Friday, December 8, 2017

DON HAWKES ON HIS OWN TERMS


ONE OF THE GREAT UNPUBLISHED CARTOONISTS

Don Hawkes stood out from the knots of young strangers gathered for the first time 62 years ago outside a barracks structure called the Graphic Arts Building in a battered complex titled the Ryerson Institute of Technology.
Hawkes looked and sounded like a seasoned reporter from Fleet Street who vacationed in Paree. I was stunned months later to find this Brit among the budding journalists was actually a guy from Parkdale with better tweeds than me.
 I would have never anticipated then that he would bob in and out of my life for six decades, that I would hire him twice and be filled many times that with bouts of friendship and frustration as he marched determinedly to his own drummer.
We talked in our last call about when it all began that September morning. And that chat could have lasted an eternity as both of us were in happy anecdotage when all the slings and arrows could no longer sting and the politics of life that bothered him more than me had receded to tiny importance.
The curious gamesmanship of upper management, whether he was at Ryerson or the CBC or the Suns, bugged him so much that he was a determined non-player and it was up to me, armoured from my years of describing the antics of elected politicians, to be his guide and some times his protector.
It could be stormy when the executive floor was making silly demands, as Hawkes didn't always support my in-fighting. He confessed in print when I retired that he often felt like killing me.
I replied on John Cosway's Toronto Sun family blog that I had felt the same about him.
Doug Creighton, the founder of the Suns and its soul, called us the Bookends because both of us were bearded and burly. But the Bookends did produce some great editorials. Only insiders knew that some began with Hawkes with his special feel of words producing 6.5 inches of reasonable comment and then shouting next door to me to stir in some venom and vitriol.
Hawkes was a gentle warrior surrounded by semantic battle-axes. He was just too nice to slit throats.
My heavens he could be subtle in his opposition. I was waiting to see a surgeon when the nurse complained about the Sun not using the u in words like humour. I said it was general Canadian newspaper "style" (which has now changed.)
I asked Hawkes to write a column because I thought readers would be interested to find that it all began when type was set by hand and it saved time to skip letters. Hawkes produced a meaty commentary, but then, typically, said in the last sentence that he didn't agree with dropping the u, that it was stupid.
I found out by reading the paper that my associate editor had just fired another broadside into his ample friend who quite approved of dropkicking the u out of our language.
Hawkes left me to run the comment of the Ottawa Sun but then yearned to return to his hometown.
Except the brass balked. Finally I figured out that he should write directly to Creighton and appeal to him as the paterfamilias of the chain. He pleaded for help with the letter, which I then wrote. I thought it would appeal more to Creighton if he took a shot at Paul Godfrey in it, and for good measure, me too, as people blocking his return.
The letter didn't go well. I accidentally sent a draft via the chain's computer system to the Edmonton Sun and then begged the  editors there to destroy it without reading it. (Fat chance!) When Creighton got the letter, he decided to show it to Godfrey, who was quite annoyed and complained to me about what my school friend had said. I then confessed that I had actually written the attack on him and me as a device to encourage Creighton to come to Hawkes' aid.
It worked, although Creighton and Godfrey didn't invite me to any events for a few weeks. Hawkes returned, although he at first was forbidden to work for me.
It was such games that bugged Hawkes almost as much as the shenanigans at City Hall or the Legislature. He was a fine writer but his greater talent as a clever cartoonist was stifled by office politics so that they were viewed mainly by a network of friends. (Several originals grace the wall behind this keyboard.)
So now we say farewell to another renaissance stalwart of Canadian journalism - a writer, educator, artist and friend, a lover of cigars, dining and life. I recall a lunch at the elite restaurant at the King Eddy where I let him order the port afterwards because it had been a rough time in the opinion world. And that is why I know what a $35 glass of Taylor Fladgate tastes like.
Ah yes, you never were too sure what was going to happen next with Don Hawkes. A grand 83 years for the happy wordsmith from Parkdale,






