Library and Archives Canada releases its latest podcast episode, “Mackenzie King: Against his Will”

Library and Archives Canada is releasing its latest podcast episode, Mackenzie King: Against his Will.

Black-and-white image of William Lyon Mackenzie King sitting on his front porch.William Lyon Mackenzie King was Canada’s longest serving prime minister. He is also increasingly viewed as one of the greatest. However, King’s accomplishments are not restricted to the realm of politics. He was also a prolific correspondent and kept an ongoing, almost daily diary from 1893, until a few days before his death in 1950. In it, King not only wrote down meticulous accounts of his life in politics, but also included fascinating details from his private life.

On today’s episode, we talk with professor and author Christopher Dummitt, whose latest book details the history behind the diaries and how they became available for the world to read.

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS, iTunes or Google Play, or just tune in at Podcast–Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

For more information, please contact us at bac.balados-podcasts.lac@canada.ca.

The beginning of the Conclusions: documenting the exercise of power

By Michael Dufresne

The recent addition of records to the Cabinet Conclusions database offers access to the attendance records, agenda and the minutes of Cabinet from 1977 to 1979. The minutes are not verbatim accounts of Cabinet meetings but provide excellent summaries of the discussions and various positions taken by Cabinet members. These newest records straddle both governments of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and the short-lived government of Joe Clark. They cap off the long preamble to the repatriation of the constitution and the advent of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They are an important part of the corporate memory of the federal government and reveal a range of subjects, preoccupations, concerns and opportunities confronting the most powerful institutions in our parliamentary system.

A pen-and-brush drawing depicting a man standing in a circus ring holding a whip and reading a book while a lion sitting on a raised platform looks over his shoulder.

Editorial cartoon by John Collins depicts Joe Clark as a lion tamer reading the book “How to Control Gov’t Spending,” published in The Gazette, Montreal, 1979. Copyright held by Library and Archives Canada (MIKAN 2863264)

We might take it for granted that a democratic state provides some measure of transparency for those wishing to know why and how a decision is made. Our democratic sensibilities might be offended to know that, while we could probably trace our democratic heritage to well before the 1940s, it was not until then that Cabinet kept an agenda and minutes of its deliberations. The lack of records documenting Cabinet deliberations can encourage an exaggerated sense of the power of the Prime Minister. “The story went around,” writes historian Michael Bliss in his book, Right Honourable Men: The Descent of Canadian Politics from Macdonald to Mulroney, “that when Bennett was seen mumbling to himself, he was holding a Cabinet meeting.” When there are no official records to document Cabinet’s discussions, who is going to contradict the memory of the Prime Minister?

From 1867 to 1940, a succession of six men served as Clerk of the Privy Council; their duties reflected the comparatively modest role of the state in Canadian society before the Second World War. But with the appointment in 1940 of Arnold Danforth Patrick Heeney, things were clearly changing. Heeney became the seventh Clerk of the Privy Council since Confederation and the country’s first Secretary to the Cabinet.

Upon his arrival in Ottawa, he was surprised by the informal ways in which important business was conducted. “I found it shattering to discover,” Heeney writes in his autobiography, The Things that are Caesar’s, “that the highest committee in the land conducted its business in such a disorderly fashion that it employed no agenda and no minutes were taken. The more I learned about Cabinet practices, the more difficult it was for me to understand how such a regime could function at all.”

Changes to the Privy Council Office (PCO) were inspired by reforms to the United Kingdom’s Privy Council in 1916 by Sir Maurice Hankey. The changes were, in part, an acknowledgment of the growing demands on modern government. Possible changes had been discussed for several years, but nothing had been done. Why then did they occur in 1940? The challenges of governing while prosecuting the Second World War demanded changes to how government organized and documented its deliberations and actions. Order-in-Council PC 1121 of March 25, 1940 heralded the beginning of the modern PCO. It read, in part:

“The great increase in the work of the Cabinet … has rendered it necessary to make provision for the performance of additional duties of a secretarial nature relating principally to the collecting and putting into shape of agenda of Cabinet meetings, providing of information and material necessary for the deliberations of the Cabinet and the drawing up of records of the results, for communication to the departments concerned … ”

Order-in-Council PC 1940-1121 ushered in a significant change in the universe of government information, but it was not until 1944 that the formal Cabinet Conclusions were created and preserved. In the absence of these official records, researchers have to look to Prime Ministers’ personal papers to perhaps discover some form of documentation of Cabinet meetings.

The Cabinet Conclusions have practical value for the administration of the state and democratic significance for the insight and transparency they make possible. More than mere instruments of modern bureaucracy, they offer an inside look at the deliberations, discussions, debates and decision making of the federal government’s most powerful politicians and, to a degree, the high-ranking bureaucrats who serve them. Library and Archives Canada’s acquisition and preservation of these records along with the access it helps facilitate, provide a revealing window into the workings of our democratic state.

