Have you ever looked at the picture on a $5 bill? It’s of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Is it possible that quite near you there’s a museum, a historical site, a street, a school, a school board or a Metro station with the name Wilfrid Laurier or even just Laurier? His name is a part of so many places, buildings and organizations because Sir Wilfrid Laurier did many important things for Canada.

Wilfrid Laurier was Canada’s first Francophone prime minister. He was prime minister from 1896 to 1911. He became head of the Liberal Party in 1887 and stayed head until his death in 1919. His ability to speak both French and English helped make him popular throughout all of Canada.

Canada was entering a period of prosperity when Laurier became prime minister. and he was very optimistic about Canada’s future. He believed that the 19th century had belonged to the United States but that the 20th century belonged to Canada. He defended Canada’s interests against those of the United States and England. He hoped for Canada to be a powerful country. He also strived to unite all Canadians, whether they were Francophone, Anglophone, Catholic or Protestant born here or elsewhere. He always looked for the best solution, compromise, to help Canadians live in harmony.

His government encouraged immigration and favored the development of railroads. During his term, two new transcontinental railroads were constructed.  In addition, the arrival of many immigrants and the development of Western Canada led to the creation of two new provinces in 1905: Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Author:   Service national du Récit de l’univers social