 . 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

BAFFLED BY FACEBOOK


OLD FARTS AND THE INTERNET

I was baffled by algorithms long before the Internet came along to stupefy me again.
It wasn't enough for the maths of high school to curdle my brain to such an extent that I had to take all sorts of extra courses to limp into and then through two universities.
Now I am left to wonder just how Facebook works because some of my contributions are lionized, many more disappear into the ether,  and then there are those people whose every phrase haunts my queues for weeks and I know everything about them from the rug they're selling to how they cooked their roast to the latest operation on their bunions.
 I never get the same roll call of items when I want to, then the good stuff only seems to appear once. I never know quite what to expect when I come face to face with Facebook
My three sons view me with a mix of sympathy and disdain when it comes to computers and trying to cope with the Internet.
Since they're computer experts, all I have in response is to remind them who paid for their education. I also point out that 99% of those past 60 are often baffled by the latest wonders of the electronic world.
They inform me haughtily that algorithms, those calculation processes, rule Facebook and the Internet. Even the investment world.  BNN and the business pages inform me that due to mathematicians locked up in Bay St. basements, there are algorithms surfacing daily to give new advantages in a lightning-fast trading world where I am always left paying more and getting less after the big boys riding their superior algorithms have ravaged the stock.
All I know is that algorithms don't favour this Downing and that I will continue to lean on whatever son dares to answer the phone for help, like when the printer balks at my computer or the computer freezes or I can't even make a reply on Facebook without appearing to screw it up.
Like the other day.
An old friend told us on Facebook that she had just made a few mistakes in her mini-essay and maybe it was time for her because of age to hang up the keyboard. Then some time later she repeated an item about a preening anti-Semitic bumper sticker.
I wrote her that one shouldn't be worried about typos or spelling mistakes on Facebook or anywhere else because I had been taught as a kid that the person who corrects your spelling or usage or pronunciation is making a bigger social gaffe than you. It's the idea, the thought, that counts, not how it is dressed semantically.
Except due to the way Facebook works for amateurs like me, my contribution drifted under the listing about the awful bumper sticker, not the one about being worried about making mistakes in typing a contribution. So it became a weird justification for that foul message. And she replied snarkily.
Sylvia Sutherland, a regular on Facebook, just asked for friends not to send her chain letters or stuff that is supposed to be forwarded to others. For once I knew that, having been warned months ago by one of my sons that this is one of the tricks of the myriad computer fraudsters. I am scrupulous about what I open and what I forward because as I wrote on Facebook the other day, police and various authorities can't cope now with all the hacking and computer scams inflicted on us.
There is no need for anyone to send me an explanation of how Facebook works. My sons have tried. All I know is that, thank heavens, occasionally the good stuff like Dick Loek's pictures of his morning boardwalk saunter do last a few days, and not just the crap from people whom I have never heard of  and never wish to hear from again.
Oh yes, spare me those cardboard birthday greetings which are as loving as kissing a donkey. And supposed friends repeating ads about condos and shows. What's friendly about that?  You should ask yourself a question before you tell us on Facebook. Would it interest your spouse or even one of those superior young people who actually know how algorithms work? Or are you just showing off?






