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Canada's prime ministers: A day of honor

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  Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006

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State funeral set for Diefenbaker
Train will take him home

The Globe and Mail
From the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail
Friday, August 17, 1979






John Diefenbaker

Ottawa - John Diefenbaker will go home to Saskatchewan for the last time next week, traveling by train at his own request.

The body of Canada's 13th prime minister, who died in his Rockcliffe Park home yesterday morning, will lie in state in the Parliament Buildings for three days.

Mr. Diefenbaker will be given a state funeral in Ottawa on Sunday. He and his second wife, Olive, who died in 1976, will be buried side by side on Wednesday at the John G. Diefenbaker Centre at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

The 83-year-old MP for Prince Albert died of a suspected heart attack after getting up at 5 a.m. His body was found by Archie McQueen, a Hamilton schoolteacher who has been spending summers with Mr. Diefenbaker.

In his hand were some parliamentary papers.

Mr. Diefenbaker was a month short of his 84th birthday and was the senior member of his beloved House of Commons.

About 60 federal Government officials, police and clergymen met for three hours yesterday studying the funeral plans that Mr. Diefenbaker left with his assistant, Keith Martin. An official of the Secretary of State's Department said Mr. Diefenbaker planned his funeral in "enormous detail" and a train to take him home was one of his requests.

He had originally planned to be buried with his wife in Ottawa, but recently changed his mind. Mrs. Diefenbaker's body will be moved and will accompany his own to Saskatoon.

The funeral train, provided by Via Rail, will make stops of two hours each at Winnipeg and Prince Albert.

An official of the Secretary of State's Department, who noted that a funeral train also took former governor-general George Vanier from Ottawa to Quebec City, said Mr. Diefenbaker's state funeral will be almost identical to that of former prime minister Lester Pearson. Such funerals follow procedures established by the Secretary of State.

The former prime minister will lie in state in the Hall of Honor of the House of Commons for three days, beginning today. Governor-General Edward Schreyer and his family will pay their respects at 9:30 this morning, followed by Prime Minister Joe Clark at 10 o'clock, then Chief Justice Bora Laskin, members of the Cabinet, diplomats and other dignitaries. An official said this will be broadcast live on CBC television.

The public may attend from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. today, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow and from 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday.

A one-hour funeral service will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at Christ Church Cathedral, conducted by Baptist Minister Rev. Ralph Cummings, after which a cortege will take the coffin to the railway station.

The funeral train will be met by a guard of honor when it arrives in Saskatoon early Tuesday afternoon, and Mr. Diefenbaker will lie in state through Wednesday morning in Convocation Hall of the University of Saskatchewan.

Mr. Diefenbaker's first wife, Edna, died in 1951 and is buried in Saskatchewan.


Barbs, blarney were his hallmark

John Diefenbaker was known as the master of the barb - one of the most adept at the art of slicing the political jugular.

Many of his speeches began with "My fellow Canadians," but most of the remarks he'll be remembered for were short and sharp, shot without warning at his opponents. A sampling of some of his comments:

"Now take C.D. Howe. His views of Parliament and mine were totally opposed. He regarded it as an impediment to getting things done. But we respected each other. Once in the House I referred to the 'sewer of his mind.' The Speaker asked me to withdraw the remark. I wouldn't although I did point out that as a professional engineer the Honorable Member undoubtedly built a good sewer."

"And there's Paul Martin. He's by far the ablest parliamentarian on the other side. But I love to make Paul mad. You can do it by saying, innocently, that no other member has the ability to compress such small thoughts into so many words."

"The eastern executive lands in Saskatchewan for a meeting with the farmers. 'What's that mean?' he asks a man with M-F on his cap. 'Why, Master Farmer,' says the man. 'And that,' the executive asks, pointing to the POOL cap. 'Well,' says the farmer, 'I'll tell you the last three words are On Otto Lang.'"

"He (Mr. Lang) has good ability. But if there were four cow pats in the a field, Otto couldn't walk through without stepping on all four."

 
 


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