Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Earl of Aberdeen

Picture from Canada History

The Earl of Aberdeen, Sir John Campbell Hamilton Gordon, was governor general from 1893 to 1898. His era included the early days of the trans-continental CPR, the Manitoba schools crisis, and the Yukon gold rush. Lord Aberdeen served under Prime Ministers John Thompson, Mackenzie Bowell, Charles Tupper, and Wilfrid Laurier.

Before Aberdeen was appointed governor-general, he and Lady Aberdeen purchased a property called Coldstream Ranch in the Okanagan near Vernon. Lord Aberdeen, who could speak Gaelic, was also fond of touring in the Maritimes, where he could speak to Scottish settlers and descendants.

In 1898, Lady Aberdeen established the Victorian Order of Nurses in Canada. This organization, which was devoted to home care, still plays a part in Canadian health care. Lady Aberdeen was also the first to hold the post of president of the International Council of Women. This group was founded in 1888.

The Aberdeens came to know and love Canada. Rather than behave as representatives of a distant foreign crown, they toured widely and tried to bring their roles closer to the Canadian people.

The Earl of Minto and his Lady

4th Earl of Minto wikipedia

From 1898 to 1904, the Earl of Minto was governor general of Canada. In his first tour of duty, as Aide-de-camp to General Middleton, he helped suppress the Northwest Rebellion. Later, he declined the command of the North West Mounted Police (forerunner of the RCMP) and returned to England.                  

While Lord Minto was at the helm, Canadian experienced great economic growth. The new nation was bringing in a lot of new immigrants. Meanwhile, tension over fishing disputes with the US increased feelings of Canadian nationalism.

After reigning for sixty-four years, Queen Victoria died in 1901, and the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, who were about to become King George V and Queen Mary, toured western Canada, including the Klondike, with Lady Minto.

It was Lord Minto who created Canada's National Archives (now Library and Archives Canada.) They also established the Minto Skating Club, and Lord Minto, a lacrosse player, gave his name to the Canadian Lacrosse Association championship award, which became the Minto Cup.

Lord Minto also placed importance on public health, and established Canada's first anti- tuberculosis foundation.

Before coming to Canada, Lord Minto served in military roles all over the British Empire. He also took great interest in Canada's military, and encouraged training and development within it. He was appointed honorary Lieutenant-Colonel, and later Colonel of the Governor General's Regiment, the Foot Guards, in 1898. The tradition of appointing governors-general to this post continues until today. Lord Minto was Viceroy of India from 1905 to 1910. On his return to England, he was appointed Knight of the Garter.                    

Lady Caroline Minto was the sister of Earl Grey, who was the next governor general. An honorary president of the Victorian Order of Nurses, she campaigned and fund-raised for improving health care in rural areas, and established a building fund that paid for the construction of 43 cottage hospitals in remote parts of the country.

All were originally named for her, and for the communities where they were located. Lady Minto Gulf Islands Hospital on Salt Spring Island, established in 1913, is the only one of these that still bears her name.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Earl Grey

Photo from Nova Scotia Railway Heritage

The 4th Earl Grey was the first of the governors general to visit Newfoundland. Thought it wasn't part of Canada yet, he did issue an invitation to join. Newfoundlanders didn't so so till nearly 40 years later, in 1949 to be exact.

The brother-in-law of Lord Minto, the previous governor general, Grey was the son of a secretary to Queen Victoria. He was born in St. James's Palace and educated at Harrow and then Trinity College Cambridge.

Earl Grey was a strong supporter of the British Empire, and he toured its possessions extensively. He was a close friend of the diamond magnate Cecil Rhodes, who appointed him Commissioner to Zimbabwe (then called Rhodesia).

A product of the British aristocratic schooling traditions, Lord Grey took a great interest in sports, and instituted the iconic Grey Cup for the winners of the CFL finals each year.

During his tenure, the 300th anniversary of Quebec city was celebrated, and Grey took part enthusiastically. He arranged to have the Plains of Abraham dedicated as a national park and was instrumental in preserving other historic sites as well.

Because he enjoyed his Canadian post and was popular here, his term was extended. Governor-General Earl Grey served from 1904 to 1911.

He was not, however, the Earl Grey of the tea. That honour belongs to an ancestor, Charles, the 2nd Earl Grey, who served as the Prime Minister of Britain in the 1830s. According to the Oxford dictionary, the name of the tea, a mixture of black tea and bergamot, did not come into common use until the early 20th century.

HRH the Duke of Connaught

Picture from Canada History

The Duke of Connaught was a prince, the last son of Queen Victoria and the tenth governor general of Canada. The first member of the Royal family to hold the post, he was appointed in 1911 and served until 1916.

In September 1915, Governor-General Prince Arthur the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn visited Vernon, BC; he can be seen on horseback in this picture from the Royal British Columbia Museum.

The Duke of Connaught was familiar with Canada long before he was posted here as head of state. In 1870 he served in the Royal Marines in Montreal took part in suppressing the Red River uprising.

In 1890, he travelled across Canada en route home from India, and Port Arthur in Ontario was named in his honour. (In 1970 this city was amalgamated with Fort William under the name of Thunder Bay. This city is now the western terminus of the Great-Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway. Formerly it was home to a fur trading fort of the North West Company. Before that, it was the territory of the Ojibwe (Anishnabe) nation.

Prince Arthur the Duke of Connaught was a Freemason. Between 1901 and 1939 he served as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Duke of Devonshire

Photo from wikipedia

Victor Cavendish, the 9th Duke of Devonshire, was born when Canada was just a year old, and sworn in as Governor General in 1916, halfway through World War I.

Appointed by King George V, the Duke of Devonshire held the post from 1916 to 1921. Prime Minister Robert Borden was displeased because he had not been consulted about the choice. Even though the Sovreign had no legal obligation to consult the Canadian prime minister on this matter, it has already become the accepted practice.