The latest additions to the database close out the 1970s, and will inspire new insights into the history of Canada, and about the federal government, particularly those entrusted with its leadership. Researchers can search the Cabinet Conclusions by keyword (one of their own choosing or one from a list of keywords capturing a handful of major issues confronting the government in each year), dates, agenda and records of attendance. The Conclusions offer more than documentary evidence of government deliberations and decision making; they are a means of discovering other Cabinet documents. In other words, the Conclusions can offer you the answers to complete your search, but they can also act as the beginning of your search for more and better answers. In addition, the Conclusions are a means of discovering related Cabinet documents, which may include backgrounders and Cabinet memoranda that informed discussions around the Cabinet table. Those records are not digitized and are not available in the database. However, researchers will find references to those Cabinet documents in the Conclusions—and once the number of a document is known, it can be searched using the year it was created and the finding aid 2-15 to locate it.

See the Cabinet Conclusions database for more detailed instructions on search options.

Related resources


Michael Dufresne is an archivist in the Government Archives Division of the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

A diplomat, a Prime Minister, and a scholar: remembering Lester B. Pearson

By Mariam Lafrenie

It goes without saying that the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson achieved much in his life. Whether you look at his success politically, academically or even athletically—Pearson always excelled. Although Pearson served as Canada’s 19th prime minister, his legacy and indeed his influence began long before his prime ministership: as chairman of the NATO council (1951), as President of the United Nations General Assembly (1952), and as a Nobel Peace prizewinner (1957).

“Nevertheless, [Pearson’s] five-year legacy is very impressive: a new flag, the Canada Pension Plan, universal medicare, a new immigration act, a fund for rural economic development, and the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism which led to the foundation of a bilingual civil service.”

Excerpt from First Among Equals

A black-and-white photograph of a formally dressed couple. The man is holding a box with a medallion.

Lester B. Pearson and his wife, Maryon at the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony, Oslo, Norway, December 1957. Photograph by Duncan Cameron (MIKAN 3209893)

A black-and-white photograph of a man standing up and addressing a room of people.

Lester B. Pearson, at the United Nations Conference on International Organization, San Francisco, Calif., USA, 1945 (MIKAN 3193176)

Rising quickly through the ranks and moving from one portfolio to another, Pearson proved himself a worthy and talented diplomat. After a 20-year career in External Affairs, his success did not end there, but followed him throughout the next decade as leader of the Liberal Party (1958-1968). Without a doubt, some of his most exciting—if not his most significant achievements—came during his time as Prime Minister.

A flag for Canada

The quest for a Canadian flag—one that represented everything that Canada had become in the last century and all that Pearson hoped it could become—was fraught with bitter debate and controversy. Indeed, as many may recall, “The Great Flag Debate” raged for the better part of 1964 and saw the submission of approximately 3,000 designs by Canadians young and old.

“Under this flag may our youth find new inspiration for loyalty to Canada; for a patriotism based not on any mean or narrow nationalism, but on the deep and equal pride that all Canadians will feel for every part of this good land.”

Address on the inauguration of the National Flag of Canada, February 15, 1965

These words, spoken by Lester B. Pearson during the inaugural ceremony of the Red Maple Leaf flag on February 15, 1965 at Parliament Hill, highlight precisely what he aspired to achieve—a uniquely Canadian identity. Few prime ministers can attest to leaving a legacy so great as to have forged an entirely new cultural symbol for their country.

A black-and-white photograph of a man holding an illustration of the Canadian flag.

Lester B. Pearson’s press conference regarding the new flag, December 1964. Photograph by Duncan Cameron (MIKAN 3199509)

A year of celebration

Not only was Pearson responsible for championing a new Canadian flag, but he was also lucky enough to remain in office during Canada’s centennial year. In his Dominion Day speech on July 1, 1967, Pearson called on Canadians to celebrate their past and their achievements, but also encouraged them to think of the future and of the legacy that they could leave for the next generation of Canadians. Much like this year, when we celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation and were encouraged to think of our future as a nation, 1967 was also a year filled with celebrations.

The aim of the centennial celebrations were twofold: to create memorable events and activities for all Canadians and to create a tangible legacy that current and future generations could enjoy. In fact, both the provincial and federal governments encouraged Canadians to celebrate by creating their own centennial projects—films, parades and festivals, tattoos, recreation centres, stadiums, etc.—and agreed to match their spending. One of the most memorable celebrations was that of the 1967 International and Universal Exposition or Expo 67, as it was nicknamed. Open from April 27 to October 29, Expo 67 is considered one of the most successful World’s Fairs and one of Canada’s landmark moments.

