The Last Good Year

Book - 1997
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Few Canadians over the age of forty can forget the feeling of joy and celebration that washed over the country during Canada's centennial year. We were, Pierre Berton reminds us, a nation in love with itself, basking in the warm glow of international applause brought on by the unexpected success of Expo 67 and pumped up by the year-long birthday party that had us all warbling Ca-na-da, as Bobby Gimby and his gaggle of small children pranced down the byways of the nation.
It was a turning-point year, a watershed year--a year of beginnings as well as endings. One royal commission finally came to a close with a warning about the need for a new approach to Quebec. Another was launched to investigate, for the first time, the status of Canadian women. New attitudes to divorce and homosexuality were enshrined in law. A charismatic figure, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, made clear that the state had no place in the bedrooms of the nation. The seeds of Women's Lib, Gay Pride, and even Red Power, were sown in the centennial year. (Of all the pavilions on the Expo site, Berton singles out the Indian pavilion as having the greatest impact.)
The country was in a ferment that year. Canadians worried about the Americanization of every institution from the political convention to Hockey Night in Canada. People talked about the Generation Gap as thousands of flower children held love-ins in city parks. The government tried to respond by launching the Company of Young Canadians, a project that was less than successful.
The most significant event of 1967 was Charles de Gaulle's notorious Vive le Quebec libre speech in Montreal. It gave the burgeoning separatist movement a newlegitimacy, enhanced by Rene Levesque's departure from the Liberal party later that year.
Throughout the book, the author gives us insightful profiles of some of the significant figures of 1967: the centennial activists Judy LaMarsh and John Fisher; the Expo entrepreneurs, Philippe de Gaspe Beaubien and Edward Churchill; Walter Gordon, the fervent nationalist, and his rival, Mitchell Sharp; Lester Pearson and his bete noire, John Diefenbaker; the three men of the world who helped make Canada internationally famous: Marshall McLuhan, Glenn Gould, and Roy Thomson; hippie leaders like David dePoe, American draft dodgers like Mark Satin, women's activists like Doris Anderson and Laura Sabia, youth workers like Barbara Hall, radicals like Pierre Vallieres (author of White Niggers of America) and such dedicated nationalists as Madame Chaput Rolland and Andre Laurendeau.
In spite of the feeling of exultation that marked the centennial year, an opposite sentiment runs through the book like dark thread: the growing fear that the country was facing its gravest crisis. Berton points out that we are far better off today than we were in 1967. Then why all the hand wringing? he asks. Because of the very real fear that the country we celebrated so joyously thirty years ago is in the process of falling apart.
In that sense, 1967 was the last good year before all Canadians began to be concerned about the future of our country.
Publisher: Toronto : Doubleday Canada, [1997]
Copyright Date: ©1997
ISBN: 9780385256629
Branch Call Number: 971.0643 Ber
Characteristics: 391 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm


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A recreation of Canada's centennial year.

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Aug 02, 2015

This book includes an excellent history of The Georgia Straight Newspaper. Anyone under the age of 30 would not have recognized the paper back in 1967. it was radical,critical but relevant. It took on the establishment but the cost in legal fees was high. Eventually Publisher Mr. Dan McLeod turned a highly unprofitable counter culture newspaper into a profitable entertainment weekly. There is an excellent picture of Mr. McLeod on page 200. Back then he looked similar to another member of the counter culture society, one Edward Snowden circa 2015.

Aug 09, 2010

From the massive bonfire of burning binnies in Manitoba on the eve of Centennial Year to DeGaulle's "Vive le Quebec libre" speech. The removal of Diefenbaker from the tory leadership to the resignation of Lester Pearson it is all here.

Berton describes the building of Expo 67 and the many twists and turns in that story. He describes some of the lesser known events of the year.

Berton, as a journalist, tells the story of that year with his usual brand of storytelling. It is less ananlytical than a true history would be but reminds us what it was like to live in this country that year. The Centennial Train, the build up to the year and how it almost didn't happen. How the Diefenbaker government paid little attention to the coming centennial year and the Liberal's tepid steps towards the event. Judy LaMarsh's championing of the celebrations and managing to get the government of the day excited for the event and its eventual success. It was truly a memorable year and as Berton says - the last good year.

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