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Memorable Manitobans: Sterling Rufus Lyon (1927-2010)

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Sterling Rufus Lyon
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Lawyer, MLA (1958-1959), MLA (1959-1962), MLA (1963-1966), MLA (1966-1969), MLA (1973-1977), MLA (1977-1981), Premier of Manitoba (1977-1981), MLA (1982-1986), judge.

Born at Windsor, Ontario on 30 January 1927, son of David Rufus Lyon and Ella Mae Cuthbert, his family moved to Portage la Prairie when he was young. He was educated at Portage Collegiate Institute, United College (Winnipeg, BA 1948) and the Manitoba Law School (Winnipeg, LLB 1953). He served as Crown Attorney for the Province of Manitoba from 1953 to 1957. After entering private law practice in 1957, he acted as defence counsel in the noted North West Territories murder trial of Regina v. Kikkik. He was made a Queen’s Counsel in 1960.

He was first elected to the Manitoba Legislature at the 1958 general election and was re-elected in 1959, 1962, 1966, 1973, 1976, 1977, and 1982. Appointed Attorney-General in June 1958 and Minister of Public Utilities in November 1961, he served as Premier of Manitoba from 1977 to 1981. In the 1974 federal general election, he stood as a Progressive Conservative candidate for the Winnipeg South constituency but was defeated by Liberal incumbent James Richardson. He played a role in the 1982 patriation of Canada’s Constitution and the development of the Charter of Rights and Freedom, including the inclusion of the notwithstanding clause in the Charter which preserves the supremacy of Parliament with respect to constitutional matters. After being voted out of provincial office in 1981, he remained as Leader of the Opposition until 1983. In December 1986 he was appointed to the Manitoba Court of Appeal, serving until retirement in 2002.

On 26 September 1953, he married Barbara Jean Mayers (?-2006), daughter of Garnet Mayers of Gladstone. They had five children. A hunter and conservationist, he was a long-standing member of the Delta Waterfowl Foundation and an honourary life member of the Manitoba Wildlife Federation. In recognition of his public service, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal (1977) and Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002), and was inducted into the Order of Manitoba (2002) and the Order of Canada (2009).

He died at Winnipeg on 16 December 2010. He is commemorated by the Sterling Lyon Parkway in Winnipeg.

See also:

“Sterling R. Lyon, 1977-1981 ” by David Stewart and Jared Wesley in Manitoba Premiers of the 19th and 20th Centuries, edited by Barry Ferguson and Robert Wardhaugh, Canadian Plains Research Centre, 2010.


“Lyon-Mayers vows made at Westminster Saturday,” Winnipeg Free Press, 30 September 1953, page 22.

“Lyon finally makes it—He’s a Q.C.,” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 April 1960. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B12, page 7]

The Canadian Parliamentary Guide, 1962.

Obituary [Barbara Jean Lyon], Winnipeg Free Press, 30 October 2006.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 18 December 2010.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 21 March 2020

Memorable Manitobans

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