Better know a Canadian functionary: the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom

The position of High Commissioner to the United Kingdom was instituted in 1880 so that the Canadian government had representation in London. It was a strange point in Canadian external relations; Canada was no longer entirely a colony, so some diplomatic channel to the UK was needed, but it wasn’t an independent country, so Canada couldn’t exactly send an ambassador. Since Canada was the first member of the Empire in this position, it set the standard; now, the ambassadors between all the countries of the Commonwealth are called “High Commissioner”.

The High Commission of Canada is at Canada House, Trafalgar Square, Westminster. There are also honorary consulates in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. From 1961 to 2013 the High Commissioner had a separate residence at Macdonald House, 1 Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, but it has since been sold to an Indian tycoon.

The High Commissioners of Canada to the United Kingdom have been:

The Hon. Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt GCMG PC (1817-93), 1880-83. Born in London, the son of the Scottish novelist John Galt, Galt was an influential member of the legislature of the Province of Canada and was one of the Fathers of Confederation, sitting as the Conservative MP for Sherbrooke from 1867 to 1872 and serving as Canada’s first Minister of Finance from July to November of 1867. After leaving London he pursued business ventures in the Canadian West, and co-founded with his son Elliott the city of Lethbridge, AB.

The Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Tupper GCMG CB PC MD, Bt. (1821-1915), 1883-96. Born in Amherst, NS, Tupper earned a degree in medicine from the University of Edinburgh. He became a key figure among the Fathers of confederation as premier of Nova Scotia from 1864 to 1867. He was then MP for Cumberland County from 1867 to 1884, and served in the cabinet of Sir John A. Macdonald. After serving as High Commissioner, he returned to Canada to become leader of the Conservative Party, becoming Prime Minister for 69 days in 1896 – Canada’s shortest-serving prime minister. He was then MP for Cape Breton and Leader of the Opposition from 1896 to 1900 and was the longest-lived Father of Confederation, dying in 1915 at the age of 94. Tupper’s son, Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper, was Fisheries minister under Macdonald, Abbott and Thompson, Justice minister under Bowell, and Solicitor-General under his father; another son, William Johnston Tupper, was Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba.

The Rt. Hon. Sir Donald Alexander Smith GCMG GCVO PC DL, 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal (1820-1914), 1896-1914. Born in Moray, Scotland, Smith moved to Montreal at 18 to clerk for the Hudson’s Bay Company. He was made Chief Factor of the District of Labrador in 1862, Commissioner of the Montreal Department in 1868, and President of the Council of the Northern Department in 1870. After being sent to negotiate with Louis Riel in the Red River Rebellion of 1869, Smith was elected to the assembly of Manitoba in 1870, the House of Commons in 1871, and the Council of the Northwest Territories in 1872, holding all three simultaneously until resigning from the Manitoba legislature in 1874. Smith was defeated in re-election to Parliament in 1880 and became one of the founding directors of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and personally drove in the last spike of the transcontinental line at Craigellachie, BC, in 1885. He was Governor of the HBC from 1889 to his death in 1914; he was the company’s longest-serving employee, as his career there lasted 75 years.

The Rt. Hon. Sir George Halsey Perley KCMG PC (1857-1938), 1914-22. Born in Lebanon, NH, he moved as a child to the Ottawa Valley, where his father, William Goodhue Perley, became a lumber baron and Conservative MP. George Perley followed his father into the lumber business and became a big wheel in Ottawa society, donating a million dollars in relief of the Ottawa-Hull Fire of 1900. He was the Conservative MP for Argenteuil County from 1904 to 1917 and served as Minister of Overseas Military Forces in the cabinet of Sir Robert Borden. After returning from London, Sir George served again as MP for Argenteuil County from 1925 to 1938, and was Secretary of State for Canada in the brief 1926 government of Arthur Meighen, and as Minister Without Portfolio in the cabinet of R.B. Bennett.

The Hon. Peter Charles Larkin PC (1855-1930), 1922-30. Born in Montreal, Larkin made his fortune in the import of exotic foodstuffs, and founded the Salada Tea Company, which was the first tea merchant to seal tea in foil to preserve its freshness. In 1899 he joined a consortium of wealthy men, including department store magnate Timothy Eaton, Postmaster-General Sir William Mulock and Sen. George Cox, in buying a controlling share of the Toronto Star in order to install Joseph E. Atkinson as its Editor-in-Chief. Larkin was a friend and patron of W.L. Mackenzie King, and paid for the refurbishment of Laurier House, King’s Ottawa residence; King, in turn, made Larkin a Privy Councillor and appointed him High Commissioner. While in London, Larkin moved the High Commission from some scattered offices in Victoria Street, Westminster, to Canada House, which had been two buildings housing the Union Club and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Lucien Turcotte Pacaud (1879-1960), 1930 (acting)

The Hon. George Howard Ferguson PC (1870-1946), 1930-35. Son of Conservative MP Charles Frederick Ferguson, Howard Ferguson was born in Kemptville, ON, went to Osgoode Hall Law School, and was Conservative premier of Ontario from 1923 to 1930. Before his death he was was briefly Chancellor of the University of Western Ontario.