The Duke's term was a time of social upheaval. Shortly after his arrival in Canada, Parliament introduced conscription. The crisis that followed led to a serious rift between English and French Canadians.

During and after WWI, Canadian women were first given the right to vote.The Military Voters Act of 1917 granted suffrage to nurses and women in the armed forces, and the Wartime Election Act extended this right to women whose husbands, fathers, or sons were serving overseas. Finally, in 1919, all women over the age of 21 gained the right to vote. During the war, the Duchess of Devonshire opened a hospital for Canadian soldiers at Buxton.

When the war was over, the veterans flooded back to Canada only to find high inflation and few jobs. Seeing how capitalists had profited from the war at their expense, returned soldiers who were now working men began to demand better wages and working conditions as well as jobs. In May of 1919, the Winnipeg building and metal workers struck for higher wages, and two weeks later the Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council called for a general strike.

A landowner in England, the Duke was very interested in farming and other horticultural matters. He talked to farmers and visited agricultural fairs around Canada and sugaring-off parties in the Gatineau hills. The Duchess of Devonshire (who was the daughter of a previous governor general, Lord Lansdowne) was the first to plant a ceremonial tree (a sugar maple) in the grounds of Rideau Hall.

Having grown up in Canada, the Duchess enjoyed skating and tobogganing, and the Devonshires also developed the gardens of the governor general's official residence and added tennis courts. The Duke particularly enjoyed the time the couple spent in the Quebec residence at La Citadelle.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lord Byng

Photo of Lord Byng from Collections Canada

During World War I, Julian Byng man was a cavalry officer who was appointed the commander of the Canadian Corps. He directed the charge against Vimy Ridge, a battle won by Canadians.

The appointment of Lord Byng in 1921 was the first time the British government had formally consulted Canada before sending out a governor general.

Prime Minister Arthur Meighen wanted a civilian in the role, but Byng was appointed for reasons of availability. The next prime minister, Mackenzie King, liked Byng at first, but in 1926 a set-to ensued between them.

In power with a minority government, Mackenzie King asked Byng to dissolve parliament so a new election could be held. Byng refused because there was a motion of censure under debate  in the House at the time, and there was no constitutional precedent for a dissolution when this type of motion was on the floor. The Prime Minisher was obliged to resign, and Byng asked Conservative leader Meighen to form a government. At the next election later that same year, the Liberals were returned to power once more. Under Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, the Liberals retained power till 1930.

The King-Byng affair, a perceived interference in the governing of the country caused bitterly hard feelings, and eventually led to changes in the role of the governor general in Canada and other Dominions. Meanwhile, Byng completed his term of office and left the country the same year under a cloud of disapproval. The King Byng affair was recapped on CBC Radio in 2010.

In West Point Grey in the City of Vancouver, a public swimming pool and a secondary school named after Lord Byng

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Viscount Willingdon

Picture from Canada History

The Viscount Willingdon, who could be called a career governor for the many posts he held, served as Canada's governor general from 1926 to 1931.

His name was Freeman Freeman-Thomas and he was born in 1866 in Ratton, Sussex. After his education at Eton and then Trinity College Cambridge, Willingdon served the governor of Australia as an aide-de-camp in the mid 1890s.

Upon returning to the UK, he won a seat as a Liberal member of parliament, first for Hastings and then for Bodmin. In 1910 he was raised to a Baron and given a seat in the House of Lords.

From 1913 to the end of World War I, he served as governor of the Indian province of Bombay; following this, he was governor of Madras until 1924. He and Lady Willingdon lost their elder son to WWI.

When Willingdon was appointed, he was on a diplomatic mission in China. When he took up his post, a new era was beginning. Following the 1926 Imperial Conference, the Dominion of Canada was embarking on a more independent national life, and Willingdon was the first governor general to take advice from Canadian ministers, rather than seeing himself as an agent of the British crown.

Mackenzie King, also a Liberal, chose Willingdon for the role, and he was also the first to make an official visit to the United States. There he was greeted by Vincent Massey, who would later become the governor general himself.

Under the Willingdon aegis, new Art Competitions began. Added to the music and drama awards established by his predecessor Earl Grey, these were intended to encourage excellence in painting and sculpture.

July 1927 was Canada's sixtieth anniversary and  a new carillon was added to the iconic Peace Tower at the Parliament buildings, then called the Victoria Tower.

An athletic type, this Head of State encouraged all kinds of sports at Rideau Hall; indeed, he had once been a regular tennis partner of King George V. 

As Governor General, he expressed concern about American penetration of the American economy and media into Canadian life (Archontology).

When he left Canada, he went immediately to India to serve as Viceroy and Governor-General there and stayed till 1936. He died in London in 1941.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Earl of Bessborough

Photo from The Peerage

From 1931-1935, Sir Vere Brabazon Ponsonby, the 9th Earl of Bessborough, served as Governor General of Canada.

When Bessborough was installed in office, the event was broadcast on the radio, a first. It was also during his time in office that the CBC was created.

In 1932, he inauguarated the first trans-Canada telephone system and spoke to the Lieutenant Governor of each province from his study in Rideau Hall. Under his direction, a direct telephone link was created between his office and that of Prime Minister RB Bennett.

Bessborough served during the the Great Depression that followed the stock market crash of 1929. The Hungry Thirties was a harsh time for Canadians. Unemployment was rife, and the plight of the farmers was complicated by a ten-year drought that saw the precious prairie soil blown into the air in great dark clouds. In the Dirty Thirties, men rode the rails looking for work. The On to Ottawa Trek took place in 1935 .

Farmers who had cars couldn't afford gas, so they hitched up horses to pull them. This unique form of transportation was called the Bennett Buggy, an ironic criticism of the Prime Minister for his failure to alleviate the extensive problems caused by the depressed economy.

