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Turgeon, William Ferdinand-Alphonse (1877–1969)

William Turgeon.
Saskatchewan Archives Board R-A251

Turgeon was born on June 3, 1877, in Petit-Rocher, NB, and raised in New York. His father, Onésiphore, was a member of Parliament and a senator. In 1893 he attended the Collège de Lévis in Quebec, and then Laval, where he received a BA in 1900. He apprenticed at a law firm in St. John, NB, and moved to Prince Albert in 1903, as it was the judicial centre for the North-West Territories. He founded a law practice and soon was invited to become a Crown prosecutor.

Turgeon connected with the “Liberal Machine” and with Monsignor Albert Pascal, bishop of Prince Albert. He was elected to the provincial Legislature and appointed Attorney General in 1907, a position he held until 1921. He spearheaded the development of a provincial telephone system, the University of Saskatchewan, and co-operative elevators. His most notable achievement, however, came in the field of Francophone rights.

In 1921, Turgeon accepted a seat on the Saskatchewan Court of Appeals. He rose to the position of Chief Justice before his retirement from the bench in 1941. He set a benchmark no one else has yet surpassed: the most Royal Commissions served on by one person (twelve). Instead of retiring, Turgeon began his diplomatic career. By the time he retired in 1956, he had served as the ambassador to Argentina, Mexico, Belgium, Ireland and Portugal, and was the first Canadian ambassador to Chile. He retired to Prince Albert, where he died on January 11, 1969.

Turgeon received many honours, including the Order of Canada, and had a street in Regina and a school in Prince Albert named for him. His former residence in Regina was moved in 1983 to its present location. Now known as the Turgeon International Hostel, it is a provincial heritage site.

Dana Turgeon

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Further Reading

Morrissette, Pierre. 1976. “La carriere politique de W.F.A. Turgeon, 1907–1921.” MA thesis, University of Regina.
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