General George Vanier was the 19th Governor General and the second GG native to Canada after Vincent Massey. Vanier was highly respected across the land. His body went to lie-in-state in the Houses of Parliament on March 5, 1967.
US President, LBJ dispatched his VP, Hubert H. Humphrey to express the USA’s condolences to Canada for the loss of Vanier. HHH arrived at the front stairs of Parliament in a cavalcade of three (armoured, I presume) cars. They stopped in front of the main entrance and instantaneously two bunches of sizeable gentlemen in MacArthur-style oversized dark glasses purred out of the first and the third vehicles and moving with precision the Chinese Girls Drill team of Seattle would envy, surrounded the middle car. The burly men circled HHH and together, like a ball of herring, the human blob hurriedly ascended the stairs to the door of the House and disappeared inside.
Minutes later one car arrived, unarmoured (plain sheet-metal). The driver got out and opened the door for his passenger. He was Lester (Mike) Pearson Canada’s Prime Minister. The driver then jumped back in the car and drove off.
The year 1967 was Canada’s Centennial and we connected with the World with Expo 67. Many heads of state came to see Expo and as the protocol had it, they were received by the PM. A plywood and 2x4s three-step high platform was built on the lawn of Parliament near the centennial flame and was red-carpeted for the PM to receive the visiting State-Heads.
A pair of RCMP officers in riding boots and red serge, were in attendance for decor, only. Mike Pearson with one of his Ministers in tow, frequently the inimitable Judy LaMarsh who was the Minister in charge of the Centennial festivities, other times with John Turner or some other Minister, were there to welcome the visting “Head du jour”. . While awaiting the arrival, Pearson and the Minister would pace up and down the sidewalk on the other side of Wellington Street awaiting the signal that the Head was approaching.
I was living nearby and often would go to catch the show. At that time “social distancing” had not been coined and the PM and his minister were literally rubbing shoulders with us, “ordinary Canadians”, standing on or pacing the sidewalk. Anyone could easily harm them but no one wanted to do that. And that was lovely.
These little stories, and more like them, are like LCD lights, small but bright, illuminating Canada’s national greatness. This was the country who having done so much to extinguish Hitler, had emerged to be Peacemaker and Peacekeeper to the World. A country whose peoples were mighty proud about. A country of people who loathe being ordinary and seek to excel in every turn of the way. This, true to an “elder” of the human tribe who urged us all to “forever seek to excel” – “Aien Aristevein”, are his words, Aristotle is his name.
I became a Canadian the moment I read a Royal Canadian Air Force poster message: “We fight to stay on top” – It can’t get better than that , so I joined Canada and since then I have relished being Canadian. But in recent years I have come to resent the substandard leaders befalling us – “leaders” madly trying to “lead” us to see ourselves as second, or lower class people. They portray us drenched in guilt and “lead us” into glueing our knees to the ground, forever pleading for forgiveness for having not chosen parents other than those we were born to. Our ancestors alleged “sin” is having lived their lives the way they did, perhaps the best way they knew how. No lesser nonsense really, than if they would “lead” us to curse God for having evicted us humans from Paradise and having sentenced the descendants to labour-for-life because a serpent misled Eve to seduce Adam to share “forbidden fruit”.
Canada is not second to any nation and one marvels at that, given this tsunami of meek leaders of recent. To clean up after them is a Herculean task, but it need be and will be done, I for one believe it will. For as long as I breathe I hope ( Cicero), and because hope springs eternal (Pope, the poet, not the pontiff) ... Hercules do happen.
on the Eleventh we will stand proud and salute those whose courage and determination we celebrate. Canada is NUMERO UNO, we are “second” to none, and much for this we owe them.