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John Wesley Dafoe

John Wesley Dafoe
Born(1866-03-08)March 8, 1866
DiedJanuary 10, 1944(1944-01-10) (aged 77)[1]
Years active1883–1944
TitleEditor of the Manitoba Free Press (1901–1944)
Alice Parmalee
(m. 1890)

John Wesley Dafoe (8 March 1866 – 9 January 1944) was a Canadian journalist. From 1901 to 1944 he was the editor of the Manitoba Free Press,[2] later named the Winnipeg Free Press. He also wrote several books, including a biography of Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

Dafoe was one of the country's most influential and powerful journalists. During his tenure, the Free Press was among the most important newspapers in Canada and was considered one of the great newspapers of the world. His influence extended to the very centre of Canadian power, both through his writing and his close relations with his employers, the Liberal Sifton family.

In 1919, he did not give unqualified support to the Business side during the strong Labour-Capital confrontation that was the Winnipeg General strike.

He claimed credit for his paper that Winnipeg adopted Single Transferable Voting for city elections in 1920.[3]

Dafoe accompanied Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King to several imperial conferences and was asked by the Prime Minister to sit on the Rowell–Sirois Commission studying federal–provincial relations. Dafoe opposed appeasement of fascist dictators and urged the government to prepare for a major war, which he accurately predicted would begin in 1939.

He advocated free trade policies.

He refused a consular position in Washington, a knighthood, and a seat in the Senate of Canada. He also declined to stand for Parliament.[1]

His son, Edwin Dafoe, became managing editor of the Free Press and his grandson, John Dafoe, became the editor of The Montreal Star and later editorial page editor of the Winnipeg Free Press. His grandson Christopher Dafoe was editor of The Beaver. His daughter, Julie Annette Elizabeth Dafoe, was Head Librarian of the University of Manitoba from 1937 to 1960 (its main library now bears her name).[4]


  • Over the Canadian Battlefields (1919)
  • Laurier: A Study in Canadian Politics (1922)
  • Canada: An American Nation (1935)


  1. ^ a b "Dafoe Foundation Home". Archived from the original on April 26, 2012. Retrieved 2011-12-07. born in Combermere in the Ottawa Valley on March 8, 1866 to homesteading "rock farmers" Calvin and Mary Dafoe. Farm poverty forced Calvin to lumber jacking. At 13, young Dafoe was sent to school in Arnprior, return to teach at 15 at Bark Lake, 20km from the homestead. In 1883, Dafoe put the classroom behind him and became a cub reporter at the Montreal Star, under editor Hugh Graham. Within a year he was flung into the political environment as parliamentary correspondent for the Star. He moved from the Montreal Star in 1885 to become editor of the Ottawa Evening Star, within six months had been snapped up to take a job as a reporter at the then-Manitoba Free Press. Dafoe married Alice Parmalee in 1890 after a seven-year friendship dating from his early days in Ottawa. They had seven children. Dafoe so like the prairies he encouraged his family to up-stakes in Combermere and move west. They settled in Killarney. But Dafoe had not found his slot. He was wooed away to the Montreal Herald for two years. But when the Herald went bankrupt and the fill-in jobs didn't appeal, the couple returned to Winnipeg with a good contract from Sifton that gave him full editorial control of the newspaper, which included unqualified support for free trade (contrary to his owner's position). Dafoe was at the Peace Conference in Paris in 1919, when the violence of the Winnipeg Strike burst onto the streets. But he made his position felt editorially and it didn't favor big unionism. He was perceived as siding with the community's elite and his reference to immigrant "aliens" painted him with a streak of intolerance not uncharacteristic of the successful British stock, which lived in comparative privilege. Dafoe died at 77 on Jan. 10, 1944, having filled the editor's chair for 44 years. He made the paper one of the most respected in the world for his positions on the Treaty of Versailles, the League of Nations, the British Commonwealth's formation, the shame of "peace with honor", the travesties of Japan in China and its much later attack on Pearl Harbor, the horrors of Hitler and Mussolini and Canada's role in processing the world war. Tributes from around the world filled the paper.
  2. ^ Douglas Fetherling. "John Wesley Dafoe". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on October 4, 2013. Retrieved October 3, 2013.
  3. ^ Dafoe-Sifton Correspondence 1919-1927, Nov. 10, 1920
  4. ^ "Elizabeth Dafoe Library - About | Libraries | University of Manitoba". Retrieved 2023-09-25.

Further reading

Media related to John Wesley Dafoe at Wikimedia Commons

Academic offices Preceded bySamuel Matheson Chancellor of the University of Manitoba 1934–1944 Succeeded byAndrew Knox Dysart Professional and academic associations Preceded byHarold Innis President of theCanadian Political Science Association 1938–1939 Succeeded byJ. C. Hemmeon

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John Wesley Dafoe
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