Remembering Mitchell: the Hon. Mitchell Sharp: 11 May 1911-20 March 2004.
Eulogy at the service at Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa 27 March 2004
Mes relations avec Mitchell Sharp ont commence quand le Premier ministre Mike Pearson a voulu me remplacer comme son secedtaire parlementaire par un nouveau venu du nom P.E. Trudeau. Il m'a dit: "Je voudrais que tu deviens secretaire parlementaire du ministre des Finances Mitchell Sharp et si tu travailles bien tu sera peut-etre le premier Canadien francais a devenir ministre des Finances." Et il a eu bien raison. C'est a ce moment que Mitchell est devenu mon mentor.
Cet homme erudit, ouvert d'esprit, cultive et devoue a ete d'une generosite et d'une affabilite incroyable a mon endroit et sans ses conseils, peut-etre que je ne serais jamais devenu Premier Ministre du Canada.
As I had not much knowledge about the country outside of Quebec, I turned to this man born in Winnipeg who left a very good job to come from the West to be a young bureaucrat in Ottawa during the war. There he rubbed shoulders with the great mandarins of the time. Anybody who worked as a senior bureaucrat between the early 1940s and 1958 would agree that he was among the great, like Mike Pearson, Norman Robertson, Bob Bryce, and Jules Leger.
In 1958, he resigned as deputy minister on a question of principle and joined the private sector, where he was very successful. He organized for his friend Mike Pearson the famous Kingston conference and decided in the election of 1962 to take on Donald Fleming, the number two in the Diefenbaker government. He almost won. Less than a year later he did win, and became a senior minister in the new government.
His presence in the Cabinet was always very important because he had a very balanced view. Never going to the extremes, he would always try to understand all the different sides of the question. Having seen so many problems in public administration, he would always come up with a reasonable solution.
Mitchell was an internationalist, arguing that Canada should play a role in all international fora. Having been secretary of state for external affairs when Canada decided to recognize mainland China, he was very pleased at the age of 90 to come with Team Canada to celebrate the 30th anniversary of that diplomatic success and was delighted that the Chinese authorities gave him a higher recognition than the premiers of the provinces.
The year I spent with him in Finance gave me, early in my career, the opportunity to learn from a great professor the real workings of government, its powers and its limits, the importance of a good bureaucracy like the one we have in Canada, probably the best in the world, the functioning of the constitution, etc.
One day that I will remember forever was a meeting I attended in his office in the presence of the governor of the Bank and a group of senior officials. They discussed interest rates, debt, bonds, taxes, trade balances, balance of payments, billion dollar issues, etc. At the close of the meeting Mitchell took me aside and told me, "Jean, you should not talk to anybody about what you just heard. As my English was almost non-existent at the time, I replied "Don't be worry (sic) Mitchell, I did not understand a damned thing!"
Mitchell was a wonderful model. He always looked forward. He was an optimist by nature. I remember the birthday dinner I hosted in his honour at 24 Sussex when he turned 90. I stood up to propose a toast to him and talked for a few minutes about everything he had taught me, about his contribution to Canada, about his many successes during the course of his life. He then stood up to respond and he said: "Thank you for everything you have just said about what I have done. But I am not here to talk about the past. I am here to talk about my future." And then he told us that he had learned enough in his time with me in the Prime Minister's Office to have all the qualifications necessary to be my successor!
One of the things I have valued in Mitchell's advice was his experience. There is nothing that is more important in government than institutional memory and no one had greater institutional memory than Mitchell.
Mitchell was a man of great humanity. He always demonstrated sympathy for people who had less, for the least fortunate. He never forgot his roots in Winnipeg. He was a tremendous teacher. He always tried to bring out the best in people. He taught us to think harder, to do better. He was a great example of public service until the end of his life. For ten years, he was there to advise me whenever the going got rough. And I paid him $1.00 a year. Mitchell never complained, except for one time. When the dollar came close to dropping below 60 cents American, he worried about how he could continue to feed his family.
All my life I turned to him in difficult situations. When everybody was so nervous about the Clarity Bill, I went to see him at his home. He was one of the few to tell me, "Go, ... do it". He then sat at his piano and played Schubert, some Mozart, and Debussy. Then he let me go home, much more confident and relaxed than when 1 had arrived.
