Madam Clarkson’s Education

In the foreword to Parliamentary Democracy in Crisis, edited by Peter H. Russell and Lorne Sossin (University of Toronto Press, 2009), The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson gives this splendid account of her high school education:

“When I studied Canadian history in my last year of high school, we concentrated a good deal on the evolution of our system of government from the Royal Proclamation of 1763 through the Quebec Act of 1774, right up to the Statute of Westminster of 1931 and the Letters Patent of 1947. This last document – the Letters Patent – is of vital importance and set in place the contemporary powers of the governor general which it transferred from the monarch. Yet it is virtually unknown to the general public. We also focused heavily on the King/Byng crisis of 1926; our entire class, contrary to most current opinion, thought that Lord Byng had done the right thing! Perhaps we were all influenced by Eugene Forsey, whom our teacher quoted reverentially as the greatest authority on Canadian parliamentary and constitutional matters. Certainly, Forsey disagreed with the view that a constitutional crisis occurs when a government faces defeat; he emphasized that the confidence of the House gives legitimacy to our form of responsible government, and that any defeat of a government and what followed was simply part of a constitutional process.”

She continues, “High school students today do not get the opportunity to learn Canadian history as I and my generation did …”

What can I say? It’s so true. So true.


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