A colour photograph of a group of men standing in front of an enlarged map of New France.

Expo 67’s opening day with its General Commissioner Pierre Dupuy, Governor General of Canada Roland Michener, Prime Minister of Canada Lester Bowles Pearson, Premier of Québec Daniel Johnson and Mayor of Montréal Jean Drapeau (MIKAN 3198338)

For many Canadians, 1967 characterized the peak of nostalgia and indeed a year filled with optimism. With this optimism and increased governmental spending, Pearson’s popularity boomed and further solidified his accomplishments as prime minister and widespread support for the Liberal Party amongst Canadians.

Conclusion

Forty-five years ago, on December 27, 1972, after a long and successful political career, Lester B. Pearson passed away. His passing struck a chord with many Canadians as more than 1,200 people attended his funeral service to pay their last respects. Pearson’s legacy and indeed his name are still present today in the numerous awards and buildings named in his honour. Paving the way for what many Canadians and the international community alike have come to love about Canada, Pearson can be said to have shaped and indeed laid the foundation for the Canada we know today.

A black-and-white photo of man standing under an interesting architectural building.

Prime Minister of Canada Lester Bowles Pearson in front of the Katimavik at Expo 67 (MIKAN 3198467)

The Lester B. Pearson fonds preserved by Library and Archives Canada consists of 435.71 meters of textual records, over 3,500 photographs, 315 audio recordings on various formats, 3 films totalling 47 minutes, 54 items of documentary art, and 98 medals.

Related links


Mariam Lafrenie is an undergraduate student research fellow from Queen’s University who worked in the Private Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada during the summer of 2017.

The beginning of Canada: Through the eyes of Lady Susan Macdonald

By Ayla Maud

“Behind every great man, is a great woman.” Or at least that is how the old saying goes. But how often do we get the opportunity to really know these great women? We see them standing next to their successful partners, but do we ever know what they contribute behind the scenes? This summer Library and Archives Canada created an opportunity to get into the mind of one great woman in particular—Lady Susan Agnes Macdonald (née Susan Agnes Bernard).

Susan Bernard married Sir John Alexander Macdonald, first Prime Minister of Canada (or the Dominion of Canada, as it was known at the time), in 1867. Five days after Sir Macdonald’s inauguration, his wife began documenting their new life. The very diary Susan Macdonald used was digitized this summer, in commemoration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, and made available online for the public to transcribe. In addition to providing a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to take on an elite title, Lady Macdonald shares some of her insights into how the Dominion of Canada was formed. She gives a first-hand account of key historical moments that many of us have since learned about in school.

A journal entry written in cursive with ink.

A hand-written page showing the first entry in Lady Susan Macdonald’s diary, dated Friday, July 5, 1867 (MIKAN 122166)

One of the first things we notice as Lady Macdonald begins to share her thoughts and experiences is the love she had for her husband. Multiple entries gush about Sir John’s patience, love and ability to always put his best foot forward. Susan Macdonald was a strong supporter of her husband, in terms of both his career and character. Her love led her to join him on many confederate-related work missions, socials, voyages and more.

A black-and-white photograph of a woman who is looking slightly off to the left. Her hair is parted down the center, tied back away from her face, and she is wearing an off-the-shoulder evening dress.

Macdonald of Earnscliffe, Agnes Macdonald, Baroness. Photographed by William Topley, September 1873 (MIKAN 3194713)

Due to her strong interest in her husband’s political life, Susan Macdonald was able to witness multiple events that are taught as pivotal points in many history classes today. One example is a series of entries that follows the assassination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Father of Confederation, and the subsequent trial. Lady Susan’s writing gives insight into the details of McGee’s death (for instance, that he was killed while unlocking his front door after coming home one night), the thinking among the populace at the time, and the process of collecting evidence against suspected killer Patrick Whelan.

Susan Agnes Macdonald’s diary gives readers the opportunity to time-travel back to the late 1860s and bear witness (although from one person’s perspective) to a segment of early Canadian society. It was not just by sharing public opinion regarding specific events that Lady Macdonald painted an image of her life for future generations to discover; it was also in the way she described Ottawa at each time of the year, enabling us to compare it to the city we know today. She shares details of meals eaten and customs followed, some of which may be very different from current practices. The theme of religious faith recurs often throughout Susan Macdonald’s pages. Whether she was writing about going to a church service or documenting prayers she hoped would be answered, every few entries highlight moments in her and her husband’s spiritual lives.

A watercolour painting depicts an orange sailboat in the water near a beach. There are slight waves along the shore. Behind the sailboat is a cliff that descends into a valley. The painting uses a palette of orange, brown, green and blue.

