Tag Archives: canadian history

Why Are Most Canadian Prime Ministers Old White Men?

prime ministers of canada

Poster of Canada’s Prime Ministers available from Teacher Tools.

In a grade five and six class I have been visiting the last couple of weeks the kids and their teacher have worked out a kind of rap with actions to learn the names of all of Canada’s prime ministers.  

For Sir John A. MacDonald they hold up one finger since he was Canada’s first prime minister.  They make a sun over their heads for Wilfred Laurier because his catch phrase was  ‘sunny ways’.  They make the peace sign for Lester Pearson because he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

They make a curly French moustache for Pierre Trudeau because he was responsible for making French the official second language of Canada.  While they say the names of the prime ministers and do the actions the kids look at a poster that pictures all the prime ministers. One day the student teacher I was supervising asked the students what questions they had about the prime ministers of our country.  Here are some of the things they wanted to know.  

  1.  What makes a good prime minister?  
  2. What makes a bad prime minister? 
  3. Why are most of Canada’s prime minister’s old white men? 
  4. Why was Kim Campbell only the prime minister for such a short time? 
  5. How did Justin Trudeau get so popular? 
  6. How old do you have to be to be a prime minister? 
  7. What does a prime minister do anyway?
  8. Which prime minister made the first law? 
  9. Do you have to be rich to be the prime minister? 
  10. What does a prime minister do when they aren’t the prime minister anymore? 

I thought these were great questions!  I’d like some of them answered myself!  

Other posts. ……

Who Should Be Prime Minister? 

I Sat in the Speaker’s Chair

The Famous Five

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Harriet’s Story

marylou-and-harrietHarriet and I are the same age. She was our friendly hostess at the Lancaster Bed and Breakfast in Bonavista Newfoundland.  One morning she told me the story of a very difficult time for her family.  

When Harriet was five years old her mother was sent away  from their tiny community in Elliston down to St. John’s for almost a year. Her mother had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and rest and treatment in a sanatorium was the only way to battle the disease.  While her mother lived in a sanatorium Harriet’s father was left to cope with five small children.  Harriet’s mother gave birth to another baby while she was in the sanatorium but she couldn’t keep it there, so the little boy went to an orphanage till his mother was better.

Travel to St. John’s was too costly for their family so they didn’t see their mother that whole time.  They didn’t have a phone so the only communication they had with her was by letter and a regular radio broadcast they listened to where sanatorium patients could submit messages to be read to their families. 

colony-of-unrequited-dreamsI found Harriet’s story particularly interesting because I am currently reading The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnson and one of the characters in his Newfoundland novel also gets tuberculosis and spends time in a sanatorium. 

Nurse at the hospital with Oviloo

Nurse at the hospital with Oviloo

In a recent exhibit we had at the Winnipeg Art Gallery Inuit artist Ovillo Tunille used sculptures to tell the story of her stay in a TB sanatorium as a young child.

mom at ninette hospitalOne summer when she was in college my mother worked in a TB sanatorium in Ninette Manitoba. 

Harriet’s story is typical of the experience of thousands of families in Canada who were impacted by tuberculosis. 

Other posts…….

Hearing Naomi’s Story

A Terrifying Story Politely Told

A Titanic Story- Annie Funk

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Filed under Art, Books, Health, Newfoundland, winnipeg art gallery

Abstract and Frustrating

Treaty One by Robert Houle from Permission for Self Rule

Treaty One by Robert Houle 

” The interpretation of an abstract painting is open to discussion and dispute just as the interpretation of the government’s treaties with First Nations has been discussed and disputed.”   Jaimie Isaac, the curator of a new exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is explaining why Robert Houle’s work Treaty One includes an abstract painting in the style of Mark Rothko.  Treaty One is the centrepiece of the exhibit called We Are On Treaty Land.  Both the name of the artwork and the name of the exhibit take on added meaning because the Winnipeg Art Gallery is located on Treaty One land and the artists showcased in the exhibit are all connected in some way to Treaty One land. Treaty One, negotiated in 1871 is the first treaty First Nations signed with the Canadian government. 

treaty one section by robert houleIn Treaty One Robert Houle who was born in St. Boniface and lived in Sandy Bay juxtapositions an abstract painting with text from the actual treaty that is partially obscured by an old photograph of First Nations people. This creates a kind of tension since the promises and responsibilities of the treaty remain obscure to many First Nations people as well as other Canadian citizens.

The abstract painting and the obscured text is meant to frustrate viewers just the way the unfulfilled promises of the treaties have frustrated First Nations people. 

Other posts…….

A Controversial Statue

Robert Houle and Parfleches for the Last Supper

The Hiroshima of the Indian Nations


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Filed under Art, Canada, History, winnipeg art gallery