Judy Wallman, a professional genealogical researcher, discovered that Stephen Dion the [former] leader of Canada's Liberal Party great-great uncle, Robert Dion, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Quebec in 1889. The only known photograph of Dion shows him standing on the gallows. On the back of the picture is this inscription:This bit from the Wikipedia page linked to above suggests Dion lacks a sense of humor:
"Robert Dion; horse thief, sent to Quebec Provincial Prison 1883, escaped 1887, robbed the Canadian Pacific Railway six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted, and hanged in 1889."
Judy e-mailed Stephen Dion for comments. Dion's staff sent back the following biographical sketch:
"Robert Dion was a famous horseman in Quebec . His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility, finally taking leave in 1887 to resume his dealings with the railroad. Subsequently, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Dion passed away during an important civic function held in his honour, when the platform on which he was standing collapsed."
In May 1999, Dion was the object of a pie-in-the-face gag orchestrated by the Montreal group, les Entartistes. The group's stated focus is to "deflate" influential political figures, and they have successfully pied several Canadian federal and provincial politicians, with past targets including [former prime minister] Jean Chrétien and [former Alberta premier] Ralph Klein. Dion was not amused and pressed charges, resulting in convictions of assault against two members of the pie-throwing group. They were given suspended sentences. [links and footnote removed]That in turn suggests the horse thief story is both funny and false.
Hat tip: Christine Gribowski