This great gentleman was very unfortunate to lose two great wives after long illnesses, Daisy and Jeanette. He was an unbelievably kind husband to each of them.. Jeanette, a lovely Acadian, became a great friend of Aline and me. But God made it possible for him to spend the last years of his life with another exceptional lady, Jeanne D'Arc. So he was a very happy husband until the end.
Mitchell has been a great Canadian who served his beloved Canada under many prime ministers. He has been a great link in the history of the Liberal Party from MacKenzie King, through Louis St. Laurent, to his friend Lester B. Pearson, Pierre Trudeau, and his protege. One day Mitchell and I discussed a quotation from Frank Scott who had written that the only reward he was expecting for all his work was, at the end, that God would say, "Well done." We all know that God is telling him today, "Mitchell, very well done."
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE JOE CLARK
My strongest personal impressions of Mitchell Sharp took root before--and then after--his service as secretary of state for external affairs.
When I was an enthusiastic young recruit in John Diefenbaker's insurgency, Mr. Sharp was the senior public servant who quit that government and became, to us, the symbol of an establishment hostile to change.
The second, and more enduring, impression was when I was minister myself, and Mr. Sharp regularly reached beyond partisanship and custom to support and help me on some of the most difficult issues I had to face.
It is one of life's small ironies that Mitchell Sharp and I were both drawn into elected politics by Mr. Diefenbaker.
Unlike most ministers, Mitchell Sharp was in the Cabinet room long before he came to the House of Commons. That helped shape his conduct as a politician. He came to government from the inside out. That perspective diminished neither his partisanship, nor his shrewdness, as a politician. It may well have contributed to the toughness and focus which characterized his service at External Affairs.
Mr. Sharp's signature was on big issues, which advanced or protected interests that were fundamental to Canada. He quarterbacked the recognition of the People's Republic of China. He navigated the Canada-us relationship through some of its most hazardous passages, in the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam war. He was the godfather of the "Third Option" with Europe. And, before he came to Cabinet, he organized and chaired the Kingston conference, which transformed the Liberal Party and so, in time, the country.
It would be hard to characterize Mitchell Sharp as a wild-eyed nationalist. But he had a clear sense of what Canada was and could become, and he applied his talents and his power to shape that kind of country. The limits on his vision may have been the limits of someone who worked from the inside out--too cautious about Free Trade, too confident that diplomacy and tradition and logic could make the "Third Option" viable. By the same token, his strength was that he knew what to do, and how to do it.
The recognition of China was probably the most significant foreign policy initiative of the Trudeau era, especially in its timing. It set the stage for Chinas re-emergence as well as establishing the formula that allowed other countries in the west to follow Canada's lead. It was bold and brave since it amounted to a challenge to United States policy.
Mitchell Sharp understood how sensitive the issue was to the Americans but steadfastly pursued recognition while, with friendly finesse, he kept the lid on Canada-United States relations. There were, of course, many Canadian voices urging caution--if not inaction.
In retrospect, the China initiative signalled the transformation of Canada's relations with Asia. More than a bilateral initiative, it was a symbol of our independence on this continent, and our interest in Asia, which now plays such a defining role in Canada's future.
In the same spirit, Mr. Sharp guided Canada's policy through the Vietnam peace process, which could have led to deep conflict with the United States. The general mood in Ottawa in 1972-1974 was to help the us end the war, but not to become ensnared ourselves in a peace supervisory process which we thought would be unworkable. We could advise on how a supervisory body might avoid the pitfalls of the International Control Commission, on which Canada had served with such frustration for nineteen years. However, refusing to participate could exacerbate a Canada-us relationship that was already tender over sharp trade disagreements.
With shrewd insight into the American psyche, Mitchell Sharp guided Canada into the process and then, after us prisoners were handed over, presided over our withdrawal. Mitchell Sharp understood how to play to Washington--swallowing some initial bitter medicine for a longer-term positive outcome.
Even in light of those accomplishments, history may judge that Mitchell Sharp's most important contribution to public life was through the Liberal party, rather than the foreign ministry.
For literally decades, in and out of office, he personified the steadiness and confidence that nurtured the Liberals' certainty that they were Canada's "natural governing party". More important, when the "natural governors" were thrown out of office, emphatically, he played a central role in the party's renewal, as the organizer and chair of the Kingston conference.