A watercolour painted by Lady Susan Macdonald, undated (MIKAN 161120)

It is possible to relate to some of Lady Macdonald’s diary entries describing the stresses of her new responsibilities as the Prime Minister’s wife. Just as you or I might experience the pressures of a new chapter in our lives, she describes being nervous or fearful that she does not know what she is doing. At one point, she describes herself as “a novice” in her new life.

A black-and-white photograph of a woman wearing a long, dark-coloured dress. Her hair is white and is pulled back into a bun.

Macdonald of Earnscliffe, Agnes Macdonald, Baroness, photograph taken by William Topley, undated (MIKAN 3192012)

The transcription of Lady Susan Agnes Macdonald’s diaries is now complete, but the digitized diary is still available online. It gives insight into not only the type of woman Mrs. Macdonald was, but also the type of world Canada was as it first began.


Ayla Maud is a student archival assistant with Regional Services and the ATIP Division of the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Images of Japanese-Canadians from the Second World War now on Flickr

Timeline:

December 7, 1941—Japan attacks Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, United States of America. Japanese forces also invade Hong Kong, Malaysia and surrounding areas, opening up the Pacific Front of the Second World War.

December 8, 1941—Canada invokes the War Measures Act and declares Japanese-Canadians and recent immigrants as enemy aliens to strip them of individual and property rights. Over 1,200 fishing boats owned by Japanese-Canadian fishermen are confiscated off the coast of British Columbia as a defensive measure against Japan’s war efforts on the Pacific Front.

A black-and-white photograph of six Japanese-Canadian fishing boats confiscated three days after Pearl Harbor and tied to a larger vessel.

Fishermen’s Reserve rounding up six Japanese-Canadian fishing vessels, British Columbia (MIKAN 3191747)

January 14, 1942—Canada orders the round up of Japanese-Canadian males aged 18–45 for relocation to the interior of British Columbia. Personal property, such as homes and cars are seized and sold to help pay for the camps. No one can have radios, buy gasoline, or fish during the war. People detained after the 14th are sent to internment camps in Alberta.

black-and-white photograph of three Japanese-Canadian men loading a rail car destined for an internment camp in the British Columbia interior.

Japanese-Canadian men load a train travelling to camps in the interior of British Columbia (MIKAN 3193863)

February 24, 1942—Whole-scale internment of people of Japanese descent starts. In total, 21,000 Japanese-Canadians and recent immigrants become internees at camps. Restrictions on rights and freedoms increase as the war drags on.

A black-and-white photograph of many Japanese-Canadian families at a staging area being loaded on the backs of trucks for relocation to an internment camp in the British Columbia interior.

Japanese-Canadians load into the back of trucks for relocation to camps in the interior of British Columbia (MIKAN 3193859)

September 2, 1945 to April 1, 1949—After the end of the Second World War in 1945, Japanese-Canadians are forced to remain at internment camps, or areas away from Canada’s coastal regions until 1949. There are some offers by the Canadian Government to repatriate individuals and families back to Japan, along with some exemptions on movement. Eventually all restrictions on movement are lifted. Japanese-Canadians can return to the coastal areas of British Columbia. No compensation is available for property seized or for forced internment.

A black-and-white photograph of Japanese-Canadian families buying supplies in an internment camp store in Slocan City, British Columbia, observed by a Caucasian man wearing an armband.

Japanese-Canadians buy supplies at the internment camp store, Slocan City, British Columbia (MIKAN 3193855)

September 22, 1988—Thirty-nine years of lobbying by Japanese-Canadians affected by the actions enforced under the War Measures Act during the Second World War result in an official apology and compensation package for families from the Canadian Government.

Visit the Flickr album now!

New archival fonds – Ambassador Arthur R. Menzies

By Patrick Latulippe

Are you interested in discovering the extraordinary story of a Canadian who was born in China and later returned to the People’s Republic of China as Ambassador of Canada? Would you like to learn about the subtleties and the depth of the work performed by Canada’s ambassadors abroad?

Thanks to the recent acquisition of the Arthur R. Menzies fonds by Library and Archives Canada, you may now access this outstanding material. These archives include thousands of handwritten letters detailing the personal and professional life of Arthur Menzies, a diplomat who worked primarily in Asia but also represented Canada in over a dozen countries during his 30-year career.

A black-and-white photograph of three boys on bicycles.

