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From John A. Macdonald to Justin Trudeau

5th edition cover

Jean Chevrier, Denis L. Daigneault,
Gaétan Jeaurond, Jeanne Poulin,
and Gerald C. Gummersell
, Editors
ISBN 978-1-987832-25-9
(taxes included)

4t editionavailable in e-book format.
Click here to purchase and download.


The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson
Former Governor General of Canada

In Canada, we have created a country based on social equality. While it is still a work in progress, neither perfect nor complete, it is a glorious experiment. It is not centered in an elite or a self-serving majority but in a society of minorities who learn from each other and who agree, in the words of Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, that “there can be no privileged caste in Canada outside and above the mass of its people.”

Our trajectory to nationhood began some 400 years ago when French, English and Aboriginal joined in a small circle of mutual benefit and need. Since then, the circle has widened to welcome native-born and immigrant and we have collaborated in building a pluralistic society that Pierre Elliott Trudeau envisioned would make Canada “the envied seat of a form of federalism that belongs to tomorrow’s world.”

The part played by Canada’s leaders in our political awakening begins with Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine and Robert Baldwin whose reform alliance introduced responsible government and the principles that have guided our best accomplishments. These two men, along with Joseph Howe who brought democracy to Nova Scotia, promoted the democratic ideal of elected representatives serving an educated citizenry.

Our prime ministers have guided our country’s destiny by adhering to the ethics that give responsible government its integrity, and by responding with restraint and moderation to the difficulties posed by a complex population and geography. Their success in good governance has given us political captains who have helped chart our evolution, from the Charlottetown Conference in 1864 to the creation of Nunavut and the Nisga’a treaty in 2000. Their commitment to advance the collective well-being was expressed by Joseph Howe in his dictum, “The only questions I ask myself are, What is right? What is just? What is for the public good?” and reflects a fundamental principle that has become a national characteristic.

As we look at our nation’s history, we see how Canada has been influenced by the character and actions of our prime ministers. Their limitations and their mistakes are lessons in nation building for all of us. But the solid principles that have informed their terms of office—their egalitarian assumptions, their reliance on a reasoned, rather than coercive, call to unity and justice—have assisted our nation in its most admirable accomplishment, that of being a working democracy.

I am grateful to those who contributed to this book. To its readers, I offer my hope that it will encourage you to read more about Canada’s leaders and its history. We have, from an elite-driven colonial past, created a prosperous, generous place, a country that has moved from ethnocentrism to a creative and dynamic inclusiveness, and our leaders have played a central part in this transformation. Our role as citizens in this democracy is not separate from that of our politicians. Together, we are engaged in establishing ideals that my predecessor Lord Alexander encouraged Canadians to pursue, those “… moral and spiritual values which form the character of a people and make them truly great.”


Michael Bliss (John A. Macdonald) is University Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto. His many books include Right Honourable Men: The Descent of Canadian Politics from Macdonald to Chrétien.

John M. Bumstead (Alexander Mackenzie), professor of history and Fellow of St. John’s College, has written extensively on Scottish and Canadian history.

Carman Miller (John Abbott) is an emeritus professor of history and former dean of the Faculty of Arts at McGill University.

P. B. Waite (John Thompson) is retired professor emeritus at the history Department at Dalhousie University and has written several books of Canadian history.

Jacques Monet, s.j. (Mackenzie Bowell) is emeritus professor of history at Regis College at the University of Toronto, and Historian at the Archive of the Jesuits in Canada, Montreal.

David M. L. Farr (Charles Tupper) professor emeritus of history at Carleton University, has written on the nineteenth-century relationship between Canada and Great Britain.

Réal Bélanger (Wilfrid Laurier) is a retired professor of socio-political history of Canada and Quebec at Laval University and is co-director of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography/Dictionnaire biographique du Canada.

Robert Craig Brown (Robert Borden) was an emeritus professor of history at the University of Toronto and a former president of the Canadian Historical Association.

J. L. Granatstein (Arthur Meighen) is a historian and former director and CEO of the Canadian War Museum.

H. Blair Neatby (W. L. Mackenzie King), professor emeritus at Carleton University, is a specialist in Canadian political history.

Larry Glassford (R. B. Bennett) is a professor at the University of Windsor where he teaches history and the politics of education.

Bernard Chevrier (Louis St. Laurent) is a historian, author and former federal public servant.

Bill Waiser (John Diefenbaker), a specialist in western and northern Canadian history, is a member of the Department of History at the University of Saskatchewan.

John English (Lester B. Pearson) taught history at the University of Waterloo, authored a two-volume biography of Lester Pearson, and is an editor of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

Ramsay Cook (Pierre Elliott Trudeau) was professor of history at York University and is general editor of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

Patrick Brennan (Joe Clark) is an associate professor of history at the University of Calgary specializing in 20th-century Canadian political and military history.

Robert Bothwell (John Turner) is the author of the Penguin History of Canada and several books on foreign relations and teaches at the University of Toronto.

Norman Hillmer (Brian Mulroney) is professor of history and international affairs at Carleton University and co-author of Prime Ministers: Ranking Canada’s Leaders.

Patricia Roy (Kim Campbell) taught Canadian history at the University of Victoria for many years.

Desmond Morton (Jean Chrétien) teaches history at McGill University and is the founding director of the McGill Institute for the study of Canada.

Michael Behiels (Paul Martin) is a professor of modern Canadian History at the University of Ottawa and is a former chair of its Department of History.

Dimitry Anastakis (Stephen Harper) teaches at Trent University in Peterborough, specializing in Canadian political and economic history.

Jacques G. Ruelland (Justin Trudeau) taught philosophy; he is currently museologist and Associate Professor of History at l’Université de Montréal; he has authored some thirty books.


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