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Royal, Joseph (1837–1902)

Joseph Royal was born May 7, 1837, in Repentigny, Lower Canada, the son of poor, illiterate parents. Following successful careers as a journalist, publisher and lawyer in Montreal, he became a well known spokesman for Métis and Francophone rights in Manitoba, and founded the first French-language newspaper in the west (Le Métis) in St. Boniface in 1871. During the 1870s, he served Manitobans as a provincial Cabinet minister and later as an MP. In 1888, he succeeded Edgar Dewdney as Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Territories, at a time when the Territories had just been granted an elected assembly and were agitating for complete responsible government. For the whole of his term, Royal sought to balance the reforming aspirations of westerners with Ottawa’s firm resolve to resist them. In 1891, an amended North-West Territories Act saw many of the administrative and executive powers of the Lieutenant-Governor pass to a four-man Executive Committee headed by F.W.G. Haultain, a leading proponent of Territorial autonomy. The social highlight of the term of Royal and his wife Agnes as the vice-regal couple in Regina undoubtedly was the opening of the new and much grander Government House in late 1891. Following the end of his term in 1893, Royal lobbied for a Senate appointment; when this did not occur, he returned to the east and resumed his journalistic career in Ottawa and Montreal. His last years were not affluent, and he died in Montreal in 1902 after a long illness.

Garth Pugh

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