Envisioning One Canada

When another election was called in 1958, the Liberals were confident in being able to regain Parliament, but they had underestimated the support that Diefenbaker had secured in less than a year. This time, Diefenbaker focused on national development and his vision of “One Canada” – a programme that assured Canadians in every region a share in the country’s prosperity. Diefenbaker’s appeal was undeniable and thousands flocked to his rallies.

“One Canada… where Canadians will have preserved to them the control of their own economic and political destiny.

(Winnipeg, MB, 12 February 1958)

On 31 March 1958, Diefenbaker led the Progressive Conservatives to a landslide win over the Liberals. Based on a percentage of total seats in the House of Commons, Diefenbaker’s victory remains the largest in Canadian history.

More importantly to Diefenbaker, he finally had his chance to make his lifelong dream of creating a Canadian Bill of Rights a reality.

The Enfranchisement of First Nations

Diefenbaker’s key achievement in Aboriginal affairs was the extension of the franchise to First Nations, in 1960. Previous to this, Natives could only vote in federal elections if they first gave up their Indian Status. By altering a section of the Indian Act, the Diefenbaker government ensured that all Aboriginal people could participate in elections.

Enfranchisement, however, was looked upon with suspicion by Natives who associated voting with the loss of their status and rights. In response, the Diefenbaker government made assurances that being enfranchised would not jeopardise Aboriginal rights in any way. At the 1962 election, First Nations went to the polls for the first time and in greater numbers than expected.

Diefenbaker continued his efforts to create harmony between the federal government and Aboriginal people throughout his political career. His amicable relationships with First Nations resulted in honourary memberships in several communities.

Diverse Representation

As Prime Minister of Canada, Diefenbaker was determined that his cabinet and caucus would include ethnic minorities and others who had been historically disenfranchised from the political process.

Diefenbaker with Ellen Fairclough

Ellen Fairclough

Member of Parliament:

  • Hamilton West, 1950-1963

Historical Significance:

  • The first female Canadian Federal Cabinet Minister.

Parliamentary Responsibilities:

  • Secretary of State of Canada, 1957-1958
  • Acting Prime Minister, 19-20 February 1958
  • Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, 1958-1962
  • Postmaster General, 1962-1963

Michael Starr

Member of Parliament:

  • Oshawa, 1952-1968

Historical Significance:

  • The first Canadian Cabinet Minister of Ukrainian descent.

Parliamentary Responsibilities:

  • Minister of Labour, 1957-1963
  • Acting Leader of the Opposition, September-November 1967
  • Progressive Conservative Party House Leader, 1965-1968

Representing Diversity

No Prime Minister before John Diefenbaker had led such a diverse cabinet.

John Diefenbaker with Douglas Jung.

Douglas Jung

Member of Parliament:

  • Vancouver Centre, 1957-1962

Historical Significance:

  • The first Canadian Member of Parliament of Chinese descent
  • Introduced legislation granting amnesty to illegal immigrants from Hong Kong.
  • Represented Canada as Chairman of the Legal Delegation to the United Nations
Senator James Gladstone

James Gladstone

Member of the Senate:

  • 1958-1971

Historical Significance:

  • First Aboriginal person appointed to the Senate

Parliamentary Responsibilities:

  • Appointed Co-chair of the join Senate-House of Commons committee in charge of Indian Affairs (May 1959). He was responsible for examining the social and economic status of Aboriginal people in Canada.