Any discussion of Canada during the early 20th century would not be complete without including Henri Bourassa. Bourassa was outspoken and not afraid to fight for his beliefs.
Bourassa was born in Quebec in 1868, a little more than a year after the formation of Canada. He entered politics in his early 20s and was elected to the House of Commons in 1896. Bourassa was often at odds with fellow Québécois Wilfred Laurier whom Bourassa believed catered too much to Britain.
The animosity was so great, Bourassa resigned from office when he disagreed over Laurier’s compromise concerning the Boer War. Britain had requested Canada’s involvement, but many at home were opposed. Laurier suggested that Canadian men could serve voluntarily.
Bourassa returned to public office in 1900 but remained an advocate for Canadian autonomy. Despite being Catholic, he opposed the church having any involvement in government or policy.
Bourassa left public office once again, but remained a thorn in Laurier’s side for years. He continued to believe Laurier was too English and opposed most of the prime minister’s decisions. This potentially contributed to Laurier’s defeat in 1911.
During World War I, Bourassa opposed both Canadian participation in the conflict and conscription.
He returned to federal office for a 10-year period starting in 1925. He advocated for isolationism during the 1930s and was against conscription during World War II.
Bourassa died in 1952.
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Updated: 28 October 2020
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