Photo - Photo: with authorization of Raymond Gareau ? Copyright
Photo: with authorization of Raymond Gareau

Napoléon Gareau

British Columbia

Date of birth: September 26, 1915
Place of birth : Winnipeg, Manitoba

Pioneer and builder

Napoléon Gareau was the son of Trèflé Gareau and Délia Bruneau. He took his elementary and secondary schooling at École Sacré-Coeur in Winnipeg. In 1936, he married Amélie Ledet in Winnipeg. Five years later, with the Second War raging in Europe, he volunteered for the RCAF. He took his basic training and a radio operator's course in Eastern Canada, and was then transferred to British Columbia, intended for aerial missions against Japan. But the war ended before he saw active service. When he was demobilized in 1945, Napoléon Gareau had a choice: go back to Winnipeg or stay in BC. His choice was to stay, partly because he was offered an excellent forest engineering job with a BC lumber company and partly because he had discovered the little French-speaking community of Maillardville. It was the start of a great adventure for Napoléon Gareau and his family: they were pioneers in the francophone community on the West Coast. Mr Gareau was esteemed and respected. He was involved in endless projects and activities: founding member of the Maillardville credit union, the Foyer Maillardville and the French-speaking Scouts (whom he served as their first Commissioner). He was also a champion of the francophone cause in BC, successively president of the Société Bi-Culturelle, chair of the Foyer Maillardville board, secretary and president of the Club des Pensionnés de Maillardville, Cub Scout Leader and member of the Knights of Columbus.

Napoléon Gareau was a man who loved to laugh and sing. He spread to those around him his pride in and love for the French language and culture. His good work in the community was typical of this dynamic man, and the community appreciated him for it. He was able to bring the anglophone and francophone communities in BC closer together. His sustained commitment and dedication to the community earned him many honours and awards from the government of Canada and the Governor General. Mr Gareau died in 1991 in Maillardville.

For 40 years, he worked tirelessly for the well-being of the young and the not-so-young, and for the preservation of their language and culture. In his memory, the francophone community of British Columbia has created the Napoléon-Gareau Award, presented each year to volunteers who have distinguished themselves by their dedication to the community.