Monday, August 29, 2011

Active History - Death, politics and the memory of Jack Layton

Another article from

Thomas D'Arcy McGee funeral procession through Montreal

Prior to reading the article I had already been toying with ideas of the history of Canadian public mourning. My mind turned to the funeral of Thomas D'Arcy McGee and the tremendous outpouring of Victorian grief that followed his assassination. It then turned to the funeral of John A. MacDonald, the funeral train of Diefenbaker as it travelled across the country and most recently the state funerals for Pierre Trudeau and, of course, Jack Layton. I'm too young to remember too many other public mourning events but I would encourage an historian to write on this subject (if one has not already done so) and to give us a perspective against the American example of public mourning so often entered into due to the many political assassinations suffered by a number of political and social leaders in that country. As we all know, nationalism is quite often acutely defined by the 'other' in the Canadian case that other is so often our neighbour to the South. Surely, Canadian nationalism has been shaped, perhaps more subtely, by the deaths of our public figures. Stephen Lewis eulogized Layton in saying, "Never in our collective lifetime have we seen such an outpouring, so much emotional intensity, from every corner of this country. There have been occasions, historically, when we've seen respect and admiration but never so much love, never such a shocked sense of personal loss."

Diefenbaker funeral train

It would be most interesting to compare the public mourning for Layton against the past deaths of our public figures in the light of their own historical and political contexts.

CBC Archives Clips:

Farwell Dief - the death of John Diefenbaker -

Justin Trudeau eulogy at Pierre Trudeau funeral -

Tommy Douglas - (Stephen Lewis again!)

Lester B. Pearson funeral "We are all Pearson's children" -
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