In an effort to understand the national character, the new governor general travelled around the country and witnessed the suffering of the depression at first hand. In Shawbridge, Quebec, he gave a speech expressing his admiration for the dignity and perseverance of the Canadian people. He also arranged to have his own salary reduced by ten percent.

After Canada was granted control of her own foreign policy (Statute of Westminster, 1931), Bessborough was the first to raise the new Canadian Vice Regal standard. This flag is is still flown to indicate when the GG is in residence in Rideau Hall or La Citadelle.

In 1932 Bessborough opened the Imperial Economic Conference, the first great international gathering to take place in Ottawa. Lord and Lady Bessborough also hosted many prominent visitors including Sir Winston Churchill, the King and Queen of Siam, the Prince and Princess of Japan and the Antarctic explorer Sir Hubert Wilkins

The Bessborough's were interersted in theatre and organized the first Dominion Drama Festival in 1933, offering the Bessborough Trophy as a prize. The official photographer was young Yousuf Karsh, whose early career got a boost when he photographed the Bessboroughs. In 1935, the Governor General and his Lady organized a celebration for the Silver Jubilee of King George V.

The CPR hotel in Saskatoon, the Bessborough, was named after this Governor General.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lord Tweedsmuir

Amazon cover image of John Buchan's recent biography by William Galbraith (see comments)

Born John Buchan in 1875 in Perth, Scotland, Lord Tweedsmuir was governor general from 1935 to 1940. Educated at Oxford, he was a man of many parts.

During World War I, he served as an intelligence officer. He penned the spy novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps, in 1915. The book made him a well-known novelist.

The 1935 movie made from this novel by Alfred Hitchcock was a classic. Last year, I enjoyed seeing a reprised comic theatrical version of this famous thriller in London's West End, where it  is still playing at the Criterion Theatre. A similar version at the Arts Club in Vancouver closed last week.

Between 1906 to 1929 Buchan was a Director of the publishing company Thomas Nelson and Sons. He was a Member of Parliament in Britain from 1927 to 1935.

He had first met Mackenzie King, who greatly admired him, in 1919 and the two became great friends. Later Buchan dedicated his book Augustus to "my friend William Lyon Mackenzie King, four times Prime Minister of Canada." (LAC)

Buchan was given the title of First Baron Tweedsmuir in 1935 when he was named Governor General. He travelled widely in Canada and created the Governor General's Literary Awards. In 1936 he visited the park in the British Columbia interior that would bear his name.

Tweedsmuir died in office in 1940. In 1955, his literary papers were purchased from the family by Queen's University. Library and Archives Canada also holds a microfilm copy of these documents.

A secondary school a short drive from here bears the name of Lord Tweedsmuir, as does an elementary in nearby New Westminster. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Earl of Athlone

Photo of Mackenzie King, Churchill, Roosevelt and the Earl of Athlone at the Quadrant Conference, Library and Archives Canada

The Earl of Athlone, a member of the British Royal family, served as Canada's governor general from 1940 to 1946.

His full name was Alexander Augustus Frederick William Alfred George Cambridge, and he was the son of Princess Mary and the Duke of Cambridge.

Educated at Eton and Sandhurst, the Earl of Athlone was a career soldier who served in the Boer War and World War I. He was first offered the post of Governor General of Canada in 1914, but declined to accept when the war broke out. In 1923 he became Governor General of South Africa, and later served as Governor and Constable at Windsor Castle.

He was reappointed as Governor General of Canada in 1940 and was closely involved with the war effort. In 1940 he visited President Roosevelt at Hyde Park (yes, that's on the Hudson) and hosted two wartime Churchill-Roosevelt conferences at La Citadelle in Quebec. Many other leaders came and went during his wartime tenure.

The Earl of Athlone was married to Princess Alice, one of Queen Victoria's granddaughters, and the Earl and Countess attended a state dinner at the White House in 1945, just a few days before Roosevelt died of a stroke.

After returning to England in 1946, the Earl of Athlone lived another 11 years. He died in London in 1957.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Viscount Alexander

Viscount Alexander and his wife, photo City of Ottawa

The last British Head of State to serve in  Canada was Viscount Alexander. A military man with experience in both World Wars, he was appointed in 1946 and served until 1952.

Viscount Alexander was known as a heroic Field Marshall of World War II. His full handle was a monument to the British Empire: Sir Harold Rupert Leofric George Alexander, Viscount Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis and Baron Rideau of Ottawa, and of Castle Derg, county Tyrone.

According to Library and Archives Canada, he was a charismatic and popular man. In 1946, he kicked the opening ball for the Grey Cup game, and he travelled across Canada to meet people from all regions, covering 184,000 miles in his time as Governor General.

In 1946, he became the first white man to be installed as an Honorary Chief of the Kwakiutl, and was given a Mungo Martin totem pole to mark the occasion. 

A lot happened on Alexander's watch. In 1947, King George VI gave Letters of Patent to the Governor General, handing over all the monarch's powers in respect to Canada. At the Commonwealth Conference in 1949, Canada became known  an independent member of the Commonwealth, rather than a Dominion. Also in 1949, Newfoundland joined Confederation, the last province to do so.

In 1950, Canada got involved in the Korean War and fought on the side of South Korea against communist North Korea and the People's Republic of China.

In 1951, Princess Elizabeth, who would become the Queen two years later, came with Prince Philip for a Royal Tour of Canada.

Alexander twice had his term extended, but in 1952, King George VI died and the British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, asked Alexander to return to England at once as Minister of Defence.

During Alexander's tenure, Canada moved ever more strongly into independent nationhood. When he returned to England at Churchill's behest, the departing  Governor General was temporarily replaced by an administrator, but the stage was set for giving the role to a Canadian. Vincent Massey was appointed shortly after.

Lord Alexander was a typical British upper class military man. He was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst and given a commission in the Irish Guards before World War I. During the war he was wounded while commanding a battalion of his regiment on the western front, and was awarded the Military Cross, the DSO and the Legion of Honour.