The Rt. Hon. Charles Vincent Massey PC CH CC CD (1887-1967), 1935-46. Scion of the wealthy Massey family of farm equipment fame (almost any old-timer’s farm in Canada will have a Massey-Harris or Massey-Ferguson tractor), grandson of Hart Massey (who built Massey Hall in Toronto), and brother of actor Raymond Massey, Vincent Massey attended the University of Toronto and Oxford, then was appointed Dean of Men at Burwash Hall, U of T, where he lectured in history. He then married Anna Parkin, daughter of the Principal of Upper Canada College, thus becoming by marriage the uncle of the political philosopher George Grant and great-uncle of Michael Ignatieff. Massey ran for the set of Durham County in the 1925 election as a Liberal and lost. He was then Canada’s first official Envoy to the United States from 1927 to 1930, then was President of the National Liberal Federation of Canada before being sent to London. He was High Commissioner during the Abdication Crisis, the coronation of George VI and World War II, where his secretaries included Georges Vanier and Lester Pearson. After the War Massey chaired the Massey Commission into the state of the arts and humanities in Canada, then became the first Canadian-born Governor-General of Canada, serving from 1952 to 1959.

Norman Alexander Robertson CC (1st time) (1904-68), 1946-49. Born in Vancouver, Robertson went to Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship. He joined the Department of External Affairs in 1929 and became friends with Lester Pearson and Hume Wrong. During World War II, he served as deputy minister of External Affairs.

Leolyn Dana Wilgress CC (1892-1969), 1949-52. Born in Vancouver and educated at McGill, Dana Wilgress was a career diplomat. Besides serving as High Commissioner, he was also Ambassador to the USSR, deputy minister of External Affairs, and Representative to NATO and the OECD.

Norman Alexander Robertson CC (2nd time) (1904-68), 1952-57. Robertson, who was Clerk of the Privy Council from 1949 to 1952, was High Commissioner during the coronation of Elizabeth II, where he was a standard-bearer. He later served as Ambassador to the US.

The Hon. George Alexander Drew PC CC QC (1894-1973), 1957-64. George Drew went to Osgoode Hall Law School and married the daughter of an opera singer who was general manager of the Met in New York. Drew was then Mayor of Guelph from 1925 to 1929, chairman of  the Ontario Securities Commission from 1931 to 1934, leader of the Conservative Party of Ontario from 1936 to 1948, premier of Ontario from 1943 to 1948 and the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada from 1948 to 1956, during which time he was Leader of the Opposition; he was also the MP for Carleton County from 1949 to 1957. After his time as High Commissioner, he was the first Chancellor of the University of Guelph.

The Hon. Lionel Chevrier PC CC QC (1903-87), 1964-67. A graduate of Osgoode Hall, Chevrier was Liberal MP for Stormont County from 1935 to 1954, President of the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority from 1954 to 1957, and Liberal MP for Laurier from 1957 to 1964. Chevrier was also Minister of Transport from 1945 to 1954, Opposition House Leader under Diefenbaker, and Minister of Justice from 1963 to 1964.

Charles Stewart Almon Ritchie CC (1906-95), 1967-71. Born into a rich family in Halifax, Ritchie, whose brother Roland would eventually become a Justice of the Supreme Court, went to the University of King’s College, Oxford, Harvard and the École Libre des Sciences Politiques before becoming a diplomat. He was Ambassador to West Germany, the UN, the US and NATO before being appointed High Commissioner. He also had a long intermittent affair with the Irish author Elizabeth Bowen.

Jack Hamilton Warren OC (1921-2008), 1971-74. Warren served in the Navy in World War II and was Deputy Minister of Trade and Commerce. He would later become Ambassador to the US, then a director of the Bank of Montreal.

The Rt. Hon. Joseph James Guillaume Paul Martin PC CC QC (1903-92), 1974-79. Born in Ottawa and raised in Pembroke, ON, Paul Martin survived polio as a child and graduated from Osgoode Hall. He was Liberal MP for Essex East from 1935 to 1968, and was Secretary of State for Canada under King, Minister of Health and Welfare under King and Saint-Laurent and Secretary of State for External Affairs under Pearson. He ran for leadership of the Liberal Party in 1958, placing second, and in 1968, placing fourth on the first ballot and dropping out. (Martin was also nominated in the 1948 leadership convention, but withdrew before voting began to throw his support to Louis Saint-Laurent.  This was actually a ploy by Mackenzie King to ensure that Saint-Laurent would win; the same thing was done by Minister of Finance Douglas Abbott, Minister of Trade and Commerce C.D. Howe, Minister of Transport Lionel Chevrier, and Manitoba premier Stuart Garson.) Martin was appointed to the Senate from 1968 to 1974, and was Leader of the Government in the Senate under Trudeau. After he left London, Martin taught political science at the University of Windsor. His son, Paul Martin Jr., was Minister of Finance under Jean Chrétien and Prime Minister from 2003 to 2006.

