Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Photo added by William Bjornstad

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Saint-Lin, Lanaudiere Region, Quebec, Canada
Death 17 Feb 1919 (aged 77)
Ottawa, Ottawa Municipality, Ontario, Canada
Burial Ottawa, Ottawa Municipality, Ontario, Canada
Plot Laurier Monument
Memorial ID 3796 · View Source
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7th Prime Minister of Canada. He served in this capacity from July 1896 to October 1911 as a Liberal from Quebec. The first French-Canadian prime minister, he served during a period of great immigration into Canada, especially the west. His 15 years in office stands as the longest unbroken tenure as PM and holds the record for the most consecutive elections won (4). Additionally, his nearly 45 years (1874 to 1919) of service in the House of Commons is an all-time record for that house. Finally, at 31 years, 8 months, he was the longest-serving leader of a major Canadian political party. He was born Henri Charles Wilfrid Laurier in Saint-Lin, Canada East (today called Saint-Lin-Laurentides, Quebec). His father was an educated farmer and surveyor, and a sixth-generation Canadian whose ancestors came from Saint-Claud, France. When he was 11, he left home to study in New Glasgow, a nearby village largely inhabited by immigrants from Scotland, and over the next two years, he had the opportunity of familiarizing himself with the mentality, language and culture of British people. Her attended the College of L'Assomption and graduated from McGill University in Montreal, Ontario, Canada with a law degree. In 1871 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Quebec in their general election in Drummond-Arthabaska, but resigned in January 1874 to enter Canadian politics. In 1874 he was elected to the Canadian House of Commons, serving briefly in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie as Minister of Inland Revenue. In October 1877 he was made a member of the Imperial Privy Council of the United Kingdom. In 1887 he was chosen as leader of the Liberal Party and gradually built up his party's strength in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. He led the Liberal Party to victory in the 1896 election, and remained prime minister until the party's defeat in the 1911 election. As prime minister, he led Canada during a period of rapid growth, industrialization and immigration. His long career straddles a period of major political and economic change. He was instrumental in ushering Canada into the 20th century and in gaining greater autonomy from Britain for his country. One of his first acts as prime minister was to implement a solution to the Manitoba Schools Question, which had helped to bring down the Conservative government of Charles Tupper earlier in 1896. The Manitoba legislature had passed a law eliminating public funding for Catholic schooling (thereby going against the federal constitutional Manitoba Act, 1870, which guaranteed Catholic and Protestant religious education rights). The Catholic minority asked the federal Government for support, and eventually the Conservatives proposed remedial legislation to override Manitoba's legislation. He opposed the remedial legislation on the basis of provincial rights, and succeeded in blocking its passage by Parliament. Once elected, he proposed a compromise stating that Catholics in Manitoba could have a Catholic education if there were enough students to warrant it, on a school-by-school basis, seen by many as the best possible solution in the circumstances, making both the French and English equally satisfied. In 1899, the England expected military support from Canada, as part of the British Empire, in the Second Boer War. He was caught between demands for support for military action from English Canada, and a strong opposition from French Canada which saw the Boer War as an "English" war and to some degree appreciated the similar places that Boers and French Canadians held in the British Empire. He eventually decided to send an all-volunteer force, rather than the militia expected by Britain. In 1905 he oversaw the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta's entry into Confederation, the last two provinces to be created out of the Northwest Territories. This followed the enactment of the Yukon Territory Act by his government in 1898, separating the Yukon from the Northwest Territories. In 1910 he passed legislation that created the Royal Canadian Navy in spite of political opposition in Canada. In 1911 another controversy arose regarding his support of trade reciprocity with the United States. His long serving Minister of Finance, William Stevens Fielding, reached an agreement allowing for free trade of natural products, which had the strong support of agricultural interests, but it alienated many businessmen who formed a significant part of the Liberals' support base. The Conservatives denounced the deal and played on long standing fears that reciprocity could eventually lead to the American annexation of Canada. Contending with an unruly House of Commons, including vocal disapproval from Liberal Member of Parliament Clifford Sifton, he called an election to settle the issue of reciprocity. The Conservatives were victorious and Robert Laird Borden succeeded him as Prime Minister in October 1911. He continued to serve in the Canadian House of Commons as Leader of the Opposition until his death. He was opposed to Canada's entry into World War I an influential opponent of conscription, which led to the Conscription Crisis of 1917 and the formation of a Union government, which he refused to join for fear of having Quebec fall in the hands of nationalist Henri Bourassa. He died in Ottawa, Canada as the result of a stroke at the age of 77. He was awarded knight grand cross of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George. There are two statues by Joseph-Emile Brunet dedicated to his honor, one behind the East Block on Parliament hill in Ottawa and the other in Square Dorchester, in Montreal. In November 2011 Wilfrid Laurier University located in Waterloo, Ontario unveiled a statue depicting him as a young man, sitting on a bench and pondering the future. Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day is observed each year on 20 November, his birth date. His portrait is displayed on the current Canadian five-dollar note.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 2 Nov 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial 3796
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sir Wilfrid Laurier (20 Nov 1841–17 Feb 1919), Find a Grave Memorial no. 3796, citing Notre-Dame of Ottawa Cemetery, Ottawa, Ottawa Municipality, Ontario, Canada ; Maintained by Find A Grave .