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Laurier and Canada’s Five Dollar Bill

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir Wilfrid Laurier and his secretary, Mr. Boudrias, in his study, 1897 / LibraryArchives: Flickr Creative Commons

In honour of our country turning 150 this year, I decided to post 150 blogs about Canada. Between procrastination and putting out some fires, my Canada 150 blog posts took a little nap.

When the idea first came to me, I thought I’d start with the paper money. Queen Elizabeth is on our $20 bill because she is the country’s official head of state; John A. appears on the $10 note presumably because he was our first PM; but why the other three? Just for fun, during the months of February and March, every time I went to the bank, I’d ask the tellers if they knew who was on the obverse side of Canada’s bills. No one I asked knew, so I felt better about my oblivious state.

However, I am not so oblivious now. Sir Wilfrid Laurier was born in 1841 in Saint-Lin, Quebec, on Nov. 20th. Essentially an introvert and plagued by various illnesses and health issues for most of his life, he didn’t let obstacles get in his way. Called to the bar 1n 1864, his political career spanned over 45 years.

Reasons Sir Wilfrid appears on the five-dollar bill since 1969 include:

  • Canada’s seventh prime minister, 11 July 1896 to 6 October 1911
  • first bilingual political leader
  • only prime minister to serve a consecutive 15-year term
  • first prime minister to be born to parents who had been born in Lower Canada (now Quebec)
  • knighted in 1897 when attending Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee

Other interesting (to me) tidbits about Laurier are: he married Zoe Lafontaine in 1868; elected to the National Assembly as a member of the Liberal Party; and was the leader of the Liberal Party for thirty-nine years, from 1887 until his death. He died in Ottawa on February 17, 1919, at the age of 77.


  1. History of the Liberal Party of Canada
  2. History Spotlight: Sir Wilfrid Laurier
  3. Wilfrid Laurier
  4. A Few Facts about Sir Wilfrid Laurier
  5. Sir Wilfrid Laurier

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