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Louis S. St. Laurent National Historic Site of Canada

The Jurist

Civil Code of Quebec, 1904 Civil Code of Quebec
© Bibliothèque nationale du Québec / Louis Rioux / 9410120201, 1904

Louis S. St. Laurent was a model pupil at the Seminary and when he entered the Faculty of Law at Laval University in 1902, he became a brilliant student who fully mastered the intricacies of both the French Civil Code and British Common Law . He believed that each was useful and that they should be allowed to co-exist. In 1905, he passed his Bar examinations and set up in Québec, where he worked with Louis-Philippe Pelletier, the former Attorney General for the Province of Quebec.


St. Laurent, the Jurist, 1921 St. Laurent, the Jurist, 1921
© Parks Canada / Mault and Fox, London / 1921

In 1908, he went into partnership with Antonin Galipeault, and his career took off. In 1912, he won a case against Canadian Pacific (the railway company), which made him the talk of the town. Thus, he quickly became a much sought-out lawyer in commercial law cases, both in the United States and in Canada.

From 1920, Louis S. St. Laurent began to specialize in constitutional law and, in 1923, he opened his own law office. Both the governments of Quebec and Ottawa often called on him to argue cases before the Privy Council in London.

Louis S. St. Laurent, c.1935 Louis S. St. Laurent
© Parks Canada / Black & Stoller / c.1935

His numerous successes brought St. Laurent to the attention of Mackenzie King, the Prime Minister of the time, who often made use of his talents and drew him more and more into political life. In 1941, St. Laurent even agreed to become co-president of the Victory Loan campaign in Quebec. The Second World War was at its height and St. Laurent's destiny was about to take him in a new direction.

Parchment commemorating the first Victory Loan Parchment commemorating the first Victory Loan
© Parks Canada