Jean Casselman Wadds OC (1920-2011), 1980-83. Born Jean Rowe near Bradford, ON, Jean married Grenville–Dundas MP A.C. Casselman in 1946. He died in 1958, and so Jean Casselman ran for the vacant seat as a Progressive Conservative, and won it. Her father, William Earl Rowe, was at the same time the MP for Dufferin–Simcoe, making them the only father-daughter team in Parliamentary history. Casselman became the first female parliamentary secretary in 1962, serving under Minister of Health and Welfare Jay Waldo Monteith. Casselman remarried to a Toronto stockbroker, Robert Wadds, and served in Parliament until 1968. The first female High Commissioner to the UK, she played a key role in the repatriation of the Constitution in 1982.

The Hon. Donald Campbell Jamieson PC (1921-86), 1983-85. Born in St. John’s, NL, Jamieson was a beloved broadcasting personality and the first Newfoundlander in the parliamentary press gallery in 1945, despite opposing Newfoundland joining Confederation, preferring instead political indepedence with economic union with the US. He founded the first TV station in Newfoundland, CJON-TV (now NTV Superstation) and was president of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. Jamieson was the Liberal MP for Burin-Burgeo from 1966 to 1979 and served in the Trudeau cabinet as Minister of Defence Production (1968-69), Minister of Transport (1969-72), Minister of Regional Economic Expansion (1972-76) and Secretary of State for External Affairs (1976-79).

Roland McMurtry OC Oont (1932-now), 1985-88. Born in Toronto and a grad of Osgoode Hall, “Roy” McMurtry took landscape painting lessons from Group of Seven painter A.J. Casson and was a close friend of Ontario premier William Davis and was the PC MPP for Eglinton from 1975 to 1985, during which time he was also Attorney-General of Ontario He ran for the provincial PC leadership in 1985, finishing fourth. After being High Commissioner, McMurtry was the Commissioner of the CFL, then was appointed to the Superior Court of Ontario in 1991, and was Chief Justice of Ontario from 1996 to 2007.

The Hon. Donald Stovel Macdonald PC CC (1932-now), 1988-91. Born in Ottawa, Macdonald went to U of T, Harvard and Cambridge. He was Liberal MP for Rosedale from 1962 to 1977, serving as  President of the Privy Council, Minister of National Defence, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and Minister of Finance under Trudeau. Macdonald chaired a Royal Commission in 1982 which recommended free trade with the US, which was the beginning of NAFTA.

Fredrik Stefan Eaton OC Oont (1938-now), 1991-94. Scion of the Eaton department store family, Fred Eaton attended UNB and was CEO of Eaton’s from 1977 to 1988.

Royce Herbert Frith CM QC (1923-2005), 1994-96. Born in Lachine and educated at Osgoode Hall, Roy Frith was a legal advisor to the Commissioner of Official Languages and was a Liberal senator from 1977 to 1994. He was later a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Arts Centre.

The Hon. Roy MacLaren PC (1934-now), 1996-2000. Born in Vancouver, MacLaren went to UBC, U of T and Cambridge. He worked in the foreign service for 12 years and was the Liberal MP for Etobicoke North from 1978 to 1984 and from 1988 to 1996. He was Minister of National Revenue under Turner and Minister of International Trade under Chrétien. He is now the chair of the Canada-India Business Council.

Jeremy K.B. Kinsman (1942-now), 2000-02. Born in Montreal, Kinsman went to Princeton and was a career diplomat. He was Ambassador to Russia and to Italy before going to the UK, and afterwards he was Ambassador to the European Union.

Melvin Samuel Cappe OC (1948-now), 2002-06. Born in Toronto and an alumnus of U of T and UWO, Mel Cappe had a long career in the civil service, culminating in becoming Clerk of the Privy Council from 1999 to 2002. He was later CEO of the Institute for Research on Public Policy from 2006 to 2011.

James R. Wright (1949-now), 2006-11.  A Montrealer and McGill grad, Wright was a career diplomat, serving in a number of low level postings in Moscow DC and London before becoming High Commissioner.

Gordon Muir Campbell OBC (1948-now), 2011-now. A Vancouverite, Campbell went to Dartmouth College, was Mayor of Vancouver from 1986 to 1993, became leader of the BC Liberal Party in 1994, and was Premier of BC from 2001 to 2011.

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