John Wesley Dafoe

(1866—1944) journalist in Canada

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(1866–1944). As editor of the Manitoba (later Winnipeg) Free Press from 1901, Dafoe established himself as one of the great editors of his age. Ideologically he was a liberal, and politically an independent Liberal. An admirer of Wilfrid Laurier's masterful skills at brokering ‘sunny’ political compromises, he reluctantly broke with him over conscription in 1917. Dafoe's support for Laurier's successor, Mackenzie King, was never automatic. A committed nationalist, Dafoe tirelessly advocated Canadian autonomy and full participation in collective security through the League of Nations. A principled but lonely stand against appeasement during the 1938 Munich crisis ultimately earned him lasting respect among Canadian internationalists. Despite aspiring to be the west's voice, Dafoe was increasingly out of touch with the populist and collectivist leanings of prairie farmers. The region's gradual economic decline also undermined his national influence. Service on the Royal Commission on Dominion–Provincial Relations (Rowell-Sirois, 1937–4) opened his eyes to grim Depression conditions and, reluctantly, the lifelong economic liberal embraced the need for a modest social welfare state. Dafoe's commitment to journalistic independence and professionalism and his mentoring of a brilliant generation of newspapermen, including George Ferguson, Grant Dexter, and Bruce Hutchison, are his most lasting contributions.

From The Oxford Companion to Canadian History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: History of the Americas.

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