Thin lamprophyre dykes are abundant in the vicinity of the ca. 1.1 Ga Midcontinent Rift System and the late Archean – Early Proterozoic Kapuskasing Uplift in the Canadian Shield northeast of Lake Superior. However, the relationship between these dykes and spatially associated alkalic-carbonatite complexes has been unclear. To ascertain the temporal relationship between the two, we have determined, by 40Ar/39Ar and U–Pb dating, precise emplacement ages for six lamprophyre dykes from the region. The Ma U–Pb date for perovskite from the western Marathon and Wawa areas is indistinguishable from the 1144 ± 7 Ma 40Ar/39Ar date for phlogopite from the eastern Kapuskasing Uplift, and it is concluded that these dykes are part of a regional 1.14 Ga swarm that extends over 300 km. These dykes were therefore emplaced some 35 Ma prior to the 1109 Ma commencement of Midcontinent Rift volcanism and coeval alkaline-complex activity, but essentially simultaneously with emplacement of the 1141 ± 2 Ma Abitibi diabase dyke swarm. It is suggested that these widespread 1144 Ma lamprophyre dykes and the Abitibi diabase dykes represent the first magmatic response of initiation of the Midcontinent rifting event, and were precursors to the main rift magmatism at 1109 Ma.