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Worst of the worst?
Aug 03, 2007

The vagaries of on-line voting showed up in spades during the Beaver magazine’s recent poll of public picks for the Worst Canadians in history.

The most glaring example was the selection of Chris Hannah, 36, a Winnipegger who is the frontman for the trash-punk band Propagandhi. Hannah actually promoted himself, virtually hijacking what was meant to be somewhat of a serious consideration of Canadian history’s greatest villains.

Hannah was unapologetic about his tampering with the on-line vote — he encouraged people to cast their votes for him because he thought it would be funny. Free Press writer Rob Williams, reporting on the Beaver list, termed him a “noted practical joker.”

While his child-like scheme played out to great personal satisfaction, the self-proclaimed humanitarian said it also evolved into serious discussions with other people on nationalism and political revisionism.

The page 26 article in the recent edition of Beaver magazine called the second-place finish of “an obscure punk rocker” and Trudeau’s first-place finish  “... a result that perhaps speaks as much about the perils of on-line polling as it does about the love-hate relationship Canadians have had with this paradoxical prime minister (Trudeau), who could wear a flower in his lapel while giving critics the finger.”

“I don’t stand during O Canada,” Hannah said in the Beaver article — he calls nationalism a form of fundamentalism. “I hate Wayne Gretzky. I am the worst Canadian and you know it.”

Since his only real claim to fame is selling a few hundred CDs to a fringe group of fans, it’s hard to imagine how he rates such lofty notoriety in the annals of Canadian history. A footnote perhaps? But even that’s a stretch.

It’s amusing that Trudeau came out on top of the list when celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms have just ended. Of course, some, especially those to the political right, argue that the Charter has been one of his worst legacies, hampering the justice system  to the benefit of the criminal element. Perhaps that’s why Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn’t take part in the 25th anniversary celebrations for the Charter. Harper shouldn’t be too smug about Trudeau topping the public list because he happens to be in sixth place.

It’s difficult to give historical credence to the public list as it is full of questionable nominees such as Celine Dion (seventh). What’s her contribution to Canada other than singing a song in the blockbuster  movie Titanic? The public list also places Brian Mulroney (fourth), and Jean Chretien (eighth) among the top-10 Worst Canadians. Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka (fifth) are true villains as is Clifford Olson (ninth). 

But Henry Morgenthaler at third? Maybe among some pro-life supporters and surely not among many women who want control over their own bodies.

And the jury is still out on Conrad Black (10th), who will appeal his conviction in the U.S. Arrogant surely, but arrogance does not make for the Worst Canadian of all time.

The list compiled from a panel of 

authors and historians bears more resemblance to the intent of naming a Worst Canadian in history.

Charlotte Gray calls Adrien Arcand (1899-1967) her Worst Canadian and it’s hard to argue against this inclusion. The anti-Semite Arcand had great influence and many followers despite labeling himself as Canada’s homegrown Hitler. When Canada entered the Second World War, he was arrested as a security threat.

Christopher Moore nominated John Diefenbaker (1895-1979). Loved by many Westerners, “Dief the Chief” was the pariah of the Eastern establishment in the Conservative Party. His claim to fame is having destroyed the party he led, taking the Conservatives from the euphoria of victory to the despair of defeat.

It’s hard to argue against David Bercuson’s inclusion of Inouye Kanao (1916-47), otherwise known  as the “Kamloops Kid.” Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the “kid” moved to Japan from Canada. When Hong Kong was captured and Canadian troops were imprisoned, he made life a living hell for his ex-countrymen. After the war, the Japanese didn’t want him, so he was sent back to Canada where he was tried for treason, found guilty and hanged.

Joseph Trutch (1826-1904) called First nations people “uncivilized savages.” Daniel Francis said Trutch deserves a place in the hall of shame for his handling of natives during the seven years he spent as B.C.’s commissioner of lands and works.

John Christopher Reiffenstein (1779-1840), nominated by Desmond Morton, was commander of the Lower Canadian militia during the War of 1812 and fled the battlefield, leaving Tecumseh and his Shawnee warriors to die in a swamp.

Sam Hughes (1853-1921), a self-promoter who held himself in high esteem, was said by Graham Board to have been our soldiers’ worst friend during the First World War. He is noted to have saddled the troops with the jamming-prone Ross rifle and the ill-conceived MacAdam Shield-shovel. Hughes was eventually fired as the minister of the militia — his many great faults couldn’t be ignored.

How does John A. Macdonald (1815-91), Canada’s first prime minister,  rate inclusion on the list? Ask Winona Wheeler. She’s right in saying he was no friend of Riel and the Métis, but he did help create a new nation in North America for which he deserves some credit.

Michael Bliss said Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook (1879-1964), abandoned Canada for England and used his money to buy political influence and a title which made him a corrupt political figure.

Edward Farrer (1850-1919) was fired from the Winnipeg Daily Times in 1884 following a drinking spree. But what the anti-French and anti-catholic journalist was really noted for was advocating Western separatism and the annexation of Canada by the U.S.

Named in the list by Will Ferguson was Duncan Campbell Scott (1862-1947), Canada’s senior administrator of Canadian Indian policy and an avowed racist. He was no friend to Canada’s First Nations people.

In the end, the historians and authors put together a more valid rogues’ gallery than the public.