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Monday, August 16, 2010

The Making of a Prime Minister From the Ground Up

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

George Munro Grant was born on December 22, 1835 in Stellarton, Pictou County, Nova Scotia; the son of James Grant and Mary Monro.

His parents had emigrated from Scotland in 1826 and like other Scottish settlers, tried his hand at farming. However, it was not his calling, so he earned his way teaching school and offering legal services. But then he tried his hand at investing, leaving the family in financial ruin.

At the age of nine, George lost all the fingers on his right hand in a battle with a threshing machine (1), which made a career in farming impossible, and with little money, seemingly few options.

But fortunately his mother, Mary Munro was a strong and determined woman who insisted that he receive a good education. After attending Pictou Academy he received a scholarship from the Presbyterian Church to study in Scotland, and on his return was given the Parish of St. Matthews in Halifax.

But he was determined not to lead his congregation with the old fire and brimstone, typical of his youth, but with an emphasis on the positive things that faith could achieve.
Grant was effective in implementing typically evangelical solutions to the social problems of Halifax. He was involved in the direction of the School for the Blind, the Halifax Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, the Children’s Home and Child Immigration Schemes, the Old Ladies’ Home, the Halifax Industrial School, the Halifax Visiting Dispensary, and the Young Men’s Christian Association, and helped raise money for them.

In addition, St Matthew’s Church supported a city missionary, James S. Potter, who provided relief to the poor and operated the Night Refuge for the Homeless. But Grant did not consider such works the means to salve the bad consciences of the rich. He preached frankly to his congregation of merchants and shipowners on the relationship of labour and capital and denounced men who made money by risking the lives of their crews in unseaworthy hulks or saw charity at home as a substitute for justice at sea. (2)
In other words, like Tommy Douglas, he ascribed to a social gospel.

On May 7, 1867, he married Jessie Lawson, daughter of one of the leading merchants in the city, but it is said that he himself "lived frugally and gave generously". (3)

The couple would have two children; William Lawson and George, who died at the age of 12.

George Munro earned a reputation, not only as a preacher, but a compelling speaker on political topics. In 1867, when Nova Scotia was adamantly opposed to Confederation, Grant championed the cause, and his verbal battles with journalist Joseph Howe were legendary.

It is said that had Grant not thrown his whole weight in favour of Canadian confederation, it may not have taken place when it did. As to Howe, there was no real animosity and Grant would later write a glowing biography if his adversary. Later, his son, William Lawson would also author The Tribune of Nova Scotia: A Chronicle of Joseph Howe, as part of the Chronicles of Canada.

But George Munro Grant was not finished impacting Canadian history. In 1872, he traveled across Canada:
.... from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, with the engineers, including lifelong friend, Sir Sandford Fleming, who surveyed the route of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Grant's book Ocean to Ocean (1873) was one of the first things that opened the eyes of Canadians to the value of the immense heritage they enjoyed. He never lost an opportunity, whether in the pulpit or on the platform, of pressing on his listeners that the greatest future for Canada lay in unity with the rest of the British Empire; and his broad statesmanlike judgment made him an authority which politicians of all parties were glad to consult. (3)
And in 1877, as Principal of Queen's University, he also left his mark. According to the University's own literature:
Grant is the most important of all Queen's Principals. More famous in his day than any Queen's Principal before or since, Grant transformed the university in his 25 years of leadership (1877-1902) from a struggling denominational college into a dynamic national institution. (4)
George Munro Grant died in Kingston on May 10, 1902

Grant’s most lasting achievement is Queen’s, where, as noted by Hilda Marion Neatby, he “set his personal mark . . . so indelibly that its history in his time has almost to be written in personal terms.” By the end of his life, “Geordie Our King” had assumed legendary proportions.

...The Cambridge classicist Terrot Reaveley Glover, who began his career at Queen’s, wrote of Grant that “it was yet no small part of the education that Queen’s gave to associate with a man of such outlooks, such range and such political integrity. . . . Teacher, builder, driver – call Grant what you will; he saved the University from intellectual ruin as surely as he did from financial; and, with all his limitations, his presence, his word, his glance, were inspiration.” (2)

William Lawson Grant

William Lawson Grant was born on November 2, 1872 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the son of George Munro Grant and Jessie Lawson. He would become a professor at Queens University and Principal of Upper Canada College.

