The CBC, the Canadian national television network, completed its search for the greatest Canadian tonight. The concept, borrowed from a BBC series is flawed but it made for an entertaining serial. The last 10 choices are here. The top five in ascending order were geneticist, science writer and broadcaster David Suzuki, medical researcher Frederick Banting, lawyer, intellectual and politician Pierre Trudeau, cancer victim Terry Fox, and minister and politician Tommy Douglas.
Terry Fox and Tommy Douglas both had good campaigns, with good young media- savvy spokespersons presenting their cases to an audience that is largely too young to have remembered either. The fact that they were at the top of the list say something about Canada’s love of the underdog. Fox was a cancer victim. He lost a leg to cancer and embarked on a cross-country run in 1980 to raise awareness and to raise funds for cancer research. He ran half way across Canada,on one leg, before his cancer recurred and metastasized. His determination and courage captured the imagination of a nation.
Tommy Douglas was Baptist minister in Weyburn who became involved in politics in the 1920’s and was one of the signatories to the Regina Manifesto, a social democratic document that was associated with a new political party during the Great Depression. He was regarded as a radical socialist, but his values came from the Bible through the social gospel. His party won a majority in the Saskatchewan Legislature in 1944 and his government introduced public universal automobile accident insurance and medical insurance. The latter outraged the AMA which supported a strike by Saskatchewan doctors with Cold War rhetoric and and cold cash. He is less well known for his determination to release mentally ill adults from Victorian style asylums into community based care – which is not a perfect solution, but which worked reasonably well in Saskatchewan. He went to federal politics in 1960 to lead the NDP, a minor federal party which exercised great influence on national affairs in the minority governments of 1963-68. (He endured adversity when his daughter, the actress Shirley Douglas, (mother of Kiefer Sutherland, was charged with criminal offences when she was mixed up with the Panthers when she lived in California). He was an inspiring speaker. He frequently drew on the metaphor of Blake’s hymn “Jerusalem” and some of his memorable speeches equal and surpass the beauty and power of Dr. King’s speech “I have a dream”.
At times the decency and vision of the Canadian public is very moving.Powered by Sidelines