He married the daughter of an Earl, and they had three children and adopted another while living in Canada. When Lord Alexander died in 1969, his funeral was held at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, a burial place of kings. According to tradition, he was interred in a churchyard near his family seat in Hertfordshire.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Rt Hon Charles Vincent Massey

Image from Parks Canada

Vincent Massey, the first Canadian to be appointed Governor General,  served between 1952 and 1959. Vincent Massey studied at the University  of Toronto and at Balliol College Oxford. He lectured in history at the U of T, and when WWI came on, joined the army as a staff officer.

His family headed a large business concern that sold agricultural equipment, and  after the war, he chaired Massey-Harris until Liberal Prime Minister Mackenzie King appointed him to cabinet. When Massey failed to win a seat in the next election, he was moved to the diplomatic service, serving as Canadian Minister to Washington and then as High Commissioner to London.

A well-known art collector, he chaired the National Gallery in London and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. In 1949 he headed a Royal Commission on the development of the arts; it was the Massey Commission that recommended the creation of the Canada Council for the Arts.

During his time as governor general, Massey promoted Canadian identity and unity, as well as continuing to patronize the arts. Massey Theatre in New Westminster was named in honour of this first non-British governor general, as were many schools and institutes. 

Of the many institutions in Canada named after Vincent Massey, perhaps the best-known is Toronto's iconic Massey Hall, below. Massey Hall picture from Clubzone.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rt Hon Georges Vanier

Image magazineprestige

Vanier was Canada's Head of State between 1959 and 1967, when he died in office. According to Susan Monroe, as Governor General, he devoted his efforts to young people, seniors and the disadvantaged, and tried to bring the English and French closer together.

When I was a volunteer Pathfinder leader with Girl Guides of Canada we held some of our meetings in a local elementary school called Georges Vanier. At the time, I didn't connect it in my mind with this interesting historical figure.

Among the many other institutions named after this versatile man are Georges Vanier Secondary School in Toronto, Georges Vanier Library in Montreal, and the Georges Vanier Cultural Centre, also in Montreal.

Georges Vanier was born in 1888. He was educated at Montreal's Loyola College (now Concordia University) and took his law degree at Universite Laval in Quebec City. He was called to the bar three years before the outbreak of World War I.

In 1915 he enlisted, won the Military Cross and DSO, and lost a leg in battle. He was a founding officer of the French Canadian "Van Doos," the Royal 22e Regiment (based at La Citadelle, Quebec) and later a commander of this regiment.

When the war was over, Vanier entered the diplomatic service, and served as Canada's representative at the League of Nations. Between the wars he was Aide de Camp to Governors General Byng and Willingdon.

He also participated in various international conferences, and in 1939 took up the post of Minister to France. By 1943 he was still posted in London, serving now as Canada's Minister to all allied governments in exile. In 1944, he returned to France, where he served as ambassador until he retired in 1953.

He became Governor General in 1959, just at the beginning of the decade of Quebec's Quiet Revolution began. The times were turbulent as the political force Quebec Separatism began to rise. He also had to preside over a series of minority governments during his tenure.

With his wife Pauline, George Vanier created then Vanier Institute of the Family in 1965. The first president was the famous neurologist Wilder Graves Penfield, who established the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Rt Hon Roland Michener

Photo from Queen's University

Roland Michener became governor general in 1967, the centennial year of  EXPO 67 in Montreal. That year Rideau Hall hosted 53 foreign heads of state.

Born in Lacombe in 1900, he completed a BA at the University of Alberta, then went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. There he met future Prime Minister Lester Pearson. Later he practiced law in Toronto.

He was elected as a Conservative member of the Ontario Legislature in 1945 and served for five years. In federal politics, he was Member for St. Paul's Toronto from 1953 to 1962 and served for part of this period as Speaker of the House.

Michener often clashed with Conservative PM John Diefenbaker, but was appointed High Commissioner to India by Liberal Prime Minister Pearson, who followed "Dief the Chief." Michener was also Canada's first ambassador to Nepal.

The first governor general to preside over the ceremony of giving out the Order of Canada, Michener, along with his wife Norah, stopped the practice of having people curtsey formally in their presence.

Michener was also responsible for Participaction, a fitness initiative for Canadians and he also established the Honours Secretariat (to implement the newly established Order of Canada.)

After his service as governor general, Michener became Chancellor of Queen's University in Kingston. One of the many honours afforded him was to have a mountain named after him. Located in the valley of the North Saskatchewan River, it was named Michener Mountain by Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed, former Premier of Alberta.

Governor General Michener served until 1974. He died in 1991.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rt Hon Jules Leger

Photo from Centre Jules Leger

Governor General Jules Leger served as Canada's Head of State from 1974 -1979. Prior to his appointment, he was Associate Editor of Le Droit, and then a teacher of the history of diplomacy at the University of Ottawa. He also served as Under-secretary of State for External Affairs, Ambassador to Mexico, and held posts with NATO and the OECD in Paris.

A great supporter of the arts, Leger established a music prize in 1978, to encourage the creation of new music in the country. Administered by the Canada Council, the Jules Leger Prize for new chamber music is awarded annually to a Canadian composer. In 2012, the winner was Zosha di Castri.

Jules Leger had the misfortune of suffering a stroke while he was governor general, and his wife Gabrielle assisted and supported him while he recovered. Leger's wife was also instrumental in restoring the residence at La Citadelle in Quebec following a fire that damaged some of the rooms. Madame Leger travelled throughout Canada with her husband and also established a prize -- the Gabrielle Leger Medal for heritage conservation. The portrait of the Legers in Rideau Hall is the only one that contains a spouse of a governor general.