The risk, for a policy conference--by the humbled but not humble party of the Canadian establishment--was that it would simply re-heat old nostrums and nostalgia. Instead, that conference changed profoundly the image of the party, and the agenda of the country. For better and for worse, that is where seeds were planted which led to the Canada Pension Plan, the Autopact, the introduction of medicare, and similar initiatives.
Of course, others played large roles in the Kingston conference. But it is hard to think of any other individual who might have led the process so successfully. The Ottawa "insider" reached out. C.D. Howe's deputy minister became Lester Pearson's agent of change.
Through it all, as a public figure, Mitchell Sharp was polite, even courtly in his behaviour. He seemed above the fray, though he was so often at the very heart of it.
Former Chief of Staff and Senior Policy
Advisor to Prime Minister Chretien
For ten years, from November 1993 until December 2003, Mitchell Sharp and I were next-door neighbours in the Prime Minister's Office. I will always cherish the memories of a great gentleman and a genuine national treasure.
When I began my tenure as senior policy adviser to the prime minister, I explained to my secretary that Mr. Chretien had provided Mr. Sharp with an office, but that given his age--he was 82--he would not likely be using it very often. However, he would probably want her from time to time to make a few phone calls and type a few letters. I was certain that she could do that in addition to the work I had for her. Over the next ten years, Mitchell was in the office nearly every day. With his phone calls, letters, speeches, lectures, memoirs, travel and countless visitors, he kept both my assistants busier than I did.
Successful governments are those which value wisdom and experience, which learn from the past and put issues and challenges in the context both of what has gone on before and of the broader world around them. In 1993, Mitchell Sharp was the repository of more than half a century of institutional memory of government in Canada. He brought perspective, wisdom and experience.
Mitchell and I would often discuss his experiences as a senior public servant under Mackenzie King and Louis St. Laurent and as a minister in the Cabinets of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. He knew their strengths and weaknesses. He gave me the historical and institutional perspective about prime ministers and Cabinets that was invaluable to me in advising Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
Mitchell had been minister of finance and knew the prerogatives of the finance minister. He also understood the needs and prerogatives of a prime minister. I was often called upon to mediate differences between Prime Minister Chretien and his finance minister Paul Martin. Sometimes I would turn to Mitchell for advice.
With a twinkle in his eye, he told me about his own experience. He said that it was much easier in his time as minister of finance, because Mr. Pearson was not interested in the subject matter and would let him do what he wanted.
And then Mitchell became serious. He listened carefully to the problem, thought it through, reflected on what other prime ministers and ministers of finance might have done, recounted some useful anecdotes and gave me his advice. I would go to the prime minister or the minister of finance and tell them, "Mitchell says ..." Usually that was good enough for them.
One day I told Mitchell about a problem I was encountering in dealing with the government of Newfoundland. He explained that he had been instrumental in the negotiations leading to Newfoundland's joining Confederation. He talked about some of the lessons he had learned over the years in dealing with Newfoundland. The historical perspective he shared in this and so much else was invaluable.
Mitchell was sometimes my court of last resort. There were times that I was concerned that the prime minister was going down the wrong road and heading for trouble, and none of my arguments were working. I might consult with Mitchell. If he disagreed with me, I would give up. If he agreed with me, I would make sure the prime minister talked to him. He very often succeeded in changing the prime minister's mind, and when he did, Mitchell would be very pleased with himself. And I would be relieved that a potential crisis had been averted. Very few Canadians were ever able to offer the perspective and wisdom of Mitchell Sharp.
Not only did Mitchell have a tremendous institutional memory, he also had a very long memory. In the mid-1960s, there was an epic battle that divided the Liberal Party, with Mitchell Sharp, on one side, against the economic nationalist policies of Walter Gordon on the other side. Mitchell came out the undisputed winner, but there were scars that were still not entirely healed decades later.
A few years ago, more than 30 years after the battle with Walter Gordon, I was invited to speak in Toronto to some Liberals who had formed a dinner group called the Walter Gordon Circle. One afternoon, before going to the airport, I told Mitchell what I was going to do in Toronto. He looked at me quite disapprovingly and asked me to repeat in case he had misunderstood me. I told him again. He smiled and, very calmly, said, "Tell them I am still around!"