Tuesday, November 7, 2017

KOFFLER WAS A GRAND TORONTONIAN


HIS INFLUENCE IS ENDLESS

Thanks in part to Murray Koffler, the Toronto when he died is much nicer than the city when he started half a century ago making a difference in pharmacy, philanthropy, business and the arts.
I will leave it to others to detail his grand successes in business and the huge contributions of the Kofflers to a rainbow of causes from the University of Toronto to fighting drug abuse and helping the helpless.
Believe me, this man was a mensch, that lovely Yiddish word for integrity and honour and caring for others.
He had to be because the city in the 1950s, when as a kid he was running the two drugstores left to the family by the early death of his father, still considered religion as an important issue when they judged you.
Don't be fooled by the fact that Toronto elected its first Jewish mayor in 1955 and that Nathan Phillips went on to serve for eight years. (Only Art Eggleton has served longer.) The election of Phillips in the Orange Protestant stronghold of Toronto was front page news in every newspaper in Canada.
As the ghostwriter of his book, Mayor Of All The People, I know Phillips often was under attack for his religion. And there were some who whispered his wife really wasn't Jewish. But he had several decades of council experience and the stout backing of John Bassett and his Telegram newspaper, an important force in urban politics, so he beat back a challenger who just happened to be a major Orangeman.
(Ironically, despite all the Roman Catholic voters, the first Catholic mayor since the city was incorporated in 1834 was Fred Beavis, appointed briefly in 1979, and then Eggleton, elected in 1980.)
So the Establishment in the 1950s and 1960s hunkered down on Bay Street didn't exactly rush to help this Jewish entrepreneur build the empires of the Four Seasons Hotels and Shoppers Drug Mart.
I had a ringside seat watching Koffler transform the city's art world from a stuffy pecksniffian one preserved in Victorian pretensions to one where a nude painting could be displayed boldly in the front yard of City Hall without shock waves cascading through the media.
The Toronto Outdoor Art Show has produced a history book (I contributed to it) of how it was started by Koffler around his modest motel on Jarvis St., the first Four Seasons Motor Hotel, after the Kofflers returned in 1960 from an outdoor art show in Manhattan to find that artists had been arrested for displaying their art on hoardings around old City Hall.
Then Koffler dreamed bigger and decided to move the show in front of the new City Hall in 1967  (Ironically, the Square is named after Phillips who as mayor routined thundered out in news stories against nude paintings at Hart House or for censoring George Gobel in the CNE Grandstand Show.)
The second irony is that Koffler enlisted me to help him run interference with City Council. I was in charge of entertainment and culture coverage in the Tely but earlier I had been one of those City Hall reporters getting Phillips to express great indignation about any racy entertainment.
The outdoor art show has gone on to become the largest in Canada and one of the largest annual affairs in the world. And those first nervous days when Koffler and I and other committee members like Jack Pollock and Alan Jarvis paced around watching the councillors wander around peering suspiciously at the art are long gone. By some miracle, there never was a major complaint, just a continuing battle to keep mass-produced shlock out of the show.
Years later, I headed a city council committee choosing people to receive various civic honours, the most important being several Orders of Merit. At a presentation at the start of a council meeting, Eggleton invited me on the dais to help him make the presentations.
Much to my satisfaction, several decades after Koffler first made his mark on his birthplace, we had chosen him to get the city's top award. He shook our hands and then whispered to me that he had wondered why he had finally got this honour after all these years and then saw I  headed the advisory committee.
I wished I could have done much more sooner.  It is because of civic champions like the Kofflers that our city has matured from a municipal Nervous Nellie into such an urban joy. It is unfortunate that Mel Lastman as the first mayor of the amalgamated city felt that he had to do away with such civic honours because he feared the good burghers of the suburbs like his North York would not feel comfortable with the annual ceremony.
The Koffler name on a Toronto public building is a familiar sight. But for me, one of his greatest  contributions comes quietly each summer around the reflecting pool when you can ponder art from landscapes to pornographic wonders and then wander down the street and have a cold draft.
Once upon a time, that would have been a civic miracle, from the art to the drink to the cafe, and certainly never on Sunday.