In 1979 the Canadian government established an academic prize in honour of the Legers, the Jules and Gabrielle Leger Fellowship. Its is awarded to Canadian scholars studying and analyzing "the role, function and historical contributions of the Crown and its representatives in Canada." (GG Archive)

Jules Leger also established a scholarship at the University of Regina to promote excellence in bilingual studies. He was given an honorary degree by the University of Sherbrooke, and both Legers received honorary doctorates from the University of Ottawa. Jules Leger died in 1980.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Rt Hon Edward Shreyer

Photo from Winnipeg Free Press

Appointed to the post at the age of 43, former Manitoba Premier Edward Schreyer served as the Governor General of Canada from 1979 to 1984.

From 1984 to 1988 he was Canadian High Commissioner to Australia. Shreyer also continued to work as an academic in various Canadian universities after completing his term as Canada's Head of State.

After the death of Jack Layton, Schreyer endorsed the candidacy of Thomas Mulcair, the present leader of the federal NDP party.

Ed Schreyer was born in Beausejour and earned four degrees by the age of 22. He was elected to Parliament at age 23 and became a professor of Political Science at St. Paul's College while he was still in his twenties.

Between 1969 and 1977 Schreyer led the NDP government of Manitoba. They introduced public auto insurance and reduced the voting age to 18. They also set up Legal Aid, the Ombudsman's Office and the Human Rights Commission, as well as eliminating premiums on Medicare.

Speaking both German and French, as well as some Ukrainian and Polish, made him a popular Governor General with both rural and urban people.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Rt Hon Jeanne Sauve

Image from Radio Canada

The Right. Honourable Jeanne Sauve was born in Prudhomme, Sask. and educated in Ottawa and Paris.

After marrying Maurice Sauve, she lived in Montreal, where she worked as a radio, television and print journalist who made great efforts to improve the status of women and society at large.

As a Member of Parliament, she was also chosen as the first woman speaker of the House of Commons. The first female French-Canadian cabinet minister, she held the portfolios of communication and the environment. As Minister of State for Science and Technology she worked to ensure that Canada would be a world leader in technology.

She was appointed to the position of governor general by Prime Minister Trudeau in 1984 and served until 1990. While serving as GG, she established the Jeanne Sauve Foundation with emphasis on the Sauve Scholars Program. Its purpose is to empower and equip emerging leaders from around the world to deal with global problems.

When in 1991 she opened the National Conference for Young Leaders, Sauve said that leaders "must have an inspired vision of the changes they want to make and be prepared to consecrate all their energy to that purpose."

The current crop of Sauve Scholars are from diverse nations including Uganda, Cuba, Iran, Vietnam, Senegal and Poland.

This iconic Canadian died in Montreal in 1993. College Jeanne-Sauve in Winnipeg is just one of many schools across Canada have been named in her honour.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rt Hon Ramon Hnatyshyn

Image from USask

Ramon "Ray" Hnatyshyn served as Canada's governor general between 1990 and 1995. Descended from a Ukrainian family, Ray Hnatyshyn was born in Saskatoon and received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Saskatchewan. He was called to the bar in 1957 and practiced law for many years.

In 1974 he was elected to the House of Commons as Conservative Member for Biggar. He served as a cabinet minister under two Prime Ministers, Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark. In 1984 he was named House Leader and later served in the Privy Council.

In 1992 as governor general, he established the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards. It was also during his tenure that the grounds of Rideau Hall, the governor general's official residence in Ottawa, were opened to the public.

The Hnayshyn statue (below) was commissioned by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. According to the Saskatchewan Arts Board, it was meant to celebrate Canada's 125th birthday, a century of Ukrainian settlement, and the vibrant success of Canadian multiculturalism. It stands near University Bridge in Saskatoon. Hnatyshyn died in 2002.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Rt Hon Romeo LeBlanc

Photo of Romeo LeBlanc from Radio-Canada

The governor general before Adrienne Clarkson was the ethnic Acadian Romeo LeBlanc, a well-known Canadian journalist and politician hailing from New Brunswick.

He studied in Paris and returned to his home province to teach. Later he was a journalist for Radio-Canada. Following that, he served as press secretary for two Liberal Prime Ministers, Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau.

LeBlanc became a Member of Parliament in 1972 and as Minister of State in charge of fisheries, oversaw the expansion of territorial waters from a twelve-mile to a 200-mile limit. Later he served as minister of fisheries and oceans, and of public works. He also served in the Senate.

Romeo LeBlanc was a Companion of the Order of Canada and held numerous honorary degrees from Universities in eastern Canada. When he died in 2009 at the age of 81, thousands of Canadians attended his state funeral.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Rt Hon Adrienne Clarkson

Photo of Adrienne Clarkson from speakermix

Adrienne Clarkson was born in 1939 in Hong Kong and came to Canada with her family as a child. She became Governor General in 1999 and held the post until 2005.

She grew up in Ottawa and took a BA in English Lit at the University of Toronto. Fluent in French as well as English, she did post-graduate work at the Sorbonne in Paris.

A well-known television journalist and author, Clarkson has held many interesting posts, including Chair of the board of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, executive producer of her own arts show at CBC and publisher at McClelland and Stewart.

During her time as Canada's Head of State, Clarkson was criticized in the House of Commons for going over budget following an expensive state visit to Russia, Finland and Iceland. However, she was proud of having modernized and transformed the role of governor general.

During her tenure, she also travelled to Kosovo and Afghanistan to visit Canadian troops and continued her work as a patron of the arts, creating the Governor General's Northern Medal. She also travelled widely within the country and became well-known to Canadians. Prime Minister Paul Martin, who was leading a minority government when her term was to have ended, asked her to stay on in the role for another year, which she did, in spite of some health challenges.

This remarkable woman is a Companion of the Order of Canada, has honorary degrees from seven Canadian universities and was named in 2007 as Colonel-in-Chief of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. In 2009, for a series on Extraordinary Canadians, she completed a book about Norman Bethune. Her website comments on this fascinating Montrealer as "reviled as a communist by some, revered as a humanitarian by others."

