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Tributes to Remarkable Contemporaries
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With Faith and Goodwill

With Faith and Goodwill

150 Years of Canada-U.S. Friendship
edited by Arthur Milnes
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In the world of Canada-U.S. relations, a speech by a president to the Canadian Parliament, or one by a Canadian prime minister to the U.S. Congress is, to use sporting analogies, the World Series or Stanley Cup final of bilateral relations. It simply can’t be topped.
In 1995, shortly after President Bill Clinton spoke to Canada’s Parliament, quick-thinking and historically minded staff at the American Embassy in Ottawa produced the book United States Presidential Addresses to the Canadian Parliament: 1943–1995. In his foreword, then American Ambassador to Canada James Blanchard noted the following about these special addresses:

Presidential speeches in the House of Commons have always been a special moment in U.S.-Canadian history. Each speech powerfully captures the mood of the times. Each represents an important portrait of this, the most unique bilateral relationship in history.

When President Bill Clinton spoke to Canada’s MPs and senators, it fell to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to introduce his counterpart. In introducing Clinton, the wily man from Shawinigan reminded Canada’s distinguished visitor that a speech to Canada’s Parliament could also bring good political luck to a president who, as with Chrétien himself, was still in his first term. As the man from Hope, Arkansas, listened intently, the prime minister observed that presidents such as Eisenhower, Reagan, and Nixon had all addressed Canada’s Parliament and were later returned to second terms at the White House. To laughter, Chrétien noted that other presidents like Ford, Carter, and George H.W. Bush had not addressed Parliament and had not received second terms.
It was a great line and very much appreciated by Clinton, who was down in the polls then. “I have never believed in the iron laws of history as much as I do now,” the president told Parliament.
The fact that later presidents like George W. Bush and Barack Obama were elected to second terms after not addressing Canada’s Parliament shows that this “law” of history can now be forgotten. Ambassador Blanchard was right in what he said, though. A presidential visit to Parliament Hill that lacks an address to Parliament may still be important and exciting, but it remains a bit of a letdown. So when, in June 2016, President Barack Obama finally took his turn behind a podium in Canada’s House of Commons to proclaim “the world needs more Canada,” the now-veteran president was met with a wave of enthusiasm.
What many observers forget, however, is that a presidential speech to Parliament actually is a relatively recent custom. Franklin Roosevelt in August 1943 was the first to address Canadian MPs and senators. And it wasn’t until 1977 that a Canadian prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, was honoured by an invitation to speak to Congress in Washington. Fans of Canada’s connection to the British monarchy will note with pride that Governor General Vincent Massey, the Queen’s representative in Canada, beat Trudeau to Congress by many years. He spoke there in 1954.
No matter the occasion, however, the persistent and perhaps even defining characteristic of the relationship between the two countries is their friendship. This is not the whole of the partnership, certainly, but it is the foundation. Unsurprisingly, then, some presidents and prime ministers have discovered over the decades that the need to work together closely on bilateral, continental, and global matters can produce a bond that becomes personal. Professional responsibilities can produce — and often have produced — friends in truly high places.

