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Last revised:
23 August 2000

Les Québécois, le clergé catholique et l'affaire des écoles du Manitoba / Quebecers, the Catholic Clergy and the Manitoba School Question, 1890-1916

Laurier's "Sunny Way"

[Note from the editor: In the fall of 1895, as the federal conservative government moved progressively further toward compulsion on the Manitoba school issue, and the Remedial Order seemed to have failed to bring about an end to the controversy, Laurier enunciated for the first time his policy of the "Sunny Way". He used one of Aesop's fable as a metaphor for the current situation. In the fable, the sun and the wind are having an argument as to which is the more powerful. The matter is to be decided by attempting to disrobe a traveller coming along. To win, the wind, a metaphor for the conservative government, starts blustering to blow the coat away, but the more the wind blows, the more the man clings to his coat; in the end the wind is unsuccessful. The sun, for its part, shines brightly, warmly and gently on the individual who readily removes his coat; the soft touch and diplomatic ways of the sun came out the winner. So, presumably, would Laurier's suggestion that diplomacy, gentleness and compromise would win the day in resolving appropriately the school issue to the satisfaction of all concerned.

It was in Morrisburg, Ontario, on October 8, 1895, that Laurier first used the fable to illustrate his point. It was an image that caught the imagination and would have great success. He used it frequently in and out of the House of Commons.]


"The government instead of investigating the subject, proceeded to render - what shall I call it? - an order in council they called it, commanding Manitoba in most violent language to do a certain thing, to restore the schools or they wwould see the consequences. Manitoba answered as I supposed every man approached as the government of Manitoba was approached, would answer; Manitoba answered it by saying, 'We will not be coerced.' I ask you now, would it not have been more fair, more just, more equitable, more statesmanlike, at once to investigate the subject, and to bring the parties together to hear them, to have the faccts brought out so as to see whether a case had been made out for interference or not? That is the position I have taken in the province of Quebec. That is the position I take in the province of Ontario. I have never wavered from that position.


Well, sir, the government are very windy. They have blown and raged and theatened, but the more they have theatened and raged and blown the more that man Greenway has stuck to his coat. If it were in my power, I would try the sunny way. I would approach this man Greenway with the sunny way of patriotism, asking him to be just and to be fair, asking him to be generous to the minority, in order that we may have peace among all the creeds and races which it has pleased God to bring upon this corner of our common country. Do you not believe that there is more to be gained by appealing to the heart and soul of men rather than to compel them to do a thing?

The government is not very anxious to have my opinion as a rule. When they gerrymandered Canada in 1882 they did not consult any of the Liberals. When they passed the franchise act they did not consult any of the Liberals. But upon this question they want to consult me and to have my views. Here they have them. Let them act upon them and we will be in accord; but more than that I will not do. I will not say that I will support the policy of Sir Mackenzie Bowell until I know what that policy is, and then when we have it in black and white it will be time for me to speak upon it. Let the mininsterial press abuse me all they can […] I will not come out until I choose my time."


Source : Oscar Douglas Skelton, Life and Letters of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Vol. 1, Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1921, 485p., pp. 464-465.


© 2000 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College