Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day is observed on November 20th each year in Canada.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier served as the Prime Minister of Canada from 1896 to 1911 and is one of the most prominent and respected figures in Canadian history.
This week’s blog is dedicated to Laurier’s legacy and discusses some key facts and accomplishments from his life and political career:
- Laurier was born on November 20th, 1841 in the village of Saint-Lin, Quebec.
- He obtained a degree in Law from McGill University in 1864 and served as the editor of a small newspaper called Le Défricheur in L’Avenir early in his career.
- He was elected and served as alderman, mayor and county warden in Arthabaska Regional County.
- Laurier was elected to represent the provincial riding of Drummond-Arthabaska in 1871. Laurier resigned in 1874 to enter federal politics.
- Laurier was elected to the House of Commons in 1874 and was appointed as the Minister of Inland Revenue in the cabinet of Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie.
- Laurier was chosen as the leader of the Liberal Party in 1887 and became the first francophone prime minister of Canada after winning the 1896 election.
- In 1897, Laurier received his knighthood during Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
- After reaching a compromise with Great Britain during 1899, he made the controversial decision to send a volunteer battalion to fight in South Africa’s Second Anglo-Boer war. More than 7,000 Canadians served during the war.
- Laurier’s time as prime minister saw increased immigration, increase settlement of the West, and the beginning of the construction of a second transcontinental railway. By the end of his term, Canada witnessed a population growth of 2 million.
- In 1905, Laurier established the two new provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
- In 1910, Laurier proposed the Naval Service Act and upon the bill’s approval, he formally established the Royal Canadian Navy.
- Laurier passed away on February 17th, 1919 at the age of 71.
- Nine elementary and secondary schools are named after Laurier, as well as Wilfrid Laurier University.
- Laurier is currently depicted on the five dollar bill.
Laurier dedicated his life towards maintaining unity between French and English Canada and his future-oriented vision initiated the development and settlement of western Canada. It has been said that Laurier helped usher Canada into the 20th century during his fifteen years in office as prime minister.
Click here to take a virtual tour of Laurier House in Ottawa, which was home to two Canadian prime ministers: Sir Wilfrid Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King.
The Right Honourable Kim Campbell served as the Prime Minister of Canada from June 25 to November 4, 1993. This past Monday marked the 20th anniversary of the end of her time in office. Megan Beretta, a CIVIX volunteer and University of Ottawa student, attended a panel that included Campbell this week.
On Wednesday, November 6, the University of Ottawa played host to The Right Honourable Kim Campbell, the first female Prime Minister of Canada. The event was held due to a partnership between uOttawa’s Women in Leadership Speaker Series and the national political organization Equal Voice.
The former Prime Minister spoke about a variety of topics. She discussed the benefits of having women in management roles, and how equality in leadership is not about women being “better,” but about women making the organizations better, as they bring half of the world’s talents, perspectives, and skills to the table, when given the chance to contribute. Quoting statistics and research from the field, she proved that women make a difference in breaking up the norms in societal structures, and make a difference to the monotonous “group think” that occurs in organizations lacking diversity.
Alongside Campbell on the panel were other female politicians: Penny Collenette, former National Director of the Liberal Party of Canada and current uOttawa Professor of Law, as well as the 22-year-old Member of Parliament, Laurin Liu, of the riding of Rivière-de-Mille-Îles.
Campbell praised the feminist “movers and shakers,” like Liu, who continue to pursue equality, with the assistance of their teammates: male feminists. The struggle is not about women versus men, rather between men and women who “get it” versus the ones who don’t get it, she stated emphatically. She finished her speech with an anecdote: her colleague made her get specialized stationary that used the French female form of her title, proudly stating “La Premiere Ministre” on the letter head. “It’s in some box, likely over in Langevin Block,” she said, “and before it gets too old, too yellowed, it needs to be used again.” Thunderous applause erupted across the room to that call to action.
The panel that followed her moving speech included questions from Liu and Collenette who added anecdotes, and used their experiences to ask pointed questions. The prime minister discussed her legacy, which is often forgotten amongst the discussion of her short tenure, and the immense changes for her party that were occurring before, during, and after her time in office.
Many citizens may not realize her remarkable contributions, and thusly, her legacy in Canada. Besides from being Canada’s first, and so far only, female prime minister, Campbell was the very first female leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, the first female Minister of Defence and Minister of Justice, along with having held other significant portfolios throughout her time in Parliament. In her time as prime minister, she created important and enduring ministries, like the Department of Heritage and the Department of Public Security.
During Ms. Campbell’s tenure as Prime Minister in 1993, she had an approval rate of 51 per cent, which made her the most popular leader of the country in 30 years. Campbell spoke with great candour, humour, and resilience. She discussed the infamous negative ad campaigns, and what it feels like to lose everything for herself, and her party. The setbacks never got to her, not 20 years ago, and not today. Her perspective is admirable, as she proclaimed: “I don’t pretend I was the greatest Prime Minister. But I do have a legacy. I am the first woman Prime Minister, and that is a reflection of change in Canada.”