Young Arthur Menzies in China, on bicycle (at left). Summer vacations in Pei Tai Ho, China, 1930–1935 (MIKAN 4976252)

These archives, carefully preserved by the Menzies family for over half a century, will enable researchers to learn all about the incredible life and career of His Excellency Ambassador Menzies.Biographical sketch Arthur Redpath Menzies was born in China on November 29, 1916, the son of Christian missionaries James Mellon Menzies and Annie Sedgwick Menzies. His father was an amateur archaeologist who contributed significantly to the scholarly study of oracle bones from the Shang dynasty. Arthur Menzies was educated at the University of Toronto and Harvard University. In 1940, he withdrew from doctoral studies in Far Eastern History and Chinese at Harvard University to join the Department of External Affairs in Canada. In 1943, Menzies married Sheila Isabel Halliday Skelton, daughter of Isabel and O.D. Skelton (Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs from 1925 to 1941). Arthur and Sheila Menzies had two children: Kenneth and Norah. Arthur Menzies was Second Secretary in Havana (1945–1946), Head of the Canadian Liaison Mission in Japan (1950–1952), High Commissioner to Malaysia (1958–1961) and Burma (1959–1961), Head of the Defence Liaison Division in Ottawa (1961–1965), High Commissioner to Australia (1965–1972) and Fiji (1970–1972), Ambassador to the North Atlantic Council (1972–1976), Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China (1976–1980) and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (1976–1979), and Ambassador for Disarmament (1980–1982). Menzies retired in 1982. He was very active in retirement, writing several books during the last decade of his life. In 2009, he published Australia & the South Pacific: Letters Home, 1965–1972. Menzies received the Order of Canada in 2001. He died on March 4, 2010.

Interesting archival material in the fonds

World Trip Diaries

The Menzies family set out to explore the world in 1928. This inspiring adventure is described in great detail in the World Trip Diaries kept by mother Annie and the family’s three children: Arthur, Frances and Marion. This part of the fonds helps us to understand the first extraordinary international travels by Arthur Menzies. It is also interesting to consider these experiences in relation to the later duties of Ambassador Menzies in Asia, Oceania and Europe.

A colour photograph showing two pages of a personal diary.

Two pages by Annie Menzies in the World Trip Diaries, 1928 (MIKAN 4976256)

Correspondence

The Correspondence Series is certainly one of the most interesting series in the fonds. The series consists of more than 10 boxes of correspondence (over 2 metres of letters, with each box containing hundreds of letters!) sent by or to the Menzies family. This correspondence will allow Canadians to see the complexity of relationships with family and friends when diplomatic postings require part of a family to move overseas, while the rest of the family stays in Canada. The evolution of these relationships over time, such as when the children are older and choose not to follow their parents to overseas postings, is fascinating. One can also sense the attachment to friends even though the family is living far away for several years. The correspondence is rich and constant between the many friends, colleagues and members of the Redpath, Menzies, Sedgwick and Skelton families. The period from 1965 to 1972 was the subject of a book, Australia & the South Pacific: Letters Home, 1965–1972, published by Arthur Menzies in 2009. The variety of sources in this series will satisfy even the most meticulous researchers!

A typewritten letter discussing domestic affairs of an impending move.

A personal letter from Arthur Menzies to Mrs. Skelton (MIKAN 4976262)

Australia and the South Pacific

Ambassador Menzies represented Canada overseas at key moments in history. For example, he was High Commissioner to Australia when the Fiji islands gained their independence from the United Kingdom. Arthur Menzies thus became, de facto, Canada’s first High Commissioner to Fiji. He also kept his post in Australia and maintained ties with other British colonies in the region that would become independent later in the 1970s, such as Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

A colour photograph of a man wearing shorts, a shirt and sandals. He has a camera on a lanyard around his neck. The man is standing beside another man who is wearing shorts and an elaborate mask.

Kenneth Menzies (left) with masked Papua New Guinea man, July 5, 1967 (MIKAN 4976273)

China and Vietnam

In what was probably the most important posting of his career, Arthur Menzies was appointed as the Ambassador of Canada to China and Vietnam in 1976. His fluency in Mandarin and his experience were undoubtedly strong factors in his selection. The posting to China meant a return to the country of his birth for Menzies. The series of archival fonds covering this period is rich in photographs, and it documents the dozens of places that Arthur and Sheila Menzies visited in all parts of the two countries.

A black-and-white photograph of two men bowing to each other. One of the men is holding a piece of paper and extending it toward the other. In the background, a third man is observing the scene.

Ambassador Menzies presenting his credentials to a Chinese official, 1976 (MIKAN 4976275)

Not to mention …

Arthur Menzies also wrote numerous books and articles, mainly about his life as an ambassador. The fonds, which is largely accessible to all, enables us to consult the notes and drafts that led to the final publications.

The fonds contains an extraordinary number of photographs (5,103: 1,300 black-and-white and 3,803 colour photos) that enable us to find out about regions and parts of countries that are still difficult to visit today, such as Fiji and Burma (Myanmar). These visual aids often include dates and annotations. A more thorough search could uncover the specific itineraries of advocacy missions around the world by Menzies as Canadian ambassador.

It is now possible to conduct more in-depth research into this key figure in Canada’s diplomatic history in the 20th century, thanks to the vast array of material in his archival fonds at Library and Archives Canada. The Arthur R. Menzies fonds awaits your discovery!