Friday, November 3, 2017

TORONTO SUN GHOULIES AND GHOSTIES


NO ONE LIKES THE BUMPS IN THE NIGHT

The "last man standing" ordered another glass of the house red and talked passionately about some insult from four decades ago while I egged him on as an appreciative audience
The rest of the actors in the insult are dead, I think. So, some would say, is the newspaper we built from the wreckage of another great paper.
It was the annual anniversary dinner of one old cartoonist and one old editor/columnist to mark the birth of the Toronto Sun in the Eclipse Building on Nov. 1, 1971.
There are some who say the eclipse has been a long time coming to its most famous occupant, but that would never come from me since I treasure all newspapers and applaud all their staffs who have to be such adept survivors.
Of course the "last man standing" is Andy Donato, the noted golfer who occasionally has done editorial cartoons since the 1960s.
And the warm friend and occasional critical boss of the "last man standing" is me. Together we noshed contentedly at Ottimo's and contemplate survival at an age when the Bible estimated we would be dead.
We put together the first Toronto Sun during Halloween. That ancient Scottish prayer for heavenly help that often is recited on All Hallow's Eve when even the cemeteries are restless should have been carved on the antique building. "From ghoulies and ghosties And long-legged beasties And things that go bump in the night."
We certainly later endured ghoulies and ghosties as politicians, the Establishment and the snooty competition did their best to dismiss us as just another shopper's flyer on steroids backed by developers and knuckle-dragging conservatives.
But it turned out that Monday, to universal surprise as the newfangled tabloid was snapped up, that we few were an instant success. We sure didn't know it then as the trick-or-treaters flitted about and some of us felt like our hangovers from the Tely wakes were a flu fed by apprehension about how to feed our families.
There were only 59 of us following the Three Musketeers of Doug Creighton, Peter Worthington and Don Hunt from the ruins of the Toronto Telegram where 1,200 had worked as a giant family, including the "last man standing" and this creaky editor who put out the Tely's final edition.
And now Andy is the last of the 62 Day Oners still working for the Sun although they just tried to cut him from four to three cartoons a week. Many of the others have passed on to the great newsroom in the sky to argue style usage with Saint Peter and to suggest there is something strange about how some get through the Pearly Gates because they hint without proof they have a "real" relationship with the big guy.
Andy came to my attention as I was struggling up the Tely editorial ladder. He stood out as an irreverent prankster who had the inside track with the famous and powerful because they loved to call and get the original of his cartoons even when he skewered them. (I confess a conflict there since there are cartoons ridiculing me among the 30 lovely paintings and other creations on my walls from Andy and his wife Diane...who is much nicer.)
And now decades later, Andy is the great survivor of a golden time in the journalism history of Toronto. The famous bylines, the circulation wars, the stunts, the great pictures and the legendary columnists that were loved by readers and were part of the audacious fabric of the Telegram and the Sun are remembered by fewer and fewer people. Tumpane? Hicks? The Rimmer? Fisher?
Also shrinking with the nostalgia are the newspapers of 2017 as they wilt under the electronic competition and by being ignored by the ad buyers and fools who think social media and fake facts give readers a true picture of the reality around us.
Where in hell do they think the real news comes from? Certainly not from cranks trying to weave outrage from the lint in their belly buttons. Real journalism costs money and requires training and experience and talent and cannot be performed by amateurs who think anyone can write, that libel is a new street drug, and fiction is better than truth.
If there ever was a time in journalism for the plea in that old Scottish prayer, it is now.
"Good Lord, Deliver us."
And we should all say amen unless you want to live in an undemocratic world where Andy with that discerning eye and great talent would have obvious targets in every single meeting for anything more important than a pothole repair.
The world has become a shooting gallery, for cartoonists too, just as they have become an endangered species even if this one lasted 60 years.
.





