The Honourable Dr. Robert G. Brett was the first medical doctor to be appointed Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. He was a leader in his chosen profession and played a major role in territorial politics.
Dr. Robert George Brett was born on November 15, 1851, at Strathroy, Canada West (Ontario). He was the son of James Brett and Catherine Mallon. The Bretts were pioneer settlers in Middlesex County, Upper Canada (Ontario).
Dr. Robert G. Brett was educated at the Strathroy Grammar School and received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Toronto. He completed postgraduate work in New York, Philadelphia, and Vienna. He was a member of the Church of England (Anglican).
In 1869, he trained with the Twenty-ninth Regiment in Toronto, and subsequently served as a Lieutenant in the Twenty-seventh Battalion, Middlesex County, Ontario, and as Assistant Surgeon of the Ninety-first Battalion, Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was an Honorary Colonel of the Eighty-second Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force during World War I.
On June 26, 1878, he married Louise T. Hungerford, daughter of Samuel Hungerford of Watford, Ontario. They had two sons: Dr. Reginald Harry and Robert Earl.
Dr. Robert G. Brett practised medicine in Arkona, Ontario, from 1874 to 1879, and served as Reeve of Arkona, Lambton County, Ontario, before coming west to Manitoba in 1880. He was one of the founders of the Manitoba Medical College in which he held the Chair of Materia Medica and Therapeutics. He was later named Emeritus Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and was a Councillor and member of the Board of Studies, University of Manitoba.
Dr. Robert G. Brett moved to Banff, Northwest Territories, in 1883 and, in 1886, established the Banff Sanitarium where he served as Medical Doctor. In 1909 he established the Brett Hospital at Banff where he was Senior Surgeon. He was also President of both the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Northwest Territories and the Alberta Medical Association. Dr. Robert G. Brett served on the Senate of the University of Alberta in 1908 and 1912, was a member of the Dominion Medical Council in 1912, served as Provincial President of the Red Cross Society (1914/15), received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree (1915) from the University of Alberta, and was President of the Canada Medical Council in 1921. In the early days at Banff, he served as Chief Surgeon for the Canadian Pacific Railway at the collieries at Canmore, Anthracite, and Bankhead. As well, he was proprietor of the Banff newspaper named the Crag and Canyon and established the Halcyon Hot Springs Sanitarium Company at Arrow Lake, British Columbia.
In 1888, Dr. Robert G. Brett was elected to the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly for the electoral district of Red Deer and was reelected by acclamation in 1891 for Banff. He was reelected again in 1894 and 1898. Dr. Robert G. Brett was Chairman of the Lieutenant Governor's Advisory Council from 1889 to 1891 and was later Leader of the Opposition. In 1896, he introduced the issue of provincial autonomy into the Territorial Legislature, proposing that the Districts of Alberta and Athabasca become separate provinces. He was also a leading advocate in convincing the Department of the Interior of the Canadian federal government to institute reforms in the management of Banff National Park. He stood as a Conservative candidate at the first Alberta provincial election of 1905, but was defeated. Although Dr. Robert G. Brett was President of the Alberta Conservative Association in 1909, he was not the political leader of the party that year.
On the advice of Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, Dr. Robert G. Brett was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Alberta effective October 20, 1915. This appointment was made by His Royal Highness The Duke of Connaught, Governor General of Canada. The Honourable Dr. Robert G. Brett was reappointed Lieutenant Governor for a second term and continued to serve in that capacity until his successor was appointed effective October 29, 1925. During his term of service, his Secretary and Aide-de-Camp was Major R.T. Stafford.
Dr. Robert G. Brett died on September 16, 1929, at Calgary, Alberta, and was buried in the Banff Cemetery at Banff, Alberta. A park in the city of Edmonton is named in his memory.