The Greatest Canadian of All Time
TC (Tommy) Douglas was voted the Greatest Canadian of all time in 2004 by the viewers of CBC television. He was born in 1904 in Camelon, Falkirk, Scotland. At the age of six, TC immigrated to Canada with his family and settled in Winnipeg. Shortly before leaving Scotland, he had fallen and injured his right knee. Osteomyelitis had set in requiring numerous surgeries to try and correct the condition. Unfortunately, it flared up again in Winnipeg. The decision was made to amputate; however, the leg was saved when a very kindly orthopedic surgeon offered to take on the case for free if his students could observe the procedures.
Photo: By Lieut. G. Barry Gilroy [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In 1920 TC began a career as an amateur boxer and became lightweight champion of Manitoba. In 1924 he enrolled in Brandon College, a Baptist school affiliated with McMaster University where he completed his high school education and studied to be ordained with the Baptists. While at Brandon, he was influenced by politics and began a lifelong friendship with Stanley Knowles. TC financed his education by preaching at a number of rural churches for the princely sum of $15 a week.
While preaching at a Presbyterian church in Carberry, he met a farmer’s daughter by the name of Irma Dempsey. Two months after his graduation, they married and the couple moved to the small town of Weyburn, Saskatchewan, where he was ordained as a minister with Calvary Baptist Church. In 1935, he was elected to the House of Commons, representing the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) which later became the New Democratic Party.
In 1962, fighting a doctors’ strike, he introduced his signature legislation, bringing universal health care to the residents of Saskatchewan. He is rightfully acknowledged as the “Father of Medicare”.
There were two streams of influence that converged in Douglas’s life: the political and the biblical.
The Scriptures are populated by prophets like Amos who believed that their teachings were not just for a handful of devoted radicals, but for all God-followers. The societal issues that confronted Amos were not totally unlike those faced by Douglas.
It deeply angered Amos when he observed wealthy landowners displacing small farmers by charging exorbitant rent for their valuable lands. Essential farm equipment was often purchased with money the small plot-farmers borrowed from the wealthy landowners at usurious interest rates of between 100 and 170%.
The prophet Isaiah decried the over-accumulation of land. He said in Isaiah 5.8 (NLT) “What sorrow for you who buy up house after house and field after field, until everyone is evicted and you live alone in the land.” The clarion call of Micah 6.8 (NIV), “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” inspired Douglas in both his private and public life.
As we commemorate our nation’s 150th anniversary we must never forget the influence that God’s Word has had in our development. The greatest Canadian of all time recognized that the Bible was an important component in building a moral and just citizenry.
(Also read, The Bible in Canada’s History)