented to the assembly a report demonstrating that to grant to non-university institutions the authorization to issue licences to practise would be to lower the level of the profession.
Since 1847 McGill University had been giving the students of the school their final teaching and conferring diplomas on them. Consequently it did not appreciate the school’s request to have its charter modified. Faced with the repeated annoyances created for it by McGill, the school decided to affiliate with some other better disposed university. After fruitless negotiations with the Université Laval and the University of Ottawa, the school, through the intermediary of Hector Peltier and Pierre Beaubien*, submitted to Victoria University (Cobourg) a draft agreement which was immediately accepted. On 10 Sept. 1866, the Montreal School of Medicine and Surgery became the Faculty of Medicine of Victoria University, which was Methodist. “A fine subject of scandal for which moreover the school would be blamed during conflicts with Laval,” wrote Dr Roger Dufresne in 1946. “Some would then feign belief that under the Methodist dispensation the faith of the French Canadian Catholic students must certainly be endangered! Yet the only individuals exposed to this peril were the professors who were responsible for going, once a year, to have the names and official signatures affixed to diplomas printed beforehand at Montreal.”
Their situation, however, did not entirely satisfy the directors of the school, who renewed their petition, through Peltier and Beaubien, to the Quebec mlas, for a university charter for Montreal. In view of the opposition of Bishop Elzéar-Alexandre Taschereau*, of Quebec, this petition was dismissed. In 1872 the Jesuits presented a bill to found a university at Montreal, and the reply was again negative. These repeated and unavailing steps pitted against each other the cities of Quebec and Montreal, the politicians and the religious authorities, the Gallicans and the Ultramontanes. Therefore in 1872 Le Franc-Parleur published over the signatures of Beaubien, the president of the school, and Peltier, his secretary, the following declaration: “After all our previous steps and our dealings with the Université Laval, we have decisive reasons to wish never to have anything further to do with the Université Laval or with its teaching. . . . However, we feel the urgent need of a Catholic university for Montreal.”
This struggle between Montreal and Quebec was taken to Rome, and Bishop Ignace Bourget* had to request the Jesuits to withdraw their bill. Dr Hector Peltier was a witness of part of this painful story: he learned of the decision to establish a branch of the Université Laval at Montreal and the first bargainings by the Quebec rector, Thomas-Étienne Hamel, to get the teaching of medicine organized at Montreal.
On 6 Jan. 1878 the founding of a Catholic university at Montreal was celebrated. Dr Peltier attended the banquet; his confrères expected a speech from him, but he kept silent. Perhaps he had a presentiment of the cerebral haemorrhage that was to strike him down a few days later when he was finishing a class.
One of the leading figures of Montreal in his time, Peltier in 1852 had married, at Notre-Dame de Montréal, Suzanne Ellen Van Felson, daughter of a judge, George Vanfelson*.
AJM, Registre d’état civil. Le Collège des médecins et chirurgiens de la province du Québec, 1847–1947 (Montréal, ). Rumilly, Hist. de la prov. de Québec, I, 242–43. Roger Dufresne, “L’école de médecine et de chirurgie de Montréal, 1843–1891,” L’Union médicale du Canada (Montréal), nov. 1946, 1314–26. L.-D. Mignault, “Histoire de l’école de médecine et de chirurgie de Montréal,” L’Union médicale du Canada (Montréal), oct. 1926, 597–674.