John George Diefenbaker, 1895-1979
Date of Issue
June 20, 1980
Perforation or Dimension
Canadian Bank Note Company, Limited.
Designed by Bernard N.J. Reilander. Portrait and lettering engraved by Yves Baril.
John G. Diefenbaker was born in Neustadt, Ontario, on September 18, 1895. In 1903 doctors advised his father to move to the prairies for health reasons and so the family settled in what soon became the Province of Saskatchewan. During World War I Diefenbaker served in the army, was accidentally injured, and returned home to complete his education. He was called to the Saskatchewan bar in 1919. That same year at Wakaw he set up a law practice which he moved to Prince Albert in 1924. Early in life Diefenbaker developed a strong distaste for injustice. As he later wrote, "The idea of the poor being treated differently, the working man being looked down upon as a digit, filled me with revulsion." He felt that "we can never build a united Canada which permits discrimination against loyal Canadians, whatever their origin." The young lawyer observed these principles in his legal work. He risked unpopularity by defending two school trustees charged with permitting French to be used as a language of instruction. The half-breeds of Northern Saskatchewan respected him because "he was... colourful, dashing and exciting and he would represent anyone, rich or poor, red or white. He helped us, and the important thing was that he did so when no one else would." While still at Wakaw, he began drafting a Canadian Bill of Rights. Politics had long fascinated Diefenbaker, and five times he ran unsuccessfully for office before winning election to the House of Commons in 1940. He sought the Conservative leadership in 1942 to publicize his views on "hyphenated Canadianism." He won the party leadership in 1956 and the next year stunned his opponents by becoming the first Conservative prime minister since 1935. He governed under the philosophy that unless government sought a basic equality of citizenship, of opportunity, and of well-being for all peoples, then government had lost sight of its true purpose. Thus he appointed Canada's first French Canadian Governor General since 1760, the first woman federal cabinet minister, the first federal cabinet minister of Ukrainian descent, the first woman ambassador, and the first Indian senator. He enacted the Bill of Rights, gave Indians the vote, and introduced simultaneous translation in the House of Commons. Through his vision of the North, he sought to redirect "the average Canadian's dreams to new horizons of achievement and adventure..." After his government was defeated in 1963, Diefenbaker resigned as prime minister. He died in 1979 while preparing for yet another session of Parliament. The John Diefenbaker stamp was designed by Ottawa graphic designer Bernard Reilander. The dignified profile portrait drawing of Diefenbaker was based on photographs taken while he was prime minister. Printed in a rich blue, the steel-engraved interpretation of Mr. Reilander's original artwork was executed by Yves Baril.
Canada. Post Office Department. [Postage Stamp Press Release], 1980.
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