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Literary Titans Revisited

Literary Titans Revisited

The Earle Toppings Interviews with CanLit Poets and Writers of the Sixties
edited by Anne Urbancic
tagged : canadian, speeches
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Imagine the trepidation but also the excitement of a first-year student sent to the Victoria University Special Collections (or any archival facility, really) to choose an interesting subject whose letters, diaries, papers, artefacts, and ephemera could result in a fine final grade — if the student reads them and analyzes them appropriately. Where to start? How to organize all the information? And, finally, when to finish? Because as we all know, when we have discovered a treasure trove, we’d like the exploration to continue indefinitely.
This is what many of my students experience as they approach their major assignment in my first-year historiography and cultural memory course at Victoria College in the University of Toronto. I am always astonished by their discoveries, how carefully and thoughtfully they analyze and present their findings, and, most of all, how many of them are inspired to pursue more archival and primary source research as they continue their studies.
The historiography course is the genesis of the project that has turned into the little volume you are reading. It began with a young woman, Griffin Kelly, whose name will appear again later; the treasure box she examined contained papers, notes, and booklets but most significantly, a series of compact discs. Intrigued, she probed further and contacted the donor, Earle Toppings, who still resided in Toronto. He joined the class the day she pre¬sented her findings and then stayed to chat. Thanks to Earle Toppings, the end of the course was the beginning of our project.
What Griffin found on the compact discs were the interviews and readings of sixteen Canadian authors and poets. These sixteen are the pantheon of writers whose work heralded the birth of what is now affectionately called CanLit. As a genre, Canadian literature arrived late. Canada prides itself on its many excellent and exceptional authors and poets, but they had not often appeared on the world’s literary stages until the second half of the twentieth century. Why? Many of the interviews you will read here will give you reasons to ponder and some insights. The interviewees acknowledged that, sadly, their works had been largely overlooked, except, perhaps, by an academic elite.
Nevertheless, as you read their interviews and poetry, you will soon discover that they are writers with universal appeal. They are uniquely Canadian but not narrowly academic. Their artistry meets all literary standards of excellence, and their themes speak to all of us. These sixteen writers were the powerhouses of literature in the 1960s and early 1970s. They provided the energy, the encouragement, and the inspiration for the fine poets and prose writers who have followed.
When former editor turned radio host and literary aficionado Earle Toppings chanced upon some unclaimed academic funds, he decided to record the voices of this pantheon. He used reel-to-reel tapes, which had become an obsolete medium years later when he tried to find a way to preserve them. The master tapes were no longer available. Undaunted, he found a technician, Dean Allen, who agreed to transfer the reel copies to compact discs. Even more happily for our project, Toppings donated the discs and relevant papers to Victoria University Special Collections where Griffin found them.
Transcribing the tapes ensured a new life for the authors Toppings cap¬tured on his tapes. These writers are all gone now, but in the pages of this book they remain fresh: perceptive, fascinating, sometimes almost prescient. Their words abound with acute observations and thoughtful reflections on their lives, on life in Canada, on Canada’s life. It does not take long to real¬ize the universality and timelessness of their work. Their writing explores themes that our society continues to grapple with today, almost half a century after they sat down with Dr. Toppings in a closet-size recording studio in downtown Toronto: the plight of the marginalized, the environment, the difficulties of finding one’s self and place, the anxiety of getting it all wrong, the longing for love, the search for justice. Toppings expertly invites them to reveal the inner workings of their writing and their thoughts — not their “third divorce” as Toppings says in his own interview, but the fundamental elements that shaped their words, their sentences, their rhythms. Sixteen writers in frank conversation. Then, as a lagniappe, in his interview with the students, Toppings shares his own memories of the recording sessions to enrich our knowledge and thrill us with his interpretations of the writers and poets who sat opposite him at the recording table.
