Bishop Omer Robidoux, O.M.I. 1913-1986


  • Lorraine Brandson



Biographies, Education, Expeditions, Explorers, History, Indians, Inuit, Residential schools, Robidoux, Bishop Omer, 1913-1986, Roman Catholic Church, Saulteaux Indians, Churchill, Manitoba, Hudson Bay region, Nunavut, Fort Alexander


On the evening of 12 November 1986 Omer Robidoux, o.m.i., the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Central and Eastern Canadian Arctic, boarded his final northern flight and the Canadian North lost one of its strongest supporters. The twin-engined Navaho he was aboard tragically crashed after take-off at Rankin Inlet, N.W.T., killing all passengers, ... Toward the end of his novitiate as a matter of routine he was asked where he might like to undertake missionary work. His first choice was "Eskimo missions," but this was not to be until many years later. His first missionary work was with native Saulteaux Indians in Fort Alexander, Manitoba; following this, he was sent to Lestock, Saskatchewan. Beginning in 1947, the next 22 years of his life were devoted to ministry in Indian residential schools as a teacher, principal, superior and pastor in Lestock and Lebret, Saskatchewan, and in Winnipeg, Manitoba. ... In particular, sports and outdoor activities played an important part in the education they received at the hands of Father Robidoux, himself a former Montreal Canadian draft choice. In the summers Father Robidoux visited the various communities and homes of his students. Back in those days the study of one's native ancestry and traditions was not encouraged or sanctioned by the Department of Indian Affairs, but Father Robidoux always found a way to fit into the curriculum "unofficial projects" designed to instill a pride and understanding of the student's background. The call to go North came a few years later, in March 1970, when he was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Churchill-Hudson Bay, which included the Central Arctic and Eastern Arctic of the Northwest Territories west from Gjoa Haven and south to Churchill, Manitoba, the Bishop's cathedral. ... His early actions in the Diocese were to confirm and fully support the beginning steps taken by the Diocese a few years earlier to involve and train the local laity in the communities to more fully participate in the ministry of the church. ... He served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Churchill Northern Studies Centre from its inception in 1976 through 1984. ... The plight of the northern hunters and trappers as they faced the problems of increasing cost of equipment and the results of extensive anti-trapping propaganda in the South was a strong concern of Bishop Robidoux's. A public statement of support and information was issued from the Diocesan office in April 1986 to benefactors of the missions and interested parishes in western Canada and Great Britain. "Hunting and trapping activities are valuable activities not only to be measured in strict dollars and cents but in cultural integrity, as a gainful activity in an already fragile economy, for nutritional purposes, and Christian stewardship of northern lands." ... John Hicks, an Inuk from Churchill and a former president of Nunasi Corporation, said, the Bishop's genius was the quality of his friendship. You could talk to him anywhere, anytime about anything. He always had time. I valued his sharp, strong yet constructive criticisms. They were always given to you face to face and never mentioned behind your back. He was our sounding board for testing out new ideas. He would always say exactly what he thought, but never press his point. We would always leave him encouraged to go ahead with our aim of economic development by our people and for our people.