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Memorable Manitobans: Clifford Sifton (1861-1929)

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Clifford Sifton
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Lawyer, MLA (1888-1892), MLA (1892-1895), MLA (1896), MP (1896-1900), MP (1900-1904), MP (1904-1908), MP (1908-1911).

Born in Middlesex County, Ontario on 10 March 1861, son of John Wright Sifton and Kate Watkins (c1834-1909), brother of Arthur Lewis Sifton, he was educated at London High School, Boy’s College (Dundas), and Victoria University (Cobourg). He was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1882 and practiced as a lawyer at Brandon.

He was first elected to the Manitoba Legislature for North Brandon in 1888, re-elected in 1891, 1892, and 1896 general elections, and served as Attorney General and Minister of Education from 1891 to 1896. While in office, he introduced and carried through the act abolishing divisions between law and equity procedure in the Court of King’s Bench and codifying and simplifying civil procedure. He was responsible for dealing with the federal government over the Manitoba School Question, and was a constant opponent of the principle of separate schools. He resigned his seat when, in November 1896, he was appointed to the Federal Cabinet and elected in a by-election.

Sifton holding the federal portfolios of Minister of the Interior and Superintendant-General of Indian Affairs. In 1898 he introduced and carried through legislation giving responsible government to North-West Territories. He is associated with an aggressive immigration policy that brought many settlers, including those from eastern Europe, to the Prairie region. He was elected for the City of Brandon in the 1900 federal election, being re-elected in 1904 and 1908. He resigned from the government in February 1905, on account of differences of opinion over educational clauses of the NWT Autonomy Bill that created the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. Although he broke with the Liberals over reciprocity in 1911, as owner of the Manitoba Free Press, he continued to have an influential voice in Canadian affairs, and was awarded a knighthood.

On 13 August 1884, he married Elizabeth Armanella Burrows (1861-1925, daughter of Henry T. Burrows and sister to Theodore Arthur Burrows) at Winnipeg, with whom he had five sons: John Wright Sifton, Winfield Burrows Sifton (1890-1928), Henry Arthur “Harry” Sifton (1891-1934), Clifford Sifton (1893-1976), and Wilfred Victor Sifton. He was a founding member, in 1905, of the St. Charles Country Club.

He died at New York City on 17 April 1929 and was buried in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, Ontario. His papers are in Library and Archives Canada. He was inducted posthumously into the Manitoba Business Hall of Fame (2013).

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Sir Clifford Sifton Plaque (Ninth Street, Brandon)

Review: D. J. Hall, Cifford Sifton, Volume One, The Young Napoleon, 1861-1900 by Lovell Clark
Manitoba History, Number 4, 1982

For a favourable biography, see Clifford Sifton in Relation to His Times by J. W. Dafoe (1931). A more balanced effort is David Hall’s Clifford Sifton (1981, 1985). (2 volumes).


Birth and marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.

Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.

“Sir Clifford Sifton dies suddenly,” Manitoba Free Press, 18 April 1929, page 1.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

Descendants of George Sparks, Family-Search.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 23 September 2023

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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