Raymond Boyer was born in Montreal and received his Ph.D. in chemistry from McGill. He lived and travelled in Europe for several years in the 1930s, studying at the Sorbonne and the University of Vienna. On his return to Montreal he was horrified by the social injustice and misery around him, and in response to this and to what he had seen first-hand of Fascism in Europe, he became a supporter of the Communist Party of Canada. During the Second World War he was on the faculty of McGill where he helped to organize the Canadian Association of Scientific Workers, and served as its national president. Like most of his colleagues he became engaged in military research, and played a major role in the development of an improved process for the production of RDX, an important military explosive. When Igor Gouzenko fled from the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa in 1945, some of the documents he took with him implicated Raymond in the transmission Of information about this process to the Soviet Union. Although the secrecy of this information was questionable, he was convicted under the Official Secrets Act and served a term in Saint Vincent de Paul penitentiary. While there he befriended his fellow prisoners and helped them where he could. Some years later he wrote an interesting and moving book about his experiences there, Barreaux de Fer Hommes de Chair (Bars of Iron Men of Flesh), Editions du Jour, Montreal, 1972.
In 1959 he embarked on a second career, this time in the social sciences. He made the acquaintance of Dr. Bruno Cormier, an eminent psychiatrist at McGill, and collaborated with him in research in criminology. He taught, took part in national and international conferences, and produced a number of important publications, notably a book, Les Crimes et les Chatiments au Canada Francais du XVIIe au XXe Siècle (Crimes and Punishments in French Canada from the 17th to the 20th century), Le Cercle du Livre de France, Montreal, 1966. Dr. Cormier described this book as the primary reference source in its field.
Following his retirement from his second career he continued to be active in the Peace Movement in Montreal and in the movement for prison reform until he was incapacitated by illness.
Raymond Boyer was a talented and compassionate man, a patron of the arts, a man of almost aristocratic grace and courtesy. Born into great wealth, he chose to devote his life to the service of science and humanity. He had a gift for friendship. After his release from penitentiary he remained on cordial terms with many of his former fellow prisoners and also with many of the friends of his earlier days who by no means shared his political views, and no doubt deplored the actions that had led to his imprisonment. He was a true friend to my wife and me for many years. We shall miss him.
ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)