Alexandre-Antonin Taché's career as a pioneer Oblate missionary and bishop coincided with some of the most momentous events in western Canadian history from the Red River Insurrection to the Manitoba schools question. Taché's zealous defense of French Catholic rights in the North West is indicative of the deep divisions in society concerning the extent of bilingualism and biculturalism in western Canada.
"For years, specialists of nineteenth-century Canadian Church history have deplored the lack of a reliable, critical, and unbiased biography of one of the major figures of Western Canadian history: Alexandre-Antonin Taché, first bishop, then archbishop of St. Boniface (1853-1894), in what is now the province of Manitoba. Raymond J.A. Huel's recently published study on Taché and his "good fight" should in more ways than one satisfy these same specialists and put an end to their long wait....It is to be recommended to all those interested both in the Canadian Church history and the history of the Canadian North West." Pierre Hurtubise, The Catholic Historical Review
"[A]s Raymond J.A. Huel shows in his definitive biography, Taché was often his own worst enemy. An adept financial administrator, whose expertise in such matters was dawn on by both fellow clergy and laymen, he had little understanding of human nature and was incapable of relating to other people. Not only was Taché emotionally aloof, he was also politically naïve, a fatal flaw in one who hoped to be a social leader. He was, moreover, a natural polemicist, one who could not resist dashing out vitriol, when soothing words might have won the hearts of his readers..Huel's biography of Tachè is the product of a lifetime of scholarship, and Huel has the rare gift of drawing his readers in and enabling them to see the world as Tachè saw it." Brian Clarke, The university of Toronto Quarterly, volume 75, Number 1, Winter 2006.
"Rather than sugar-coat Taché's authoritarian style, Huel's analysis convincingly demonstrates how he was the author of some of his own misfortunes. While this readable and meticulously researched biography does not portray Taché as very likeable, it does acknowledge his skills as a real-estate investor and money manager." Ashley Thomson, Canadian Book Review Annual, 2004.
"It's interesting, if discouraging, to see that the forces that ultimately put an end to Taché's dream of a bilingual, bicultural Manitoba relied on the language of liberalism to advance their English-first, business-focussed agenda. Where Taché was committed to justice for the Métis and French-Canadian Catholics as peoples, his opponents relied on the concept of equal treatment of all individuals to turn Manitoba and the West generally into a carbon copy of Ontario." Alex Rettie, Alberta Views
"This is an excellent book by Lethbridge professor and historian Ray Huel who spent many years studying this important figure. The resulting book is thoroughly researched and well written, and will become the seminal work on this early Catholic leader." Editor, Alberta History
"Huel presents a multifaceted, exhaustively researched, and meticulously annotated account of the French Catholic presence on the western plains during the second half of the nineteenth century....Huel adroitly delineates the cultural, political, and social forces that gave shape to Taché's 'illusive vision'....Archbishop A.-A. Taché of St. Boniface is an outstanding study combining 'new directions' in social history with three decades of research on the western Church. Huel has made a worthy contribution both to Prairie historiography and to the rehabilitation of scholarly biography." Timothy Foran, Social History, vol.38, no.75, May 2005
"Leading Church historian Raymond Huel provides a portrait of Alexandre-Antonin Tache, the first Oblate bishop in the North West and the first archbishop of St. Boniface, Tache's career spanned 50 years (1845-94) and coincided with some of the most momentous events in Western Canadian history." Western Catholic Reporter
"Raymond Huel has undertaken the difficult task of writing a critical biography of the long-serving and complicated archbishop of St. Boniface, Alexandre-Antonin Taché. He has created for the reader a fascinating story of a church person who was spiritually and politically involved in the formation of the Catholic community at the nexus of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, now called Winnipeg, the capital of the province of Manitoba....Avoiding hagiography, Raymond Huel has composed a critical and definitive biography of a tragic player in the founding of the Roman Catholic Church in the Canadian north-west and a colourful person in Canadian religious and political life." Terence J. Fay (University of Toronto), Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 36, No. 2, April 2005
"A new biography about Bishop and later Archbishop Alexandre Taché offers a critical view that may have you feeling sorry for this man, who played such a major role in the history of Western Canada.. Taché's dream was to create a sister province for francophone and Roman Catholic Quebec. It never happened, and even in his own lifetime, Taché must have realized his dream would not be realized." Susan Jones, St. Albert Gazette
"Raymond Huel has written a thoroughly researched and documented biography of Taché, one that will no doubt become a necessary reference for anyone seeking to understand the man and his times." Great Plains Quarterly, Spring 2004
"Huel, retired history professor at the University of Lethbridge, author of other books about the Oblates, gives us a clear picture of his many-sided subject. Happy first years as a missionary were followed by 43 stressful ones as a bishop. Huel shows that Taché was a micro-manager who handled material things brilliantly but had often-bitter relations with people." Bernard M. Daly, Catholic Register Special