While the written page does not offer the timbre and cadences of their voices, it nonetheless brings back to us their conversations and readings that inform and delight. To revisit Gwendolyn McEwan’s words in “The Compass,” for example, is to envisage the shy exchange between the two writers on the same train: the eloquence of the young poet is meaningfully juxtaposed with the illiterate old man just learning to trace the letters of the alphabet, even though he, unschooled as he is, is the one who literally holds life’s compass in his hand through his experiences. To read of Hugh Garner’s difficult youth in his own parlance and contrast it with Mordecai Richler’s contention that working at hard jobs would have made him more of a writer than having published a novel at age nineteen gives us pause to reflect on how our own selves are shaped by daily challenges. Raymond Souster evokes a cheeky but sympathetic smile with his image of two lovers in an amorous embrace, zipped up in a sleeping bag in front of City Hall. Is theirs a comment on restrictive social convention or an act of freedom? Earle Birney asks the same question in his poignant lines about the bear on the road to Delhi: the lumbering animal is taught to dance to earn small sums for his impoverished trainers. Are the trainers any freer than the bear? Miriam Waddington considers how her Jewish heritage affects how she sees the world; Irving Layton is also concerned with how being Jewish influences his poetry. In his self-recognition of being a father and a son, his poetry also reflects the interplay, sometimes gentle, sometimes gruff, of family. Eli Mandel presents a mythopoeic worldview, combining elements of myth and reality into a life lesson. Neither didactic nor pedantic, his lines evoke traces of tales told before recorded time, tales that continue to be relevant today. Dorothy Livesay describes how her own growth into personhood resembles the Canadian environment, and she envisages herself as the prairie wind or the silence of the vast country that envelops her. This metamorphosis is almost imperceptible to her as she engages in the act of creating poetry, and only later does she realize that her work marries nature and art. She does this in lines that imaginatively intertwine a Bartok concerto and a sunlit geranium brightening her windowsill.
Other writers also contemplate the influence of the Canadian landscape on our collective psyche: what does Canadian landscape mean? How does it vary across the thousands of kilometres of this political entity that is Canada? How does it change over time? How does it feel to be part of it? Read the interviews of Morley Callaghan, Hugh MacLennan, and Margaret Laurence: all were established internationally before they gained the often grudging acknowledgement of Canadians. Nevertheless, they were all anxious to showcase the Canada they knew. In their words on tape, they celebrate their Canadian perspectives, as does F.R. Scott who delves into the promise of Canada’s future with his invitation to give new names to the Canadian landscape. Why new names? For him the Canadian land is free, it is fresh; it is not burdened with the traditions, the histories, and the troubles of Europe; and therefore it deserves new, unencumbered names. Not so for Sinclair Ross, whose interview reveals an underlying but unmistakeable bitterness for not being read, not being understood, not being accepted. Al Purdy is not so harsh. For him it is true that Canada is not perfect, as he points out in his poignantly metaphorical verses about broken Indigenous art pieces that represent the plight of Canada’s First Nations. His lines call for us to come to some understanding of who we are as Canadians and of how to accept the many generations that came before us, despite the brokenness. Just how many generations are needed before we understand our essential nature as Canadians? James Reaney suggests “1024 great great great great great great great great grandparents”; these are the generations that lead to the birth of one child.
The four undergraduate students who transcribed the tapes made a profound engagement with Canadian literature. The winners of Victoria College’s first Northrop Frye Centre Undergraduate Research Award, they spent hours beyond their regular academic obligations researching, listening, typing, discussing, and, I’m quite certain, fretting over the final manuscript. Geoff Baillie, Amy Kalbun, Griffin Kelly, and Vipasha Shaikh are each responsible for four chapters of this book. They were helped immeasurably by Pratt Special Collections librarians Agatha Barc and Colin Deinhardt, who prepared training sessions for the specialized research demands and mentored the students throughout the project. With them, of course, was Earle Toppings, who patiently answered inquiries and himself agreed to an in-depth interview, moderated by Agatha Barc. His conversation with the students fills in many gaps, offers additional facts, and provides a comprehensive context for the complete project, both the original one and this written version.
From the first days of this project, we realized its significance as a personal history of the early years of CanLit. It is personal because it is told through the words of the poets and authors who nurtured Canadian literature into what it has become. It is a history because it records and preserves the nature and status of Canadian literature in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Perhaps the awareness that the writers display about their work and its place on the literary stage was prompted by the highly successful Canadian centennial celebration, especially Expo 67, the world exposition held in Montreal. Expo 67 marked a milestone moment when Canadians from sea to sea to sea began to take a new look at themselves and their society. And, despite tensions, they liked what they saw. That this present volume should celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial is a wonderful and appropriate coincidence. We see what they saw, and we like it very much.

