In Memory's Eye
of Canadian Parliamentarians
As one who had the privilege of serving in the Canadian House of Commons, observing, hearing, and reporting the speeches of its Members over a period of thirty-five years, this memoir seeks to reflect the impressions certain occupants of the Commons Chamber made upon the author.
During that time some representatives of the Canadian people rose to great heights, became Cabinet Ministers, Prime Ministers, historical figures shaping the destiny of future generations. Their lives and their works form the stuff of study by historians, biographers, and social commentators. Their names appear on plaques and statues, their signatures on state papers and international treaties.
Other Members of Parliament never achieved such public recognition, but are deserving of remembrance for their service to their country.
"In Memory's Eye" attempts to give a human face to Members in both classes, those who achieved prominence and those who occupied seats in the back benches, in relative anonymity save in their own ridings. The known and the unknown populate its pages. Their backgrounds vary, some being fourth and fifth generation Canadians, others whose birth places were overseas, Russia, Ukraine, New Zealand, Ireland, and elsewhere.
They are seen from a vantage point unique in the perspective it provided, the Hansard reporters' desk in the centre of the aisle dividing Government and Opposition on the floor of the House of Commons, and from the Hansard editorial offices on the third floor of the Centre Block on Parliament Hill.
Normally a part of the furniture, seen but unseen, the people of Hansard devoted their talents to reporting the speeches and interjections of Members engaged in debate, editing out gross ungrammatical errors while retaining meaning and accuracy, and publishing the daily Official Report known in legislatures the world over by its unofficial name, Hansard.
Over the years the people of Hansard became attuned to the accents, nuances, and speaking styles of many Members. In turn, many long-serving Members, who valued Hansard and depended on it, came to know its staff and regularly visited its offices while checking the unrevised transcripts of their speeches. "In Memory's Eye" charts some of this interaction.
It does more. It offers insights to little known facets of the lives and careers of Members of Parliament as they carried out their duties as representatives of the Canadian people, dedicated to public service on behalf of their constituents and their country.
It is written by one who daily saw Members, Ministers, Prime Ministers, and Speakers of the House, partake in the affairs of Parliament from their first to their last day in it, reported and edited their maiden speeches and their farewells.
Before becoming a member of the Canadian Hansard staff I served in a similar capacity in the Parliament of Ireland, the Dáil, and thus have a background of experience in parliamentary reporting in two countries. Upon that experience I rely in placing this work before the Canadian public in the hope that it may lead others, students especially, to undertake a compilation of the lives of local Members of Parliament who have given of themselves in preceding generations.
Canadian parliamentary history is fundamental to knowing how Canada passed from colony to independent country, its way of life, freedoms, rights and opportunities the envy of the world.
| Canadian Vindicator