"From my earliest days, I knew the meaning of discrimination. Many Canadians were virtually second-hand citizens because of their names and racial origin. Indeed, it seemed until the end of World War II that the only first-class Canadians were either of English or French descent. As a youth, l determined to devote myself to assuring that all Canadians, whatever their racial origin, were equal and declared myself lo be a sworn enemy of discrimination."
(John Diefenbaker, Nowlan Lecture, 6)
Diefenbaker near Wakaw, 1919
William, Elmer (in uniform), John and Mary Diefenbaker


Diefenbaker was born in Neustadt, Ontario on 18 September 1895. In 1903, the Diefenbakers moved to an area of the Northwest Territories that later became the province of Saskatchewan. His mother was Scottish and his father, a German immigrant, experienced discrimination during the First World War.


Raised among many other immigrant settlers with similar experiences of hardship and prejudice, Diefenbaker saw the importance of equality from an early age. The bigotry and discrimination that he witnessed against First Nations and Métis communities further influenced his belief that the freedom and rights of all Canadians should be protected.


Diefenbaker would become the first Canadian Prime Minister of neither English nor French descent.