VALOIS, MICHEL-FRANÇOIS, physician, Patriote, and politician; b. 20 Aug. 1801 at Pointe-Claire, near Montreal, son of Pierre Valois, farmer, and Marie-Catherine Lefebvre; m. 28 July 1835 Marie-Louise-Florence-Eudoxie Godin, and they had 17 children; d. 24 May 1869 at Pointe-Claire, Que.
Michel-François Valois studied at the Collège de Montréal from 1816 to 1821, and like the young men of the period who attended classical colleges he faced a relatively limited choice of careers: the priesthood and the liberal professions. He decided upon medicine, and on 10 May 1826 was licensed to practise his profession.
At that time a tense atmosphere prevailed in Montreal. Turbulent meetings and fiery speeches were becoming more frequent on the Champ de Mars. Those chiefly singled out for attack were the high officials and the English merchants, who were using their influence in various councils of Lower Canada to exercise more control over the management of public funds and to organize political patronage on a large scale. The 1822 plan of union added still further to the disquiet [see Louis-Joseph Papineau*]. Within this social context Valois awakened to nationalism, and, developing an interest in the European thinkers of the 18th century, began to be attracted to the ideas of liberty, individualism, democracy, and popular sovereignty.
Dr Valois rapidly became identified with the liberal cause in the parish in which he was born and now chose to live, and he soon came into conflict with the parish priest. In 1830 he was elected a trustee, by virtue of the assembly’s schools act which placed the building and administration of schools directly in the hands of trustees in each parish; he then tried by every conceivable means to get a school built without the collaboration of his parish priest. By this move, he assumed a role of prime importance in education at the local level. But his struggle against the parish priest did not stop there: he also wanted to assert himself in the administration of the parish council. No doubt influenced by the proposed “notables bill,” which directly threatened the status of the parish priest and his control over the management of the property and revenues of the church, the Pointe-Claire doctor openly stated that the parish council’s money belonged to the parishioners. Hence his parish priest dreaded his being elected a churchwarden.
Valois attacked even more violently the English merchants who were the most powerful element in the government councils and who controlled a large proportion of the land in his area. Following the example of the French Canadian members of the assembly, he tried to conduct a struggle on a provincial scale. He was not content with verbally attacking the power of the English. From 1836 on, he took an active part in setting up local organizations in his region. It was not unusual to see him haranguing his fellow citizens from the church steps after Sunday mass. His house became a meeting ground which enabled him to maintain direct and continuous contact with his own kind. It is not suprising therefore that Valois played a major role in the historic rally at Saint-Laurent on 15 May 1837. Although he exerted a major influence in his region, he does not seem to have entered into direct relationship with the Patriote leaders. The English government none the less placed him at the head of its list of most wanted men. Valois was pursued by a squad of soldiers detailed to round him up at Pointe-Claire but he managed to flee. However, he was captured after covering a few miles, and was taken to prison in Montreal in December 1837. He was later released, and is thought to have stayed for a while in the United States before going back to his native parish.
After the rebellion Dr Valois returned to private life. He still continued to take an interest in politics, but this time he seems to have been much more disposed to collaborate with the government. Valois was elected to the assembly in 1851 in the county of Montreal on the Rouge ticket, and in 1854 he was successful in Montreal in Jacques-Cartier, which he represented until 28 Nov. 1857. On 24 May 1869 he died at Pointe-Claire.
ACAM, 355.110, 834–1. ANQ-M, Greffe de P.-C. Valois, 3 août 1840, 28 avril 1843, 18 janv. 1845, 25 mai 1848. ANQ-Q, QBC 25, Événements de 1837–38, nos.166–69. F.-J. Audet, Les députés de Montréal, 424–26. R.-L. Séguin, “Le docteur Valois, un patriote ignoré,” BRH, LX (1954), 85–91.