Writing

Tom Longboat

For a fleeting moment in Canadian history Tom Longboat was Canada’s most famous athlete—the most honoured and feted since the great oarsman Ned Hanlan. After a surprise victory at a race at Calendon in 1906, another Six Nations runner, Bill Davis, began to prepare him for the Hamilton Round-the-Bay race in 1906. Tom took some ribbing before the race for his cheap sneakers and awkward running style.

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Laurier: “The First Canadian”

In truth, Laurier’s famous ability to compromise sometimes left everyone dissatisfied. Wilfrid Laurier took leadership of the Liberal party of Canada on 18th of June 1887. Frail and intellectual, preferring the privacy of his library to the battlefield of politics, he was uncertain. “I know I have not the aptitude for it,” he admitted, “and I have a sad apprehension that it must end in disaster.”

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The Origins of Labour Day

The fight of the Toronto printers had a second, lasting legacy. The parades held in support of the Nine-Hour Movement and the printers’ strike led to an annual celebration. In a time when the news of labour “strife” is dominated by unemployment and complaints about the disruptive power of unions, history provides a useful perspective on a time when working people had to fight to work less than 12 hours a day.

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La Salle: “Wilderness martyr or deceitful lunatic?”

The conspirators stripped his corpse and left it for the wolves. On March 19, 1786, somewhere in the trackless wilderness of southern Texas, the French explorer Cavalier de La Salle approached the camp of a party he had sent ahead to find food. La Salle sensed that something was wrong and shouted “Where is my nephew?” “Gone to the dogs,” was the reply.

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Insulin: The Holy Grail of Medicine

The most dramatic story in Canadian medicine had an inauspicious beginning. A shy part-time instructor at the University of Western’s medical school, Frederick Banting, came to visit the august professor of physiology J.J.R. Macleod in his office at the University of Toronto. A skeptical Macleod listened to the shy and hesitant Banting describe how an idea had come to him, one sleepless night, of how isolating a secretion in the pancreas might hold the key to curing diabetes.

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Joseph Howe: Tribune of Nova Scotia

January 1, 1835 turned out to be memorable both for Joseph Howe and for Nova Scotia. On that day Howe’s newspaper the Novascotian, published a letter accusing the magistrates and police of taking £30,000 in illegal payments “from the pockets of the poor and distressed.”

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One More River to Cross: The Canadians in Holland

Along one of the myriad canals that crisscross the Dutch Lowlands, the enemy was fighting with a last-ditch determination and suicidal fury. In a typical engagement a German sniper killed a member of a Canadian tank crew. The Canadians went after him, hurling grenades. Just as quickly he tossed them back until he in turn was killed.

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Speech for 25th Anniversary of TCE

October 6, Ottawa Convention Centre Good evening , Bonsoir Je me présente, James Marsh, rédacteur en chef de l’encyclopédie canadienne, depuis trente ans déjà.

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The Japanese Internment: Banished and Beyond Tears

“Shikata-ga-nai. You say it fast. It means ‘It can’t be helped.’ That’s why most of us didn’t put up a fuss. It is part of our upbringing.” Police banging on doors at all hours of the day or night, ordering frightened occupants to gather up only what they could carry. Parents and children innocent of any crime ushered from their homes, herded in a central depot and freighted out by train to remote camps. A scene from Nazi Germany? No, it was the internment of the Japanese in British Columbia, 1942.

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Speech for Canadian Club, Edmonton March 22, 2005

“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” H.G. Wells Edmonton publisher Mel Hurtig saw something in me that others might not have. He had to make the most important decision of his publishing career—his business depended on it. Once he had funding in place, who would be the editor of his encyclopedia?

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