Archive for October, 2010

In the first half-century of the country’s history, only one Prime Minister did not have a knighthood. Alexander Mackenzie was in the fourth year of his term as PM when he and prominent Liberal, Edward Blake, were offered knighthoods. Both refused. Two years later, he and George Brown were extended the chance to become ‘Sir’. Both refused. In 1881, he turned down a knighthood for the third time.

As an ardent Reformer, Mackenzie rejected the advantages and power of the aristocracy. Accepting a knighthood struck him as sheer hypocrisy.


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There were three. Sir John Abbott and Sir Mackenzie Bowell both served as Prime Minister while sitting in the Senate as that chamber’s government leader. Arthur Meighen became a Senator six years after his final term as PM. After sitting in the red chamber for a decade, he resigned so that he could again run for Parliament as the reinstalled Leader of the Conservative party. He lost the 1942 by-election and later that year  stepped down as party leader

R.B. Bennett didn’t sit in the Canadian Senate, but did acquire a seat in the British House of Lords after becoming Viscount Bennett.

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Only Lester Pearson and John Diefenbaker served in the armed forces, as part of the Canadian Army in the First World War. Pearson was hit by a bus during a London air raid and sent home with leg wounds. Diefenbaker returned home after being hit in the back with a shovel while digging trenches in France.

Four early Prime Ministers served in the militia. Sir John A. Macdonald was called up to help quell the Rebellion of 1837, but saw no action. Sir John Abbott served in a volunteer regiment and later commanded the Argenteuil Rangers. Other members of the militia were Alexander Mackenzie and Mackenzie Bowell.

PMs who served as Canada’s militia or defence minister were Macdonald, Bowell and Kim Campbell.

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