Pierre Trudeau, no to Quebec sovereignty, 1980

Early in 1980, Premier René Lévesque and the Parti Quebecois launched a referendum on sovereignty association. Lévesque wanted voters to say yes to a sovereign Quebec that would form a commercial and trade association with the rest of Canada. Trudeau made only three campaign appearances, his last in the crowded, steaming Paul Sauvé arena in... Continue Reading →

Joe Clark, community of communities, 1979

Joe Clark had been involved in Progressive Conservative politics since childhood, and he won party leadership in 1976. He proposed a federation much more decentralized than that of Pierre Trudeau. Clark defined his concept of Canada as a “community of communities” in this speech during the federal election campaign in April 1979. “We are fundamentally... Continue Reading →

Stephen Harper, residential schools apology, 2008

On June 11, 2008 Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for the Canadian government’s removing Indigenous children from their parents and homes and placing them in residential schools. Also in 2008, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) began its work, documenting the history and lasting impact on students and their families, and telling that... Continue Reading →

Jean Chretien, Quebec referendum, 1995

The Parti Quebecois called a sovereignty referendum for October 1995, and polls indicated the PQ might win. Belatedly, Prime Minister Jean Chretien joined the fray, and on October 25 he made this televised address to Canadians. He played on love of country, and the serious economic consequences for Quebec if it chose to separate. "What... Continue Reading →

Pierre Trudeau, October crisis, 1970

In October 1970, the Front de Libération du Quebec, a separatist group, kidnapped Pierre Laporte, the province’s labour minister, and James Cross, a British diplomat. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act. On 16 October 1970, a sombre Trudeau appeared on national television to explain and defend his decision to citizens of the... Continue Reading →

John Diefenbaker, a new national policy, 1957

John Diefenbaker, Canada’s 13th prime minister died this month in 1979. He was one of Canada’s finest political orators and election campaigners. He became leader of the Progressive Conservatives in 1956, and six months later the governing Liberals called an election. A young economist named Merril Menzies sent Diefenbaker a series of memos proposing a... Continue Reading →

Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s century, 1904

Wilfrid  Laurier was campaigning for reelection when he made the following speech before a packed house in Toronto’s Massey Hall on 14 October 1904. The speech, while not one of his best, was vintage Laurier -- suave, playing to the audience, and discreetly undermining his political opponents. Near its end, he provided his grand vision... Continue Reading →

Richard Bedford Bennett, Great Depression, 1935

In January 1935 Prime Minister Richard Bedford Bennett delivered a series of dramatic radio addresses to the nation while Canada was in the grip of the Great Depression. Bennett had been staunchly conservative and anti-interventionist, but the country was in deep trouble. Bennett’s brother-in-law, W. D. Herridge, convinced him that he should follow the lead... Continue Reading →

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