Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
August 2004

Biographies of Prominent Quebec and Canadian

Historical Figures

John Stephen Willison



Damien-Claude Bélanger

Department of History

McGill University

Journalist, was born at Hills Green, Canada West. He was educated locally. He began his career in journalism in 1881 at the London Advertiser and joined the staff of the Toronto Globe in 1883. From 1890 to 1902 he was editor-in-chief of the Globe. Though Willison had been drifting away from the Liberal Party for some time, he published a masterful biography of Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1903 (Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Liberal Party. A Political History, 2 vol.). He broke with the party in 1904 when he learned that Laurier planned to make provisions for separate schools in the Alberta and Saskatchewan Acts. Moreover, Willison's growing support for Imperial federation could not be reconciled with Laurier's disapproval of the scheme. In 1901 he left the Liberal Globe to become the editor of the Toronto News, and became the Canadian correspondent for the London Times in 1910. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1900. On the recommendation of the Borden government, he was made a knight bachelor in 1913. A liberal imperialist - he was a founding member of the Round Table movement in Canada -, Sir J. S. Willison was keenly interested in Canada's external relations and in Imperial affairs. In 1925 he founded Willison's Monthly: A National Magazine Devoted to the Discussion of Public Affairs Affecting Canada and the Empire. The journal was absorbed by the Canadian Forum in 1929. Willison's interest in Canadian-American relations found its expression in several pamphlets and articles. In 1911 he strongly opposed the proposed reciprocal trade agreement with the United States.





© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College