Mitchell knew that he occupied a unique position. He could do what no one else would try. He always wanted to be constructive. The summer of 2002 was very difficult politically for the government. Paul Martin had left the Cabinet, and the Liberal Party and the government were divided. So Mitchell, unbeknownst to anyone, at the age of 91, decided to take matters into his own hands. He called Mr. Martin and asked to see him. They spent a couple of hours together at Mr. Martin's home in Ottawa. Mitchell gave him advice about the traditions of the Liberal Party and the need for a smooth and dignified change of leadership.
Mitchell was always forward-looking. In August 2002, Prime Minister Chretien announced that he would retire within 18 months. A few weeks later, Mitchell came into my office, shut the door and said, "I need some advice. I have reflected and have decided I don't want to work for another prime minister. But I will only be 92 and will still have a contribution to make. Do you think I should look for work in a university, where I can spend time with young people?"
A few weeks before he passed away, he was mulling over two different new job prospects.
We remember a very great Canadian. It will be a long time before there is another one like Mitchell Sharp.
President & CEO of the National Arts Centre
One of my fondest and most treasured memories of Mitchell Sharp is of the night he appeared as a guest conductor of the National Arts Centre Orchestra (conducting, among others, music legends Yo-Yo Ma and Pinchas Zukerman). It was a couple of years ago now, but the expression of absolute delight he wore that evening remains flesh in my mind.
This memory ties into one of the things that most intrigued me about Mitchell's life: the "road not taken," or at least not taken in full view of the public. If you followed Mitchell's career for even a portion of the six decades he devoted to public service, you know him as a patriotic and dedicated official and member of Parliament who served his country--and no fewer than five prime ministers--to the very best of his considerable abilities.
But beyond his political life, Mitchell was a multi-talented, multi-faceted man. His passion and dedication to politics was matched--albeit more quietly--by his passion and dedication to music. Somehow, in the midst of all of his other accomplishments, Mitchell managed to become a highly skilled pianist.
He maintained a love of music and drew on it for inspiration and enjoyment throughout his 92 years. Especially in the later years, while he was so happily married to his wonderful wife, Jeanne d'Arc, and some of the pressures of government had diminished.
In fact, Jeanne d'Arc tells a story that well illustrates his ongoing love of music. Last year a frail yet determined Mitchell insisted on taking his electronic piano to the cottage for the summer--mind you, Jeanne did all the lifting and manoeuvring while Mitchell held open doors! But her labours were well rewarded when Mitchell immersed himself in his beloved Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven, as many as three or four times a day, during what would be his final summer at the cottage.
Fortunately, Mitchell's love of music sparked a parallel love affair with the National Arts Centre. He was a key member of the Pearson Cabinet when the NAC was conceived nearly 40 years ago. He regularly attended concerts at the NAC, gave generously to support the NAC Orchestra and became a friend and confidant to many of the musicians (including Pinchas Zukerman and Walter Prystawski). He also proudly told the story of how he met Jeanne d'Arc at an NAC concert--and with her by his side, he accompanied the orchestra on tours of both the Middle East and the United States.
In time, Mitchell became known as the unofficial "minister in charge of the National Arts Centre." He played an active role in furthering the interests of the NAC and the NAC Orchestra, and strongly supported the NAC's strategic goals. Mitchell's own passion for music and music education fuelled his avid interest in the Arts Centre's plans to expand its youth and education activities, and its renewed commitment to touring combined with educational outreach activities.
To that end, in 2001, Mitchell created the Mitchell Sharp Endowment for Young Musicians, a fitting tribute. He launched the fund with a gift of $25,000, and this legacy has grown over time, as Mitchell's friends and family members have added their own generous contributions to the endowment. Today, it has reached about $100,000, and Mitchell left a further provision for the endowment in his will.
Mitchell's generous legacy will have a tremendous impact on the future of music in Canada, through its support for the NAC'S Summer Music Institute. It provides young musicians from Canada and around the globe with the opportunity to study with world-class musicians--to be inspired first-hand by their passion and dedication. This is a powerful incentive for young musicians. Jean-Philippe Tremblay, a graduate of the inaugural NAG Conductors Programme in 2001 and now the assistant conductor of the Vancouver Symphony, described his training at the NAG as "a huge learning experience; not like being at school but rather hands-on, professional-level learning with the orchestra and conductors." In his words, "It gives you the highest standards of excellence." This too is a fitting tribute to Mitchell, in keeping with his personal standards of excellence.
While Mitchell's personal musical "career" took place primarily behind the scenes, it was a source of lifelong fulfillment and joy for him. As a devoted benefactor of the National Arts Centre, and especially of the NAC Orchestra, Mitchell was always there when we needed him, and his legacy burns brightly.