He married Maude Erskin Parkin on June 1, 1911, and they had four children: Margaret Monro, Charity Lawson, Jessie "Alison" and George Parkin.

William Lawson died on February 3, 1935.

The Other Side of the Equation:

Russia in the early 19th century was a place of much turmoil. Czar Nicholas II, though a good family man, was an incompetent leader, and when war broke out he went to play soldier instead of addressing matters at home.

And while Russia was at war, there was an internal war taking place on many fronts. The fraudulent Protocols of Zion, had resulted in pogroms, as the Jewish people were now thought to be behind a conspiracy to take over the world. A mass exodus took place, and for those who chose to stay, anti-Semitism was rampant and often violent.

Vladimir Lenin opposed the Imperialistic war, and instead was promoting a class war. While practising law, he worked on mostly land-ownership cases, where he gained insight to the Russian peasants' socio-economic condition. As a result he developed a political system he called Leninism, which was described as a pragmatic Marxism and often referred to as Lenin-Marxism.
Vladimir was in Switzerland at the time of the February Revolution that saw the Czar Nicholas II deposed, but with the help of the Germans, he was able to get safely back to Russia to join in the powder keg of revolt.

With the end of the Romanov dynasty an alliance between liberals and socialists formed a provisional government, committed to political reform, by creating a democratically-elected executive and assembly.

However, this new government failed, in part because they agreed to continue their participation in the Great War, and the riots continued, finally culminating in the October Revolution that saw the Bolshevik government under Lenin gain power, and the country was thrown into civil war.

On August 30, 1918 the head of the Petrograd secret police was assassinated, and a would be assassin tried and failed to take out Lenin. In retaliation many members of the royal family and those loyal to the White Army, a counter-revolutionary force, were rounded up and arrested.

On September 6, 1918, 25 armed men entered the home of Count Pavel Nikolayevich Ignatiev and his wife Princess Natalya Meshcherskaya. Pavel was arrested and held with counter-revolutionary prisoners, all slated for execution.

He had been the education minister at the Imperial Court, but was a Ukranian farmer of some means. Against the protests of her family and friends, Natalyan followed her husband demanding his release. But it wasn't until a geography teacher heard that Pavel had been arrested and was being held that his luck changed.

The teacher, remembering that Pavel had been instrumental in improving the educational system in the country, organized a student protest and as a result the ailing Pavel was allowed to return to his family.

However, they were constantly tormented. Their home was looted seventeen times, the final government sanctioned robbery netting what was left in their children's dresser drawers.

Finally forced to flee*, they eventually settled in Upper Melbourne, Quebec, where Pavel would return to his first love; farming. Pavel and Natalyan are better known as Paul and Natasia Ignatieff. She died in 1944 and the New York Times wrote of her death in an article entitled 'Princess Ignatieff'. Paul died in 1945.

One of Pavel's five sons, George; would grow up to become a long serving Canadian diplomat and personal assistant to the Canadian High Commissioner in London, Vincent Massey. He would marry Massey's niece, Alison Grant, who of course was the daughter of William Lawson Grant, mentioned above and granddaughter of George Munro Grant.

George Ignatieff was also the assistant under-secretary of state for external affairs, under John Diefenbaker, and helped to negotiate an arms agreement with President Kennedy.

He turned to George Ignatieff ... for advice on a rationale for his hesitation on acquiring nuclear warheads. "I tried to make him understand," Ignatieff said, "that by committing Canada to an integrated North American defence system, he had accepted a subordinate role in a strategy based almost entirely on the nuclear deterrent."