Patrick Latulippe is an archivist in the Science and Governance Private Archives Division at Library and Archives Canada.

 

O Canada! A bilingual history

By Jessica Di Laurenzio

Library and Archives Canada has recently acquired the records of the Frederick Harris Music Company, a large Canadian music publisher often associated with the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. In the company’s early days, beginning in the 1910s, Frederick Harris rigorously fought to obtain Canadian copyright for as much music as possible. One of the songs he published around this time was the English-language version of “O Canada.” However, the “O Canada” that Harris first published was not the same song that Canadians know today as their official national anthem.

“O Canada” became the official national anthem in 1980, exactly 100 years after Calixa Lavallée first composed the music. He was commissioned to write it by Lieutenant Governor Théodore Robitaille of Quebec. Judge Adolphe-Basile Routhier wrote the French lyrics at the same time, and the anthem was performed on Saint Jean-Baptiste Day in Quebec City in 1880. “Chant National” (the original name for “O Canada”) was an anthem for the French-Canadian people, written in part as a response to the popularity of “God Save the Queen” in English Canada.

A black-and-white photograph of a man with a prominent mustache, wearing a suit and bow tie. The photo is oval-shaped on a grey matte board.

Portrait of Calixa Lavallée (MIKAN 3526369)

People in English Canada liked Lavallée’s music so much that, a couple of decades later, they decided to create their own version. However, rather than simply translating Routhier’s lyrics into English, several Anglophone lyricists wrote their own words, which helps explain why today the meaning of some of the French and English lyrics of “O Canada” differ greatly.

Sheet music cover. In the centre, there is a photo of a man in an overcoat and trousers holding a top hat and a cane. The composer’s and lyricist’s names are at the bottom between a sketch of the city of Québec and a tree that stretches to the top of the page to decorate the title with maple leaves.

Cover of the first edition of “O Canada” (AMICUS 5281119) L.N. Dufresne, cover “O Canada” (Québec: Arthur Lavigne, 1880). Musée de la civilisation, bibliothèque du séminaire de Québec. Fonds ancient, 204, SQ047145.

Original French lyrics by Routhier:

O Canada! Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!
Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,
Il sait porter la croix!

Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,

Protègera nos foyers et nos droits.
Protègera nos foyers et nos droits.

English Translation:

O Canada! Land of our ancestors,
Glorious deeds circle your brow.
For your arm knows how to wield the sword,
Your arm knows how to carry the cross.

Your history is an epic
Of brilliant deeds.
And your valour steeped in faith

Will protect our homes and our rights,
Will protect our homes and our rights.

English-speaking lyricists took a different approach to the lyrics, often focusing on Canada’s natural beauty instead of the country’s valour and epic history. Sometimes, their approaches were a little too similar, causing accusations of plagiarism. Robert Stanley Weir and Edward Teschemacher were two of the Anglophones who came up with their own versions, and both chose to use the phrase “our home and native land.” The similarities created copyright tension between Delmar Music Co. and Frederick Harris, the respective publishers of the Weir and Teschemacher versions, both published around 1910.

Cover of sheet music for “O Canada!,” Canadian National Anthem by C. Lavallée.

Cover of sheet music for “O Canada,” published by Frederick Harris Music Co., 1914, words by Edward Teschemacher (AMICUS 21776210)

Along with Weir and Teschemacher, people across Canada came up with their own English versions of “O Canada.” By 1927, the Weir version had emerged as the most popular rendition, and was used as an official song for the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation. However, because so many other versions existed, it did not gain official status as the national anthem for some time.

Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson tried to introduce a bill to make it the official version in 1967, but it was not until the centennial anniversary of Lavallée’s music, in 1980, that “O Canada” became the country’s official national anthem. Routhier’s original lyrics from 1880 made up the French version, while Weir’s words gained official status as the English version—regardless of the fact that their meanings were so different.

Photo of a rectangular postage stamp with colourful graphics of three men, with their names written beside them: Calixa Lavallée, Adolphe-Basile Routhier, and Robert Stanley Weir. The stamp reads “Canada Postes-Postage, O Canada! 1880–1980.”

Commemorative stamp, 1980, showing Lavallée, Routhier, and Weir (MIKAN 2218638)


Jessica Di Laurenzio is an archival assistant with Literature, Music, and Performing Arts, Private Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

 

Sir Wilfrid Laurier—175th anniversary of his birth

By Michael MacDonald

One hundred and seventy-five years ago, the Right Honourable Sir Wilfrid Laurier was born in the parish of Saint-Lin, Lower Canada (modern day Saint-Lin–Laurentides, Quebec). Laurier is generally regarded as one of Canada’s greatest prime ministers and was Canada’s longest consecutively serving prime minister.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has a wealth of records which reveal many stories of Laurier who is well-known for his desire to build an autonomous Canada that included both English and French cultures, his belief in the separation of church and state, his opposition to conscription, his support in Quebec, and his meticulous wardrobe and charismatic presence.