Thursday, October 26, 2017

NOT THE NORMAL RANT ON BIKES


CYCLISTS ARE A PAIN IN THE ASS, TWICE

I remember a nice friend, who generally rode her bike to work as a researcher at Sick Kids,  accusing me of waiting until my son Brett went on his honeymoon to write a diatribe in the Toronto Sun against bike lanes.
You see, Brett often rode his bike to work. And she figured I was trying to avoid a family fight since he and his two brothers often challenge me on my views. (And then there's Mary who doesn't agree with me on anything.)
I would point out the friend was in an accident with her bike, but I don't want to rub in the fact that people with a doctorate aren't necessarily smart on everything.
I 'm not going to recite again the entire case against giving cyclists costly space on all our roads all the time because the facts already are 90% against them, even though councillors have chosen to ignore them for strange reasons which eventually will be seen as bizarre.
You can sample my attacks on bike lanes in blog.johndowning.ca. There are even old Sun columns floating in the vast Internet memory. What makes what I have written pertinent to this major transportation issue is that it isn't the usual propaganda - fake news pickled with false facts - produced by activists and those who make a living off cyclists.
But today's point is that the frustrated worm that is the majority of Torontonians trying to get around in our awful traffic is beginning to turn.
The media, particularly the Star and to a lesser extent the Mop and Pail, are actually starting to run material that challenges the whole concept of giving unlicensed untrained uninsured cyclists access to costly roads provided by city and provincial taxes to move people and goods.
This crack in the fad may encourage more people to come out of the woodwork where they were driven by the politically correct who make attacking bikes equivalent to kicking babies.
The basic fact is that our major roads exist not as exercise paths but to move commuters, travellers, and commercial traffic. Unfortunately that's ignored by politicians, bureaucrats and police in their decisions and enforcement. And traffic is screwed.
 You would almost accept sensible adults biking their way without hassle. But drowning out their civility are the insolent snarls of in-your-face cyclists who have sublimated their failures and beefs into hostile assaults on anyone who gets in their way, be it car, bus or fellow cyclist.
I would argue to City Hall and Queen's Park that bike lanes and catering to cyclists, which is made out to be growing in popularity, is actually sinking in the polls as all those trying to get around this city look at the Mickey Mouse attempts at some bike lanes and all the cars and trucks hampered by them.
Oh, but they say, the city is for people, not for vehicles. Ever try delivering a fridge on a bike, or going from Eglinton and Islington to the Scarborough town centre in February....
Sorry, I'm returning to the arguments when today's theme is that the mood is growing against bike lanes. Any councillor or MPP or MP who doesn't realize how the people in their riding really think,  and not just the mouthy ones, is going to be out on the snarled roads looking for work.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

CHANGING DIAPERS FOR A DEGREE

WHEN PRICES WERE LOWER BUT SO WAS PAY

Our numbers are shrinking but not our memories of being the children of those who survived the Great Depression.
Our children have muttered cheapskates behind our backs as we save string in a ball or soak uncancelled stamps off envelopes or without even thinking use all the other parsimonious tricks that those who were young in the 1940s and 1950s learned from the frugal adults who rode out the Depression. They invented new ways to use stale bread and squeezed nickels into quarters. Around our little house in Chesley, we grew all our vegetables, just like they did on front lawns in downtown Toronto.