Diefenbaker told Ignatieff that he'd been misled by the military into believing the Bomarc-B anti-aircraft missile [that replaced the Avro Arrow] could use conventional weapons — a claim that flies in the face of all evidence. An earlier version of Bomarc, the Bomarc-A, was capable of using conventional warheads, but Diefenbaker had deliberately committed Canada to the nuclear-only Bomarc-B. "The day he approved NORAD," Ignatieff said, "he embarked on a course which led to the acceptance of nuclear weapons."

Ignatieff, although a diplomatic realist, was also an indefatigable champion of disarmament, and he sought to provide Diefenbaker with a formula that he could use with Kennedy in articulating the near-incomprehensibility of Canada's official position on warheads. The urbane diplomat proposed that the prime minister say he would accept warheads on two conditions: first, if there were joint control in their use — a joint control of Diefenbaker's particular definition; and second, only if an all-out effort at disarmament were launched first and if, at the end, it was determined that there could be no progress.

That formula would buy Diefenbaker some time and it might well wash politically in Canada, even if it wouldn't in Washington. "Making clear-cut decisions was not part of Diefenbaker's nature," Ignatieff later remarked. (6)

George Ignatieff, was the father of Michael Ignatieff, the next prime minister of Canada; making George Munro Grant his grandfather, through his mother Alison; the niece of the Governor General at the time, Vincent Massey.

Diefenbaker's feud with JFK is believed to be responsible, in part, for his downfall. Michael Ignatieff's uncle George Parkin Grant, was a devout Diefenbaker follower. Upon his demise he wrote a book : Lament For a Nation, believing that Canada would now be selling out to the U.S. The book became a Bible to Canada's left, despite the fact that George Parkin was a Conservative Christian. (7)

And it is this background that Michael Ignatieff will be taking with him as leader of this country. He is not "just visiting" as the Reformers suggest, but is to the very soul, a Canadian.

Forbes magazine recently named him one of the top 100 people to watch as an international star:

"Michael Ignatieff. After decades in Britain and the U.S., the professional intellectual returned to his native Canada and became head of the Liberal party. If a federal election is called in 2010, he could become the next prime minister, and the Canadian head of state with the biggest international profile since Pierre Trudeau."

The above picture appears in Pierre Trudeau's Memoirs. The caption reads: "Amid unusually comfortable surroundings at London School of Economics I chatted with Michael Ignatieff, son of distinguished Canadian diplomat George Ignatieff." (8) Michael not only taught at the London School of Economics, but also Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge and the University of Paris, among others.

It's not good enough to simply convince people that the Harper government must go, but we also have to give Canadians something and someone to believe in.


* Two brothers Terentiy and Lukyanov also fled from the Ukraine during the Russian Revolution, settling in Chicago. Terentiy Lavrentievich's wife Anna and son Zinoviy, had fled with him, and eventually they made their way to Brantford Ontario, where four more children would be born: Fedor, Vasiliy, Ekaterina, and Olga.

About 1930 conditions in their homeland had improved and Anna wanted to return, but Terentiy preferred to stay in Canada, so the family separated. He would then marry a Polish girl, Mary of Pidhaytsi, Ukraine, and they would have a son named Walter who would eventually have a son named Wayne, who would grow up to be the greatest hockey player that ever lived.


1. True Patriot Love: Four Generations in Search of Canada, by Michael Ignatieff, Penguin Books, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-670-06972-9, Pg. 33

2. GRANT, GEORGE MONRO, Dictionary of Canadian Biographies, 1901-1910 (Volume XIII)

3. George Munro Grant, Wikipedia

4. The Rev George Monro Grant (1835-1902), Queen's Encyclopedia

5. The Russian Album, By: Michael Ignatieff, Penguin Books, 1987, ISBN: 978-0-14-317165-2, Pg. 153-162

6. Kennedy & Diefenbaker:The Feud That Helped Topple a Government, By Knowlton Nash, McClelland & Stewart, 1991, ISBN: 0-7710-6711-9, Pg. 100-101

7. Patriot Love, Ignatieff, 2009, Pg. 144-145

8. Memoirs, By Pierre Elliot Trudeau, McClelland & Stewart, 1993, ISBN: 0-7710-8588-5, Pg. 41

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