Five black-and-white photographs of the same man side by side at these approximate ages, left to right: 24, 33, 50, 65 and 70 years old.

A collage of five photographs of Laurier at different times in his life. (Sources of images from left to right, MIKAN 3218126, 3194714, 3623432, 3218138 and 3628621.)

One does not need to be an academic to find these fascinating records regarding Laurier; one just needs to search out some of these gems using LAC’s database for archival documents, Archives Search. A search for “Wilfrid Laurier” will result in over 60,870 records and more are continually being added.

Even more documents and information can be found on LAC’s web pages such as First Among Equals (or the children’s version), Prime Ministers’ Fonds, Laurier House, and our thematic guide to the South African War, to name just a few. (For a listing of general resources on politics, see Politics and Government.)

 

A screen capture of a web page showing the results from a search on “Wilfrid Laurier” using <abbr title=

While there are obviously far too many documents to highlight, below are four examples of lesser-known topics concerning Laurier, which can be researched through our website.

Laurier, the military man

Many people think of Laurier as being anti-military as he was against conscription and the forced recruiting of armed forces for imperial wars such as the Second Boer War and the First World War. However, many don’t realize that not only did Laurier serve in the militia, but so did his father and grandfather.

Two manuscripts side by side. The paper on the left was delivered to Carolus Laurier and issued by The Right Honourable James, Earl of Elgin and Earl of Kincardine. The paper on the right was delivered to Charles Laurier by George, Earl of Dalhousie.

Commission papers of Carolus Laurier on the left and Charles Laurier on the right (MIKAN 4929180 and 4929179)

Charles Laurier, Sir Wilfrid’s grandfather, was commissioned as a captain in the Terrebonne Militia Division in 1825; Carolus Laurier, Sir Wilfrid’s father, was a captain in the 3rd Battalion of Leinster in 1847; and Laurier received the Canada General Service Medal as a Lieutenant in the Arthabaskaville Infantry Company in 1870 during the Fenian Raids.

Two black-and-white photographs of both sides of a medal. On one side is a flag surrounded by maple leaves. On the other side is a woman wearing a crown.

The Canada General Service Medal (MIKAN 3638053)

Laurier, the nation builder

Laurier was the first francophone prime minister who brought the Liberals to power by establishing support in his home province of Quebec.

One of the first issues Laurier dealt with when he became Canada’s seventh prime minister was the Manitoba Schools Question. Laurier defeated the earlier proposal that public funds should not be used for Catholic schools and proposed the compromise that public funds could be used where there were enough Catholic students to warrant it. Laurier was especially pleased with the compromise he was able to strike, and referred to his efforts as “sunny ways” (voies ensoleillées)—a slogan which you may recognize, as it has been regularly used by the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau and his government today.

It was also Laurier’s government that in 1898 established the Yukon as a distinct territory from the Northwest Territories, and in 1905 created the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. As you can see from the maps below, Canada looked very different in the map created circa 1906 than the one circa 1897.

Two coloured maps of Canada side by side.

On the left, Canada’s territorial divisions, circa 1906 (MIKAN 4153332), and on the right, a political map of Canada, circa 1897 (MIKAN 4153334).

 Laurier, the man with a $1000 smile

While we are all familiar with Laurier’s image on the Canadian five-dollar bill, did you know that Laurier used to be on the thousand-dollar bill? Laurier’s image was used on the thousand-dollar bill for the first bank note series issued by the Bank of Canada in 1935 (see below for sample images), and again for the 1937 series. In 1954, the Bank of Canada’s third bank note series included Queen Elizabeth II’s image on every bank note and replaced Laurier’s image on the thousand-dollar bill. Laurier’s image was placed on the five-dollar bill in 1986 and has remained there since. While it may seem like a “demotion,” the thousand-dollar bill ceased to be printed and was withdrawn from circulation in 2000, whereas the five-dollar bill is seen by more Canadians than any other. It is also interesting to note that other than Queen Elizabeth II, only Laurier has enjoyed the prestigious honour of having his image on the Canadian thousand-dollar bill.

Two images of thousand-dollar bills side by side; the draft bill on the left is gray and yellow and the final bill on the right is white and grey.

A draft version of the thousand-dollar bill on the left, and the final version on the right (Bank of Canada).

While the above images are taken from the Bank of Canada’s website, LAC holds other sketches that were proposed for the thousand-dollar bill, as well as miscellaneous correspondence on this subject in our Sir Wilfrid Laurier fonds, and other collections.