Happy birthday, Sir John A. Macdonald!
January 11th is Sir John A. Macdonald Day. Macdonald was Canada’s first Prime Minister and played an instrumental role in Canada’s confederation in 1867.
Impress your friends (and your teachers) with these interesting John A. Macdonald facts:
- John Alexander Macdonald was born on January 11th, 1815, in Glasgow, Scotland. The Macdonald family moved to Kingston, Ontario in 1820.
- In 1856, Macdonald became the Premier of Canada West (which later became the provinces of Ontario and Quebec).
- The 1864 Charlottetown Conference, which led to confederation, was originally designed to discuss only a union of Maritime provinces. MacDonald, and the other delegates from the Province of Canada, requested that the agenda be expanded to discuss a union of all provinces.
- Macdonald was elected as Canada’s first Prime Minister in 1867, representing the Liberal-Conservative Party.
- Macdonald was our second-longest serving Prime Minister (after William Lyon Mackenzie King). Macdonald led the country for a total of 19 years: from 1867 to 1873, and again from 1878 to 1891.
- Canada added several new provinces and territories to confederation under Macdonald’s watch: the Northwest Territories in 1869, Manitoba in 1870, British Columbia in 1871, and Prince Edward Island in 1873.
- The North-West Mounted Police were created under Macdonald’s watch in 1873. Today, we know our national police force as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
- The Canadian Pacific Railway was completed with Macdonald as Prime Minister in 1885, linking Canada from coast to coast.
- After winning re-election in 1891, Macdonald passed away at the age of 76. He remains the only Prime Minister to lie in state in the Senate chamber.
On November 16, Ontarians honour Louis Riel and the contributions he made to Métis communities across the country. Riel is a polarizing figure who, regardless of your viewpoint, has had a profound impact on Canadian history.
The Métis are an Aboriginal group in Canada with mixed First Nations and European heritage. Riel, a Métis leader and an elected Member of Parliament, played an important role in Manitoba becoming Canada’s fifth province.
However, Riel wanted to ensure that the Métis could enter Confederation while still protecting their culture from government interference. This unrest culminated in the Red River Rebellion of 1870.
Despite their resistance, the Métis were displaced as new settlers entered Manitoba and other prairie communities. Because of his involvement, Riel became a fugitive and was exiled to the United States. During this exile, Riel was elected to the House of Commons three times but was never able take his seat.
Riel returned to Canada in 1884 to join the Métis side against the government during the North-West Rebellion in Saskatchewan. The Métis surrendered to the federal forces and Riel was captured, charged, tried and ultimately executed for high treason on November 16th, 1885.
Regardless, Riel is viewed by many as a folk hero who defended the Métis in the face of an oppressive government. Several attempts have recently been made by the federal government to revoke his conviction.
Click here to watch a Heritage Minute about Riel.
In Manitoba, Louis Riel Day is celebrated in February.
We also wrote about Saskatchewan’s Tommy Douglas Day in October as part of our “Famous Canadians in Democracy” series of blogs.
October 20, on the anniversary of his birth, the province of Saskatchewan will be celebrating the 8th annual Tommy Douglas Day.
Thomas Clement Douglas served in elected public for much of his life. From 1935-1944 he served as the MP for Weyburn. Following this, he served as the 7th Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961, representing the Saskatchewan CCF. He then returned to federal politics, sitting as an MP from 1962-1979 in two different BC ridings, serving as the first leader of the New Democratic Party until 1971. During his time in office, he was instrumental in several innovations that Saskatchewan and Canada now rely on daily.
Under Douglas, Saskatchewan passed into law the first provincial Bill of Rights in Canada in 1947 (a year before the UN General Assembly). In Canada, it was the first law to protect against discrimination and to ensure that each person had the right to fair treatment.
Douglas was also instrumental in, and perhaps most well known for, establishing Canada’s first public hospitalization program in 1947, as well as the creation of Canada’s first Medicare program. He fought the 1960 general election primarily on the issue of universal state-run health insurance. This legislation did not end up passing until after Douglas had left office.
More recently, Tommy Douglas won the title of ‘Greatest Canadian’. In 2004, CBC Television held a public contest where people were asked to nominate and vote for who they thought was the greatest Canadian. Celebrities advocated for the top 10 finalists, before a grand reveal was made on air. Douglas placed ahead of Terry Fox (2nd) and Pierre Trudeau (3rd).
When driving through Weyburn last spring, Taylor and I stopped to remember the great man that Tommy Douglas was, and the priceless legacy he left for all Canadian people. Hopefully Canadians across the country and around the world will join with Saskatchewan in celebrating the life of Tommy Douglas on October 20, and will continue to be thankful for his many years of service.
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