Today in Canada's Political History - January 13, 1961: Former Prime Minister Louis St.-Laurent delivers a rare public address

After his defeat by John Diefenbaker in 1957 and his retirement from political life soon after, former Prime Minister Louis St.-Laurent rarely made public appearances. He returned to the practice of law in Quebec City, spent a great deal of time with his family, and also taught law at Laval University.

But on this date in 1961 St.-Laurent appeared in public, delivering a speech in Ottawa. He spoke to 400 members of the Canadian Club at a luncheon at the Chateau Laurier, making a pitch for national unity. “By knowing each other better and by concentrating on the good things in each other we, Canadians of French and British origins, can get along together," he said. “We Canadians are one people today. We are one nation from the Atlantic to the Pacific. To promote and work for unity amongst all our people is to perform the highest service to Canada.”

In a move that surely disappointed historians of the day (and on through today) the 12th Prime Minister re-iterated that he would not be writing his memoirs. “I did not expect to remain in public life when I came to Ottawa in 1941 and I never kept any notes,” he said. “If I were to write any memoirs, I would want to be as accurate as possible. That would mean reading Hansard from 1941 until my retirement from public life and I am not going to do attempt that.”

Arthur Milnes is an accomplished public historian and award-winning journalist. He was research assistant on The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney’s best-selling Memoirs and also served as a speechwriter to then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and as a Fellow of the Queen’s Centre for the Study of Democracy under the leadership of Tom Axworthy. A resident of Kingston, Ontario, Milnes serves as the in-house historian at the 175 year-old Frontenac Club Hotel.


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