Just a final note: as we worked we noticed that in many cases the poems read by our poets differed from their published versions. We have noted substantial discrepancies. We have chosen to respect the lines as read on the audiotapes.

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Foreign Voices in the House

Foreign Voices in the House

A Century of Addresses to Canada's Parliament by World Leaders
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Introduction: Ourselves as Others See Us

Oratory is an art inseparable from politics. From Demosthenes to Nelson Mandela, from the Lyceum in Athens to the House of Commons in Ottawa, from courtrooms and stadiums to assembly halls and television studios, the spoken word animates society and stirs us to action. Orators share with audiences how they see the world.
Some speeches quickly fall into the dustbin of history. Others gain lustre in hindsight. Yet none can be judged, truly, apart from its times. Demosthenes is regarded by some as a patriot unable to persuade his declining city state to rise above self-seeking and take recuperative action, but as A.N.W. Saunders concludes: “He was too great an orator to be always unsuccessful, even though the times were against him.”
The times do matter. When introducing his 957-page collection of historic speeches, Lend Me Your Ears, White House speechwriter William Safire distinguished mere “quotable lines” — the sound bites, zingers, aphorisms, and epigrams — from “the meat and potatoes of oratory: oral communication in context, human persuasion in action.”
Putting a speech in context involves two core elements. “Occasion” is one.
Crises and periods of transcending significance provoke great oratory as individuals “rise to the occasion.” Indeed, “Human history is primarily a record of important and dramatic events which have often been profoundly affected by great speeches,” notes Lewis Copeland in his 748-page collection, The World’s Great Speeches.
On December 30, 1941, Winston Churchill, Britain’s wartime prime minister, delivered a stirring speech in our House of Commons. Stressing that Britain and Canada had not sought the war, he added, “with every month and every year that passes, we shall confront the evildoers with weapons as plentiful, as sharp, and as destructive as those with which they have sought to establish their hateful domination.” Broadcast by CBC Radio link-ups across our country and BBC shortwave facilities around the world, Churchill’s pugnacious defiance uplifted listeners from the discouraging depths of war. His speech was the first live broadcast from Parliament Hill.
On November 3, 2014, shortly after an armed terrorist attacking inside our Parliament Buildings was killed by House of Commons sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers, France’s president, François Hollande, soon to experience a number of murderous acts by terrorists in his own country, saluted Vickers’s courage, pointing out that his name had become known around the world. “I reassert here,” Hollande stated, “that in the face of terrorism there is no room for backing down, for concession, for weakness, because terrorism threatens the values on which both our countries are built.”
From speeches in 1917 by René Viviani of France and Arthur Balfour of Britain at the darkest hour of the First World War, through those speeches by Churchill and Hollande, to the 2016 speech by American President Barack Obama, history’s irreversible currents can be seen transforming the world, and Canada’s place in it, many times over. Over the past hundred years, the foreign leaders at Canada’s podium have spoken during, and about, epic transitions. Their messages were immediate, even urgent — broad in scope, yet specific in detail. They came to Canada’s podium knowing they themselves were in the midst of making history.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the leaders addressing Canada’s Parliament confronted dark matters of grave concern: the risk of nuclear war, the continuing shame of poverty and hunger in the world, the crimes of racism and genocide, the plight of millions of refugees trapped in camps of the stateless, the implications of communism’s global spread and the human costs of capitalism’s bite, the peril of small regional wars expanding to jeopardize world peace, the dilemma of stopping wars within countries as well as between them, and acidic terrorist activity corroding the guy wires of human security.
But the trigger for great oratory is not just perilous threat. As Copeland notes, “important and dramatic events” can serve equally well. Arriving in our House of Commons, foreign leaders also brought uplifting messages designed to banish fears of the day and inspire listeners to create tomorrow’s better world. Beyond reciting by rote their particular catechism of calamities and challenges, many in this parade of world players highlighted the century’s peaceful miracles.
More than a dozen were early advocates for creating the United Nations, and a steady procession of leaders following them chronicled the United Nations’ growth and successes. What the League of Nations could not accomplish after the First World War, the United Nations achieved following the Second.
A miracle, of sorts, accompanied the demise of colonialism. A number of leaders seeking to end globally integrated imperial operations trace, by their speeches, how the British Empire was made over into the “Commonwealth of Nations.” French presidents and prime ministers chronicle the stages of France releasing, in the face of military defeats, its many overseas colonies, from Algeria to Vietnam, and the subsequent emergence of La Francophonie, a voluntary affiliation of self-governing French-speaking countries. Indonesia’s President Sukarno spoke with passion and clarity in our Commons about winning his vast and impoverished nation’s independence from the Dutch, and claiming the treasure of freedom.
Other miracles, too, are represented by these foreign orators in our Parliament. John F. Kennedy’s presence epitomized the “New Frontier” spirit that made possible sending a man to the moon — and back, safely. Nelson Mandela’s advance from his prison cell to our Commons bore testament to apartheid’s end and the coming to power of black South Africans — without the expected revolution’s bloodshed. Boris Yeltsin’s dramatic speech highlighted the collapse of the Soviet Empire and European communism — without the long-dreaded Third World War.
Because this century’s worth of speeches by foreign leaders in our House of Commons was punctuated by crises and dramatic events, they are deservedly memorable. Cicero put it best: “Great oratory demands great issues.”
The second element of context is “audience.” In Great Canadian Speeches: Words That Shaped a Nation, Brian Busby observes: “A speech is not made in a vacuum. The orator receives a reaction, yet this often remains unrecorded due to the limitations of the printed word.” That’s certainly true for speeches in the House of Commons. The Hansard reporter, for example, includes allusions to audience reaction such as the commodious expression “Hear, hear.” However, that discrete phrase never accurately reflects the responsive ambience MPs witness and feel in the moment.
Of all the speeches in this book, one of the most punctuated by cheering and applause was René Viviani’s grand peroration in 1917. The Great War’s tremendous incitement to patriotic eloquence enabled that courtroom maestro and former French prime minister to tug at the emotions of his Canadian audience, who felt no restraint about giving lusty voice to their enthusiastic militancy. There was plenty of “loud cheering.”
An orator’s audience, of course, includes more people than those present in person. This book makes you part of Franklin Roosevelt’s Ottawa audience, just as you can receive here inspiration from Indira Gandhi, Václav Havel, Kofi Annan, Bill Clinton, Sukarno, and the Aga Khan, because publishing speeches obliterates the restraints of time and distance. Preserving great speeches, in fact, has a triple benefit — preserving a treasured part of the historical record, providing inspiration for one’s own life work, and producing a rich variety of oratorical styles for individuals seeking to upgrade their own arts of public address. Such collections have become a special literary genre, to which Foreign Voices in the House is now added.
Today television and the Internet project orators to audiences numbering in the millions, as well, but here as in most things the book itself remains the foundation document and most enduring tangible record.

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