On February 28, 1827, Édouard-Charles Fabre was born in Montreal into a family that was well-known at the time. His father, Édouard-Raymond, was a successful bookseller and publisher. He was a very patriotic man and was a close friend of Louis-Joseph Papineau. He became politically involved and took part in the revolt of 1837-1838; he was taken prisoner and was pardoned because of his wife's illness. When peace returned, he showed great generosity towards the victims of the conflict, particularly towards those exiled to Australia. Ten years after the Troubles, he became mayor of Montreal from 1849 to 1851. The cholera epidemic would overcome him in 1854, at the age of 55.
The mother of Édouard-Charles, Lucie Perrault, was a woman of action, involved in social works, charitable institutions, and home visits for the poor. Édouard-Charles was the eldest of six children. A sister, Hortense, married the lawyer and politician Georges-Étienne Cartier. A brother, Hector, became a lawyer, journalist, senator, and diplomat in Paris. It should be noted that Édouard-Charles, who was ten years old in 1837, was not affected by the events of the Revolt. A conciliatory man by temperament, he would become a peacemaker.
Édouard-Charles Fabre completed his classical studies at the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe in 1843; he was sixteen years old. He aspired to become a priest. His father was firmly opposed to this desire and sent his son to Paris to spend a year with his aunt, Julie Fabre, so that he would experience the world. Édouard-Charles travelled around Paris and its surroundings, frequented good society and theatres, but far from slowing down, his desire was reinforced. His father eventually accepted this choice and Édouard-Charles, with paternal authorization, devoted two years to studies in philosophy and theology at the Seminary of Issy-les-Moulineaux, directed by the Sulpicians.
On July 25, 1846, he returned to Montreal with his family. The following September 15th, he established himself at the bishopric and continued his theological studies under the direction of Msgr. Jean-Charles Prince, coadjutor bishop.