Room for All of Us (Penguin/Allen Lane, 2011) is her book of stories about the immigrant experience.

Clarkson is married to John Ralston Saul, Canada's self-declared public intellectual who became famous for his Massey Lectures series and book entitled The Unconscious Civilization.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rt Hon Michaelle Jean

Michaelle Jean photo from Canada heros

Polyglot journalist and documentary filmmaker, Michaelle Jean served as Canada's governor general between 2005 and 2010. Born in 1957, she was under fifty when she accepted the post.

Jean was born in Port au Prince. Her father, a school teacher, became a political prisoner and was tortured. On escaping from jail, he brought the family to Quebec, where Jean has lived since age eleven.

She earned her bachelor's degree at the Universite de Montreal where she mastered Spanish and Italian. Her fifth language is Haitian Creole.

Not surprisingly, she has worked for political freedom. Her social activism, which began while she was at university, focused first on assisting battered women by establishing shelters for them.

In 1987 she prepared a documentary on the Haitian elections that was shown on Radio-Canada, where she was later hired as a journalist. Jean worked on both English and French services, and on various programs, including a French-language one of her own.

One sad challenge Jean faced challenge during her term was to respond on behalf of Canada to the earthquake in Haiti, the land of her birth.

Since completing her tenure as the governor general of Canada, this energetic woman continues to support educational and cultural initiatives. The Michaelle Jean Foundation is a non-profit organization devoted to encouraging the arts and creativity, in particular among youth from poor, rural and northern communities.

In 2010 she was named by UNESCO as a Special Envoy to Haiti. A member of the National Speakers Bureau, she recently spoke at UBC. Last month, she was installed as Chancellor of the University of Ottawa.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Governor General David Johnston

Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, photo from Maclean's

When current Governor General David Johnston was sworn in October 1, 2010, he expressed his intention of focusing on family, education and volunteerism to create a caring Canada. Before holding this post, he was the President of the University of Waterloo.

Recently, the GG hosted a meeting of First Nations leaders, originally requested by Chief Theresa Spence. However, she was unable to attend, being under observation in hospital following a hunger strike.

Johnston's involvement in this current version of the longstanding dispute between the Canadian government and aboriginal nations highlights the importance of his stable and nonpartisan role as Head of State.

The Queen of Canada and her representative the Governor General hold historic importance for Canada's indigenous peoples. After all, many treaties between government and native bands were signed in the time of Queen Victoria, well before Canada had its own foreign policy separate from that of the Mother Country.

It was only in 1931 that the British Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster which allowed Canada (and other British Dominions) to be completely self-governing, except in one important respect. The 1867 British North America Act remained in place.

In fact, this changed only in 1982, when the Liberal government led by Pierre Trudeau finally patriated Canada's constitution. Even then, the job was done without the agreement or signature of Quebec.

This fact, along with the ongoing issues of aboriginal rights and the fact that the Canadian Senators are appointed and not elected, remains a major governing challenge to this day.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Who is the the Governor General?

Champlain image from 

Canada is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy with government and legal systems descended from those of the colonial occupiers, England and France.

According to the website of the Governor General, the original role of governor of Canada began four hundred years ago in New France with Samuel de Champlain, who "was a governor in all but name."

Today the GG plays a vital symbolic role. Only in dire emergency would there be any power to make real decisions, and this would be limited to deciding how to pass the moment of crisis.

The main ceremonial duties are carried out from two residences: Rideau Hall in Ottawa, and the Citadelle at Quebec, which is located in the wall of the fortress. Canadians and foreign visitors are welcome to tour these working homes and the gardens that surround them.

Since 1947, the Governor General has served as the monarch's formal representative and Canada's Head of State at home and abroad. After a bill passes parliament and before it becomes law, the governor general must sign it.

Following an election, it is incumbent on the governor general to ask the head of the party with the most seats to form a government. It is well understood that these traditional constitutional duties carry no political clout.

The Governor General also acts as the head of the Canadian Heraldic Authority and has the pleasing task of recognizing and rewarding excellence in fields from physical bravery to the arts. These awards include the Order of Military Merit, the Governor General's Medals in the Arts and Sciences and the Order of Canada.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Secret Gospel of Mary Magdalene by Michele Roberts

Cover picture from Google

It was a good time to read this intriguing novel, a re-imagining of Christian history and doctrine in which women are different but equal, rather than suppressed and denigrated.

The Jesus in Roberts' novel also warns his followers never to let anyone persuade them "that bloodshed or martyrdom open a sure route to heaven."

Mary says that her gospel, in which "the pattern seemed to arrange itself"..."has been her "chief work as a disciple." Roberts's book includes poetic and moving descriptions of the feminine principle and catalogues her epithets:  "The Queen of Heaven...She who has many names...Ishtar and Astarte, Athar and Artemis and Aphrodite."

Says the Ancient One, "I am Isis, re-membering my husband, and Inanna...the witch Hecate... Persephone who is carried off into the Underworld by Pluto...She who is ignored...exiled." Though men have tried to forget her, and fear her memory, she warns, "I shall rise. I shall not let myself be divided and reviled. For I am she who is three in one...Martha the housewife...Mary the mother of the Lord, and Mary the prostitute." The female trinity.

First published in 1984, and re-issued in 2007, this gripping story of the life of Mary and the hidden gospel she wrote and then left buried under a stone long predates Dan Brown's interest in the idea that Jesus may have had a wife and descendants. The novel is short, gripping and completely believable.

The theme is timely. As the Vatican goes through the machinations of finding a new Pope, with Canadian cardinal Marc Ouellet being touted as a front runner, Douglas Todd writes in the Saturday Sun of how disconnected the still very male-dominated church has become from its followers. We learn from Todd's research that the church hierarchy remains hidebound.

