Friday 17 February 2017

Remembering Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir Wilfrid Laurier was Canada’s seventh prime minister. His tenure as the first francophone PM – from July 11, 1896, to October 6, 1911 – is currently the longest unbroken term of office for Canada's leader. He still holds the record for the longest-serving leader of a major Canadian political party. During his time as PM, Laurier oversaw the building of another transcontinental railway; added two new provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, to the Dominion; and encouraged immigration to Western Canada. Though he certainly had his opposers (such as the Catholic population during the Manitoba Schools Question in that province), Laurier was known as an energetic orator and a fervent proponent of keeping the French and English parts of the country united.

Laurier served in the House of Commons during the episcopacies of five of Toronto's Archbishops. He was first elected to the House of Commons when Archbishop Lynch was Toronto's ordinary. Laurier became PM while Walsh was Archbishop and continued through both O'Connor and McEvay. He died of a stroke at age 77 on February 17, 1919, during McNeil's time as Archbishop.

The Archives has a few documents in its collection about and from Laurier. In this letter to Archbishop O'Connor, typed on Privy Council Canada letterhead, Laurier discusses the claim of one Mr. Moylan:

December 13, 1901
O AB03.28
Archbishop O'Connor fonds

The following is a letter written on Prime Minister's Office letterhead to Archbishop McEvay from Laurier expressing his condolences that he must miss McEvay's installation as Archbishop:

June 16, 1908
ME AA02.22
Archbishop McEvay fonds

This is the cover of the program for Laurier's mass and funeral service held at Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica in Ottawa, February 22, 1919:

MN AH08.18
Archbishop McNeil fonds

Library and Archives Canada posted this video of Laurier's funeral procession and burial, which shows just a few of the fifty thousand people who lined the streets of Ottawa that day to pay their respects:

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