 My grandfather hadn't worked for years in the furniture factories that dominated the town. To get a pound of butter for the home-baked bread, he had had to mow the grass in the town cemetery for a day. When he got work again, we lived as if the Depression could strike again next week. If a sealer jar of the preserves we put down in the fall turned just a bit, we still ate it. If it was really bad, we fed it to the Leghorns in the backyard pen and watched them stagger. No turkey on holidays, just whatever scrawny chicken was at the bottom of the pecking order.
I laugh with the other pensioners at this newfangled green movement about composting and recycling because we have done it all our lives, and not just at the cottage where jealous townies protect their dumps as if they were Fort Knoxes.
When I got an email from Dave McClure who I first met in Grade One, and he talked about Depression survivors, it brought back those days with bittersweet emotions. Dave's family ran a mill at the town edge. I spent most afternoons on a crude raft on their mill pond on the Rocky Saugeen and my cruises there produce more fond memories than ones on the Caribbean. I remember playing baseball in one of their fields using dry cow flaps for bases and running into a barbed electric fence.
Dave's theme was "economically I grew up in a blessed generation." But then his family produced the town mayor and school board chair and were successes, certainly to this runt who they teased endlessly.
Dave pointed out that in the 1950s, the low birth rate caused by the Depression, and the post-war rush of an expanding economy, plus the benefit of a low cost-of-living, produced a surplus of jobs. Why there were even, Dave points out as a retired high school teacher, two jobs for every teacher..... Here's his story:
I entered Western in 1954, registered in six courses...for my year's fees of $310, and entered Huron College residence where I paid my 30-week fee of $480 for complete room and meals.
To pay...I sold my five shares in Canadian Breweries and emptied my bank account which had been partially filled by my summer job at Canada Packers, a Chesley farm produce plant. To augment my university costs, I worked each year delivering the Christmas mail. The pay was 92 cents an hour.
Many of us were very blessed to be accepted into the University Naval Training Division which provided us with training, uniforms, accommodation and all our meals for the five-month summer recess. The pay was $185 a month. In the summer of 1955, I received a letter from Huron College that I would not be allowed to return. I was an immature 17-year-old and because of my behaviour I deserved that letter from the bursar.
Undaunted. my mother and I drove to London. I stopped at the Free Press and bought a paper for five cents, opened it and read this ad 'Free room and breakfast in exchange for babysitting.'
My mother and I drove to 70 Base Line Rd. and knocked on the door. It was answered by a little woman with a babe in her arms and four little children beside her. I protested that I didn't think that I could look after a little one-month-old baby but my mother and the baby's mother agreed that I could do the job just fine.
So I spent the next two years tending and babysitting those children and changing diapers on the infant. The mother was Joan Smith, later Ontario's Solicitor General, and the father was Donald Smith, then president of EllisDon, and that baby was Geoff Smith who is now EllisDon president.
A surprise ending right out of an O. Henry story. Turns out they really were the good old days for some of us aging wonders. Just days after being kicked out of his college residence, Dave was housed and fed by a woman who became a major politician, whose portfolio included all provincial first responders, and a self-made construction giant who among other buildings built Toronto's convention centre and SkyDome.
Obviously I should have learned how to change diapers instead of just trying to pass high school before I paid my $148 as my first year fees at Ryerson.