After the years of sexual scandal about abuse of children and homosexuality among priests, celibacy seems to be a questionable doctrine. Why should priests not be allowed to marry, or to be open about their homosexuality?

Many Catholics now believe these positions to be reasonable. Also, could abortion not be permissible in cases where a woman's health would be threatened by giving birth? Surely the world has enough motherless infants already. And as the population reaches numbers that the planet will be hard put to support, why is birth control so wrong?

Surprisingly, reports Todd, the high-ranking officials in the old bastion of Catholicism, including Ouellet, do not even rate these burning questions as high-priority. While the rarefied world of the male-dominated and hierarchical church works toward installing a new pope, Todd also finds that many Catholics rely on their own consciences to guide them. And that's probably a good thing. But these are matters for Catholics, and I have no connection to the Catholic church.

I sought out this book for a different reason. For some years now, I have periodically entered my work in the Bridport short story contest. Learning that this year Michele Roberts is to be the judge, I read her work to see how compatible it might be with my current effort. Though I feel far from certain of an answer to this question, I enjoyed reading this powerful and thought-provoking book.

The edition shown in the picture was published in 2011 by Random House.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saskatchewan is the heart of Canada

Photo by Ethan Meleg

The best Canadian ideas were born in Saskatchewan. In spite of its small population and few pretensions, in ideological terms, Saskatchewan is Canada.

For starters, the co-op movement that helped the farmers through the hungry thirties began there.

Originating in the same era, the most famous Saskatchewan innovation was free and universal medicare.This was such a good idea that the whole nation adopted it after Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas led the way. Confirming their approval of this historic move, Canadians voted in a CBC poll in 2004 that Douglas was the most important Canadian in the history of the country.

There are plenty of reasons besides medicare why Tommy Douglas was so revered by Canadians. During his many years in provincial and federal politics, NDP-made policies changed Saskatchewan directly and Ottawa indirectly.

One of the events that inspired Tommy Douglas to take to politics was the miners' strike at Estevan in 1931. The workers struck when the company cut the already low wages, and Douglas witnessed the violence and bloodshed that ensued. While the Mounties stood by and allowed thugs to beat the striking miners, Douglas, though he spoke against this brutality and injustice, was powerless to stop it.

A Baptist minister, he broke unwritten rules by preaching in church against the social injustice he saw in the community outside. Asked to leave his post, he entered politics to put his words into action. As premier of Saskatchewan, Douglas implemented protections for workers. His was the first provincial government to legalize collective bargaining for all workers, including those in the civil service. His party also enshrined in law the 8-hour work day, the five-day work week and paid holidays.

Douglas responded to the needs of the people of Saskatchewan by building and paving roads and creating a much-needed free air ambulance service for the northern part of the province. During his tenure as premier, he ensured that hospitals were sufficient and accessible.

The big banks with their cold capitalism were his political enemies. When times were hard and farmers had trouble making their mortgage payments, bankers moved to repossess mortgaged farms, even those that that were 95% paid for. In response, Douglas and his government passed the Farm Security Act and halted this  practice before it could be implemented.

The government of Tommy Douglas authored many firsts: the first Arts Board in Canada, the first province to give the franchise to 18-year-olds, the first Small Claims Court in North America, the first Bill of Rights in Canada. The Saskatchewan NDP under Tommy Douglas also pioneered provincial automobile insurance.

Saskatchewan is still open to innovation. Saskatoon was featured a recent broadcast of the CBC program White Coat, Black Art. Following a model developed in New Jersey, the city implemented a radical neighbourhood approach to health care in one of the most health-challenged areas in the country.

Well-known Saskatchewan authors include Sinclair Ross, WO Mitchell, Sharon Butala, Candace Savage, Guy Vandenhaeghe,  and the poet Lorna Crozier.

The latest thing to come out of Saskatchewan was the Idle No More movement. The ideal of social justice is still considered worthy of discussion in the province that lies at the geographic centre of the nation and continues to speak for our collective social conscience.

Friday, March 8, 2013

An ambiguous warning from the horoscope lady

Eugenia Last banner -- a helpful word of warning

Even though the warnings are often ambiguous, I have a habit of reading this horoscope column. I'm not alone; according to the website, it's syndicated in 300 newspapers worldwide.

One column warned that I might find myself "in an uncompromising position." This would happen if I let my emotions lead me into conversations that would "cost..a friendship or advancement," or "lead to a family feud."

It does seem odd. Wouldn't the hard line, the uncompromising position, be more likely to cause the loss of a friendship or a family feud, rather being a consequence of it?

I know that sometimes a person can be caught in a compromising position -- think Premier Christy Clark and the infamous memo -- but I truly believed that to adopt an uncompromising position involved an element of personal choice.

Yup, the horoscope lady tells it like it is. Problem is, as a reader, I'm often left scratching my head.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Eyes on the pavement

This is the first time I've seen the Look sign with the arrow on the pavement in Canada.

They are common in London, but I thought that was to warn those many UK tourists from the large majority of countries where they drive on the right.

I wonder why we need these here. Do we really have that many visitors from countries that drive on the right?

From the UK, Japan, Barbados, Guyana, Zimbabwe and Bermuda? I doubt it. Besides, why didn't these people need the Look signs before?

This sign has been painted at the four corners of Broadway and Clark, but the others are already worn off. Guess the green paint was a little too green. It doesn't last. But that's ok. We probably didn't need these signs in the first place. Just like we didn't need the green-painted crosswalks.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Crescent Beach has its own white rock

White Rock is not the only place to Boast a big white rock.

Crescent Beach has one too. This one is a natural white too.

Unlike the one on White Rock beach, there's no sign of its ever having been painted.

This one stands between the beach and the railway tracks, near a lunar landscape littered with small dark rocks.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Empty boxcars traverse Crescent Beach

Sunday was a beautiful early spring day on the beach.

