A Liberal with a New Vision
During this period, freedom and political commitment were inseparable from the man. Laurier’s words were based on the concepts of harmony and the union of races. Indeed, they were part of his values on a daily basis. Wilfrid Laurier had an open mind and a wish for inclusion that was quite rare among politicians of his era. He established a new vision for his country. During his first years at the head of the country, he distanced himself from his predecessors on many issues, in particular the subject of Canada’s independence from the British Empire.
Wilfrid Laurier was convinced that Canada should become increasingly independent from England. From his earliest mandates as a Member of Parliament, he acted accordingly. Canada had to stand apart and assume its independence through its decisions and positions.
One of the earliest landmark decisions during Laurier’s first mandate was to distance Canada from England on the issue of Canadian involvement in British military conflicts. Laurier travelled to London during the summer of 1897 to discuss military projects involving the British dominions and England. Before all the representatives of the dominions and British colonies, he took a stance to maintain the status quo and rejected London’s proposal regarding participation in the imperial federation.
During this first trip to England, Wilfrid Laurier was knighted Sir by Queen Victoria on June 22, 1897. The title troubled him because he received it while trying to distance himself from England. He tried not to make much of it upon his return to Canada.
Laurier also stood apart from his predecessors regarding his position on religion. He advocated a distinction between politics and religion in decision making. He encouraged religious tolerance where everyone was free to worship as they wished in the manner that they wished.
"So long as I have a seat in this House, so long as I occupy the position I do now, whenever it shall become my duty to take a stand upon any question whatever, that stand I will take, not from the point of view of Roman Catholicism, not from the point of view of Protestantism, but from a point of view which can appeal to the consciences of all men, irrespective of their particular faith, upon grounds which can be occupied by all men who love justice, freedom, and toleration.” March 3, 1896
He sought to defend what was just and moral for men of good will, regardless of their origin and religion.
The Desire to Govern for All
During his first mandate as Prime Minister, Wilfrid Laurier governed as much for Francophone Canadians as for Anglophone residents. Language was not a factor of distinction for him. All citizens warranted representation in the same manner and, above all, deference to their beliefs and religious backgrounds.
In this respect, it was unquestionable to Laurier that all Canadian citizens were entitled to clearly express their opinion. They were free to try to influence a group, but under no terms might they impose their opinion on this same group.
“The constitution, as I have already said, intends that the opinion of each be freely expressed as it is held at the time of its expression.” June 26, 1877