Laurier, the elusive

While it is understandable that there are fewer films of Laurier than many other prime ministers simply because he was prime minister from 1896 to 1911, it is quite surprising how very little footage appears to have survived. It was a long-time researcher of LAC’s holdings who told me that when he used to come for his regular visits in the 1980s, he was shown the footage below by a former archivist who claimed that it was the only footage of Laurier that LAC held. While a more exhaustive and time-consuming search would be needed to confirm the number of films, a preliminary search certainly confirms that there are indeed very few films.

The next time you watch a documentary concerning Laurier, pay close attention to how little actual film footage is included, and how producers have used photos. For now, enjoy this very short clip which has only 6 seconds of Laurier, followed by his state funeral. The Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC) production of “Did You Know? – The History of Wilfrid Laurier” contains the same footage starting at 3 minutes and 14 seconds into the recording.

In addition to LAC’s YouTube channel, which has a small sampling of LAC’s videos, you can conduct searches for other audiovisual material using our Film, Video and Sound Database

Related resources

A Sunny Legacy: Celebrating Sir Wilfrid Laurier (Exhibition)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier – Canada’s 7th Prime Minister

Sir Wilfrid Laurier fonds 


Michael MacDonald is an archivist in the Political Archives area of the Science, Governance and Politics Division at Library and Archives Canada.

 

Sir Wilfrid Laurier podcast images now on Flickr 

Sir Wilfrid Laurier had the largest unbroken term of office as Canada’s seventh prime minister. He was considered one of Canada’s greatest politicians, full of charisma, charm and passion, qualities that served him well in office, and also in his personal life. This passion is seen in many of the letters he wrote to his wife Zoé. But perhaps we gain a deeper insight into his character through his letters to Émilie Lavergne.

Accessing our history: a project about prime ministers

By Mariam Lafrenie and Rachel Klassen

In collaboration with Queen’s University, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has launched a project to highlight the speeches of Canada’s prime ministers. To begin the project, LAC’s Governance and Political Archives Section was pleased to work with Mariam Lafrenie, a Queen’s undergraduate student research fellow. Mariam became the project’s prime minister researcher over the summer of 2016. Her findings allowed our section to plan how to meet the project’s central objectives of facilitating greater access to the fonds of Canada’s prime ministers preserved by LAC, and to bring Canadians closer to their political history. To conclude this first phase, we asked Mariam to share her thoughts about both the project and some of the notable speeches she encountered.

Mariam Lafrenie’s reflections

Having worked in the fonds of several prime ministers, including Sir Charles Tupper, I have gained a unique perspective on Canadian history and heritage. I have seen the determination of Canada’s future and the goals agreed upon by our Fathers of Confederation, but I have also watched the evolution of these goals. Each prime minister attempted to redefine Canadian identity and the meaning of a unified nation.

Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent understood his Canada as a place where diversity and freedom flourished, but also as a place where discrimination and terrorism were inherently intolerable. He was known as “Uncle Louis” to Canadians, and during his prime ministership, he oversaw the establishment of the United Nations and Newfoundland’s entry into Confederation.

An older man is standing on a stage and reaching out to a crowd of children.

Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent with group of children, 1949 (MIKAN 3220798)

Prime Minister John Diefenbaker fought for the indomitable right of all Canadians to be free. In his Canada, being Canadian meant possessing the ability to express your beliefs and opinions, but also having the responsibility to uphold this standard for all of humanity.

I am Canadian, a free Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind. John Diefenbaker, House of Commons, July 1, 1960

An older man is standing and speaking to people seated at desks.

Prime Minister John Diefenbaker speaks in the House of Commons, October 14, 1957 (MIKAN 3214921)

Prime Minister Lester Pearson left a legacy of perseverance and diplomacy. His Canada was about social advancement, and it witnessed the creation of universal medicare, the Canada Pension Plan, and the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. Most notably, however, he is remembered for his dedication to the pursuit of a national flag worthy of an independent and unified Canada.

Cover page of a published speech, includes text and a portrait of a white man.

“I Stand for Canada!” speech delivered by Lester Pearson (MIKAN 4924761)

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau dedicated 15 years of service to Canadians and brought Canada through the October Crisis and the Quebec Referendum of 1980. He also spiritedly fought to unify Canadians, from coast to coast, and to entrench their rights and freedoms, as his Canada became a fully autonomous nation with its own constitution.

There still remains much to be discovered about Canada’s prime ministers. As LAC and Queen’s continue with this project, greater access to the prime ministers’ fonds will support this discovery!

Related links:


Mariam Lafrenie is an undergraduate student research fellow from Queen’s University who worked in the Private Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada during the summer of 2016.

Rachel Klassen is a political portfolio archivist working in the Private Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.