A short climb up the railway crossing allows the adventurer a wide vista of the beach and the tracks. A bird's eye view shows that this long train is empty.

Where will it go and what will it pick up?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mark Leiren-Young shares his enthusisam at VCC

Picture from The Green Film

This month Mark Leiren-Young is the Writer-in-Residence at VCC. As well has having office hours, he visits classes on request to talk about his work.

Leiren-Young is a screenwriter, journalist and playwright, and he also performs in a comedy duo called Local Anxiety.

For his novel Never Shoot a Stampede Queen (Heritage House 2008) he won -- drum roll please -- the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. 

My English 098 class enjoyed hearing this very versatile artist and performer talk of his adventures in theatre sports, film, cartoon films for kids, and more. He has written for Reboot, and has created English stories for Japanese anime.

Leiren-Young's mastery of individual voice is evident in his well- known film The Green Chain. After interviewing many in the forest industry, he wrote all the parts and had actors perform them. It is a testament to his skill that on many occasions, this work, a labour of love and a tribute to a dead friend, has been mistaken for a documentary. It won an award in Barcelona.

An interesting job was being commissioned to write for The Anglican Church of Port Alberni. His short film was used to open a synod of 400 clergy members who were split over some challenging issues. "It worked out well," said Mark. "They argued over the film instead of directly with each other."

When asked what inspired him, this writer said things that make him angry, things that make him laugh, and things that stay with him. He wants to write stories that are truthful, real and worth talking about.

Until the end of next week, Mark Leiren-Young remains a member of our college community. His office is in College Foundations, and he has office hours for consultation.

Last Saturday, The Vancouver Sun carried his story about the BC movie industry. It's called "Golden Age Loses its Lustre." His comedy show called Never Shoot a Stampede Queen is coming up at the Arts Club in Vancouver, where it runs from May 9 to 25.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming

Book cover photo Charles Cumming site

Spooks are a special breed, and Charles Cumming captures the personalities of historic and contemporary spies in his intriguing novel of "post-war, post Cold-war post-911" espionage.

The reader glimpses the strange lives of those who have joined this shadowy world. Quick-thinking Tanya is assigned to watch a fellow citizen who is sniffing at a past cover-up in the firm itself.

As often happens with spies, they are given no background on their assignments beyond the "need to know." When in pursuing her quarry, Tanya gets too close to the truth about the shrouded past of the MI6 boss and a Russian politician, she is abruptly re-assigned.

Meanwhile she has discovered that academic historian Sam Geddes, professor of Russian Studies at UCL, has been induced by certain personal financial pressures to pursue some MI6 history for his own purposes. He intends to write a book that will expose some history that the head of the agency does not want known.

Historically, Oxford and Cambridge were home to many idealistic communists in the thirties. Four young men from Trinity College were recruited to spy for the Soviet Union. The fifth of these infamous Cambridge Spies, John Cairncross,went on to pass ENIGMA code secrets to the Russians from Bletchley Park. He and the others were eventually exposed, and Philby and Maclean openly defected to the Soviet Union. But was there a sixth man?

In the novel, the only person who was there and remembers those times is a 91-year-old ex-spy and Trinity alum with an altered identity. Sam is getting close to extracting important information from this man, but although Tanya is no longer responsible for keeping an eye on him, Sam Geddes recklessly pursues his quest for information to Berlin, and then to Vienna.

Violence happens in both places, and a common denominator is the presence of the Russian agent Alexander Grek. This is a man the reader has seen in London. He's a chilling character whose "$500 loafers caress the damp path" where he interviews a traitor his henchmen are about to kill.

Fortunately for Sam, Tanya has a good head on her shoulders. She also has a conscience, and excellent "exfiltration" skills, which she deploys in such a way as to save a lot more than the life of Dr. Sam Geddes,

Author Charles Cumming is himself a former British Secret Service recruit. Now he works as a contributing editor to a London magazine and writes spy novels.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Tiny early iris heralds spring

In our Surrey garden, a tiny miniature iris braves the cold rain to signal the approach of spring. Iris was the Greek goddess of the rainbow. She acted as a messenger between earth and heaven.

The iris is found all over the world, and has been represented in art as far back as ancient Egypt. The iris is also associated with royalty (purple) and passion (yellow).

These lovely little gems can be grown in containers indoors, and they bloom early in the garden -- as early as February in Zones 8 and 9, as mine demonstrated, even though February was a chilly month.

Some say the famous French fleur-de-lys is neither a lily nor a lotus, but a stylized iris. The version below is depicted by Henny Donovan.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The pleasure was all mine

Image from Patricia's Studio

When I lived in residence at UBC, there were frequent dances. In those days, we girls had to wait for boys to invite us to formal dances.

There was this boy who lived on the men's side of our residence. I knew him from French class. He was not a very skilled language learner; in fact, his terrible pronunciation made our urbane Parisian teacher cringe.

He was more enterprising when it came to attendance at dances. I was thrilled when he invited me. Taking a deep sniff of that carnation before carefully placing it in the rez fridge to keep it fresh for the dance, I was surprised that it smelled like cinnamon.

I was worthy of a corsage. At the time, I had no idea of the complex layers of religious and royal symbolism represented by these flowers. I just wanted to dress up and go to the dance with a boy in a sports jacket and a boutonniere.

It was also a good chance to wear my plain white dress, which dropped in pleats from a cowl collar. The pink carnation set it off beautifully.

I don't remember the dance, but when it was over, my date walked back with me to the women's rez. I adored dancing, and at the door I thanked him for a lovely evening.

Bowing from the waist, he said with a carefully manufactured formality, "The pleasure was all mine." As soon as the door closed behind me, I leaned on it and laughed. So old-fashioned!

Still, the following weekend, I was miffed when I heard through the gossip mill that he'd repeated the exact same phrase to a  rez friend from another floor, after taking her to a dance.