STORIES

Tommy Douglas

by Imogen from Victoria

"Courage, my friends; 'tis not too late to build a better world. "
A young Tommy Douglas. (http://www.dcf.ca/en/media/tommy_photos.htm)
A young Tommy Douglas. (http://www.dcf.ca/en/media/tommy_photos.htm)

Tommy Douglas is a hero in the eyes of many Canadians. He was born in Scotland on October 20th 1904 and in 1919, the working class family moved to Winnipeg. It was a time of poverty; this was the year of the Winnipeg general strike. Wages were low, and working conditions were dismal, the workers, who weren’t content with the unsatisfactory wages, decided to go on strike. When the police refused to sign to the pledge that would join them in a union, they were quickly dismissed and forgotten. On the 21st of June the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) were called in. The strikers were beaten with clubs and shot at with firearms. Many people were injured that day, and two were found dead. Without a doubt, this stuck with Tommy. What an impression that would have made…

When Douglas decided to join the ministry in 1924, it was at Brandon college that the learnt about the Social Gospel. This put Tommy Douglas on route to being voted the Greatest Canadian of all time, along with the poverty of the Winnipeg strike and Great Depression. He was ordained in 1939 and moved to Saskatchewan where he became engaged in ministering people’s needs, physical, mental and spiritual. He came to the conclusion that society needed to change by way of political action. It wasn’t enough anymore to just pray for the body and care for the spirit. People needed real medical care. He helped found a local organisation called the Independent Labour Party in 1931 and a couple years later in 1933, the CCF (Co-operative Commonwealth Federation) was established, which would later become the NDP (New Democratic Party).

Tommy Douglas was voted into power in the federal election in 1935. He obtained a reputation as a very quick-witted speaker during his first two terms in Parliament. He tested the government; frequently taking undesirable stands in the protection of human rights. He relinquished his seat and lead CCF to victory in Saskatchewan in 1944. Douglas’ new government started many programs that make Canada such a safe and caring place.

He was beaten in the election of 1962, rather ironically for one of the ideas that he is now most respected for. Doctors’ protests against Medicare were enough to lose the election for the NDP. Although, in a by-election Tommy Douglas won a seat in British Columbia, and was head of the federal NDP. Afterwards he became the NDP leader until 1971. He retired from a life of politics in 1979. Tommy Douglas died of cancer in 1986.

The free health care we have today in Canada has helped millions and is well known everywhere in the world. Many people immigrate to Canada for they know it is a safe and secure part of the world. Tommy Douglas’ ideas and leadership skills helped get our country to where it is today. This is what I think makes him a hero. This is clearly what many people thought made him a hero when he was voted Greatest Canadian of all time over people like Terry Fox. He helped the greater good and saved the lives of so many people with free health care. Though he was born in Scotland, Tommy Douglas is a well known, and respected Canadian hero!

Page created on 10/21/2011 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 10/21/2011 12:00:00 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.
 

Related Links

The Greatest Canadian from the CBC Archives - CBC story on Tommy Douglas: Greatest Canadian