The Delaurier name became a reality sometime after 1890 and resulted from several factors, all occurring around the turn of the 20th century. We owe credit for having this name to a Swiss immigrant named Charles-Victor Tornay who came to Canada in the late 1890′s. He was born in a very small hamlet called Som-la-Proz, Orsières in the canton of Valais, the French speaking area of Switzerland. Som-la-Proz is one of several villages of the municipality of Orsières. For more information and photos of this beautiful little Swiss village click here.
Of equal importance to the creation of this name was the re-election of Sir Wilfrid Laurier as the Prime Minister of Canada in the fall of 1900. The Swiss immigrant, Charles-Victor Tornay, choosing the newly named town of Laurier, Manitoba as his place of permanent residence, decided to name himself after the town and after the re-election of the first French Canadian Prime Minister. This is why it can be said that the Delaurier name would not exist today had it not been for these two men. As customary among the French speaking population, Charles-Victor Tornay decided to adopt the name of the town (de Laurier). The name Delaurier, as we are aware, literally translates to a meaning of belonging (of or from Laurier). There are other reasons why this man changed his name and they will be looked at later.
To appreciate the full value of the name, one must study the events leading up to the election of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and its impact on the French Canadians. Sir Wilfrid Laurier was well liked by all Canadians. The question, however, remains: “Why did Charles-Victor Tornay use the root name of Laurier?” Was it because of his Liberal political inclinations, or was it strictly a matter of wanting to belong to a community after his somewhat difficult adolescent life in Switzerland? We could determine this more easily if we could trace his life prior to his arrival at Laurier. As an Immigration Officer, André Delaurier tried to determine where he entered Canada; however, he could not be located on any ship manifests for the years 1898 to 1900. Before his death, Charles-Victor Tornay provided his sons a few pieces of his biography. It is believed that he left Switzerland sometime after his mother’s death in 1890. Having made his way to the French coast, he traveled with Joseph Charles (Calixte) Rossier, probably a cousin, across the Atlantic ocean to America. Based on this André Delaurier checked all ship manifests arriving at Quebec and Montreal, the two larger Canadian ports, and found no record of him or his cousin. The only alternative would be that he arrived in Boston or New York and traveled to the north in order to cross the border into Canada. Unfortunately, the immigration records for the border entries are still kept in order of each port of entry and to examine these records, every possible port file would have to be checked. This would entail countless hours of work. It is possible that Charles-Victor Tornay entered Canada into the eastern province of Quebec or Ontario and, having arrived shortly after the time of Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s victory, decided to rename himself after the newly re-elected Prime Minister as evidence that he accepted his new home and wanted to prepare for a brighter future in Canada.
We can only admire this man’s huge fortitude and desire for adventure and challenges. At the time of his arrival in Canada, the Western provinces began to provide free land to cultivate. These gifts were made by the Laurier government and the previous Prime Minister, Sir Charles Tupper, in order to promote settlement in the West. The department of Agriculture and Immigration at that time would promote interest in the West by displaying posters in European cities and newspapers. Was it a poster about western Canada that attracted this young man, or was it some personal advice obtained upon arrival? We will never know.
So it was that Charles-Victor Tornay found employment on the railroad, which was being built in the direction of Laurier. When he arrived in the village, he decided to go no further and seek employment in the area. On December 26, 1899, at the age of 30, he married a 20-yearold settler, Aglaé Boisvert, of the same town. Aglaé had moved from Quebec to Laurier with her family who had come out west for economic reasons.
Their marriage was registered in the Vital Statistics Bureau of Manitoba as having been officiated by Father E. Lecoq, a priest ministering the parishes of Laurier and Ste. Rose du Lac at the time. The Swiss immigrant’s name on the certificate is shown as wrongly spelled; however, such mispronunciations or spelling errors were very common among the records created at that time.
It is, however, important to note that he had claimed to have a father by the name of Charles Deslauriers and that his mother’s maiden name was Marie-Antoinette Tornay. We also note that Father E. Lecoq, who married the couple, recorded the name with different spellings.
It is possible that some of these variations related to another family, but what eventually resulted was the continued spelling of DELAURIER.
Charles-Victor Tornay was born on February 3, 1869, in the splendid valley known as “Vallée du Grand-Saint-Bernard”. He was the son of Marie-Antoinette Tornay. His birth certificate does not show the name of the father. It is not really known why he left Switzerland. It is possible that he felt socially disadvantaged or alone when his mother died in 1890. In 1991, while thirteen members of the Delaurier family were participating at “Les Retrouvailles”, we were told that life was difficult in this part of Switzerland at the end of 19th century. Surely, Charles-Victor Tornay heard of Canada and its Promised Land and decided to venture to the new continent to try to improve his living conditions.