Sir Wilfrid Laurier National Historic Site of Canada
Compromise, Laurier's Approach to Solving Conflicts
British Colonial Secretary Chamberlain and the Colonial Prime Ministers
© National Archives of Canada / 1897/C-1867
Throughout his career, compromise would remain the main political strategy Laurier used to settle conflicts. A staunch defender of national unity, he was called on to solve a series of major controversies which set Canadians against one another. As soon as he took office in 1896, he was confronted with the particularly sensitive issue of school organization in Manitoba, where the provincial government had denied the rights of the French-speaking minority. Laurier proposed a halfway solution which only partially assuaged francophone and anglophone groups.
Laurier also ventured a compromise solution to the issues surrounding the 1899 Boer War, a conflict which pitted Great Britain against two small colonies of Dutch descendants in South Africa. Whereas the English-Canadian imperialists made it a point of honour to defend the "mother country". French-Canadian nationalists saw no reason to take part in a conflict that posed no threat to the Dominion. Laurier attempted to please everyone. He agreed to send 1000 volunteers to South Africa on the condition that the costs of their participation be defrayed by the British army upon their arrival in Africa.