Friday, October 13, 2017

RYERSON UNIVERSITY IS NAMED PERFECTLY


EGERTON'S STATUE MAY BE TORONTO'S OLDEST

This silly argument that Ryerson University needs another name because Egerton Ryerson's has been ruined by his harm to indigenous Canadians demonstrates how activists can ignore history when they contrive indignation about flawed leaders.
The taint comes from those residential schools for what were then called Indians. (And that name still exists in our legislation governing indigenous peoples.) The schools were awful in every possible way.
Canada's federal bureaucrats who acted in such a cruel paternalistic fashion in operating the schools displayed stunning ignorance and callous contempt for decades as they ruined lives and ripped apart families.
But to blame Egerton Ryerson after whom the university is named, saying he was the creator and significant operator of these residential schools, is to flaunt an amazing illiteracy about the man and his writings and his morality and how governments work.
Then to have this slop over like pigs' feed to urgings that his statue be removed from where it has stood since 1889 - the oldest major public statue in the city built from pupils' pennies and even foreign donations - shows that the bellowing activists behind these demands deserve an F for their malicious lack of research.
The idea behind residential schools started in New France with various religions long before Egerton was even born in 1803.  Egerton did recommend them many years later in an important report and also in a supporting letter in 1847 as he became the top education official in what was then Upper Canada. Two such schools did start a year later but were not run by him, were judged failures and  closed quickly.
It was only as Egerton retired as the top provincial education official in 1876 that supporting legislation was passed federally. He died in 1882 as the residential system was getting underway in a major way, run by an Indian Affairs bureaucracy in Ottawa which brooked no interference from 1867 on from provincial officials like Egerton and his successors.
So student politicians at the university where I am a graduate and was once the student president are blaming the indignities of residential schools on a man admired throughout North America for his pioneering work to make education available to all, not just the rich.
Yet this leader didn't originate the idea or implement the concept but is guilty mainly for being a minister who as a young man had worked as a missionary among tribes in southern Ontario and believed with all his might that children and his many friends among the natives - who included a man who lived with him in the family home in the vicinity of Dundas Square - would benefit from a general practical education with a generous helping of Christianity.
Now I may be the son of a woman who graduated from Toronto Bible College on her way to the mission field, and my aunt was a prominent missionary in Nigeria long ago when it was still all mud huts and not filled with oil millionaires and con men, but I don't much like education laced with religion.
Egerton was very much the Methodist minister in his debates and sermons and voluminous writings in wanting to mix the two as the basic recipe to prepare everyone for a good life. Yet if he is to be trashed for that, then the same activists must denigrate a host of  Roman Catholic and Anglican priests, indeed all religious figures in the new country. They all believed that everyone, certainly the natives too, would benefit from education with regular religious instruction along with a good dose of cod liver oil every Friday night.
(Since U of T is infested with activists fighting free speech under the politically correct banner, I expect to hear about Victoria University also mounting an apologetic plaque, just like the one to be placed beside Egerton's statue, to explain Egerton's beliefs since he founded Vic before building his marvellous nursery for education at St. James Square where his statue stands.)
As I detail in my book Ryerson University - A Unicorn Among Horses, Egerton's name was considered apt as the name in 1948 for the old complex about to house a new form of education which featured hands-on training as well as liberal arts and coaching in whatever innovations technology developed. After all, Egerton in his personal life demonstrated that he could do everything from farming to panelling the living room to building a stout skiff  to sail Lake Ontario.
I went into this in detail with experts on Egerton, and they never mentioned, along with the Canadian Encyclopedia listing, anything to do with residential schools. It just wasn't a major part of his important career. I have read hundreds of pages of his writings, and he seemed to produce a thousand words before lunch every day, and maybe a sermon, and found lots of praise for the natives with whom he was working, but nothing much on residential schools.
I have talked to educators about my book as it was published in the spring. In it, Egerton's work with natives and tenuous involvement with residential schools was mentioned briefly because, after all, it was a footnote in his stunning list of accomplishments.
David Crombie, an important Ryerson administrator before he became Toronto's most popular mayor and finally Ryerson's first chancellor, loved how my "outstanding" book brought back "warm memories" in an "exciting, sometimes rollicking saga about how ordinary people were given the freedom and opportunity to invent a new education as a unique Ryerson played an extraordinary role in Ontario."
Sylvia Sutherland, a Ryersonian through and through before she married David, an important Ryerson official before they went off to Peterborough (he founded Sir Sandford Fleming and she became mayor) called my book a "must read" on Facebook.
They are veteran politicians. I am a veteran at covering politicians. And we know what verbal stunts politicians will pull, even student politicians, to get noticed. But it would be appropriate,  occasionally, if they actually did study all the information and just not try to create phoney outrage over what one of the giant figures in Canadian history did briefly in a long career.
Residential schools have a deserved odious reputation because of how they were inflicted on natives as if their family structure and tribal relationship didn't matter. Ironically, according to the elite of the world and even in literature, the concept can be wonderful if the pupils are not mistreated and ripped from their parents. Just look at all the books, all the lore, about Eton and Harrow and UCC and all the "public" schools in real life, and the Hogwarts of literature. Many of us in unhappy childhood, and I certainly include myself, dreamed about being a boarder in a residential school instead. Except the native version in Canada did everything wrong and was a perversion of education.
When Egerton died in 1882, the newspapers were filled with editorials lamenting the loss of such a great man because the baby country had so few of them. I still think he's great even if we are into an era when disembowelling the reputation of our historic greats is routine procedure for any publicity-hunting jerk who wants to claim Egerton was a racist and Sir John A. was a drunk and look at what what Pierre Trudeau did with that guitar player.
None of us, including the Biblical Jesus, are safe from ridicule and condemnation when the activist use fake facts to exaggerate faults.
It is fitting that Egerton Ryerson's statue faces away from the quadrangle heart of the university where dwell craven administrators and petty student pols. As a noted champion in education and religion who never shied from a fight, he would be embarrassed by what is happening there under his honourable name.