It gives me great pleasure to remember Mitchell as he looked the night he stood on stage and held the conductor's baton--enjoying another precious milestone in a long and fulfilling lifetime of accomplishments.
Former Clerk of the Privy Council
Until December of 2003 Mitchell had seemed to his friends to be virtually unchanging. A third marriage to an attractive and much younger woman would have seemed remarkable for anyone else, but not for Mitchell: it was extremely happy. His passion for the piano and classical music was undiminished: he played several hours every day, but it did not get in the way of going to the Prime Minister's Office to earn his one dollar a year for advice based on his 50 years of experience in government as public servant and minister.
Mitchell and I had been friends from the time he entered the public service in 1942 in the Department of Finance. I had come into the Department of External Affairs in 1938. We both were born and raised in the west, he in Manitoba and I in Saskatchewan. He moved to the Department of Trade and Commerce and became its deputy minister in 1957. I moved to the Prime Minister's Office and became deputy minister of northern affairs and natural resources in 1953. Our paths differed when Mitchell entered politics and became minister of trade and commerce in 1963 and minister of finance in 1965. I became secretary to the Cabinet and clerk of the Privy Council in 1963. We remained very good friends until his death.
My musical capacity was limited to the enjoyment of it--and to an interest in the decision by Mike Pearson to build the National Arts Centre in Ottawa and to establish the NAC Orchestra. Neither would have happened if Pearson had not listened to Hamilton Southam's argument for both in the capital of a country that had a brilliant record in war and was leading in shaping the United Nations to ensure a lasting peace. Pearson's ministers became increasingly worried as the costs grew wildly beyond the original estimates. It was Mitchell's love of music and my involvement with the Pearson decision that brought us closer together than our common western background or parallel careers could ever have done.
The National Arts Centre and the orchestra were in financial difficulty from the beginning, and when Pearson retired in 1968 there ceased to be any prime ministerial commitment. The expensive NAC found little support among ministers from any part of the country. Their constituents all had more pressing uses for whatever money the NAC might need: it became virtually an orphan at the ministerial level. Mitchell never flagged in his support for the orchestra and the Arts Centre. But money was not the only problem. There were constant difficulties of administration, of enticing talented conductors from abroad to lead an orchestra that had yet to establish a reputation in the world of music. Mitchell and I became continuing members of an unofficial committee, joined by Hamilton Southam and Walter Prystawski, the concertmaster, and others from the orchestra to devise ways to keep the ship afloat. At Mitchell's funeral the orchestra's tribute to his unending interest and help was expressed by a superb quintet led by Maestro Zukerman. No verbal tribute could have been as appropriate.
A long association with prime ministers and ministers has convinced me that the two qualities they must possess if they are to succeed are good luck and good judgment; neither alone will do and Mitchell had both.
His good luck began with being employed, when he was young and in need of money, by the Richardson company in Winnipeg, wealthy and willing to finance the university education of a young employee of obvious ability. His employers sought no recompense for their company--an unusual attitude in the grain exchange of that day. A better-concealed piece of luck came when Mitchell had to abandon his hopes of winning the succession to Pearson as leader of the Liberal Party, and stayed in the House of Commons. That "bad luck" was the best luck he ever had. It meant he could pass the votes of his supporters to the ultimate winner, Pierre Trudeau. Trudeau was grateful and named Mitchell to his Cabinet in the portfolio he wanted, External Affairs. Paul Martin Sr., the runner-up to Trudeau, was left out of the Cabinet altogether. He became leader of the government in the Senate.
Two years later, when the British trade commissioner, James Cross, was kidnapped in Montreal, Mitchell, as secretary of state for external affairs, was responsible for handling the crisis, the first and only time that the War Measures Act was invoked and troops called out except in time of war. The premier of Quebec and the mayor of Montreal appealed for a declaration of a state of "apprehended insurrection," which provided the legal powers necessary for Quebec police to hold suspected persons for more than 48 hours. The murder of a Quebec minister, Pierre Laporte, two days later gave substance to the need. It was a sensitive crisis in the full glare of national publicity--much of it unfriendly because of the War Measures Act. Trudeau let Mitchell handle the case, even when he was dubious at times of Mitchell's interpretation of the policy the Cabinet had decided upon. It was good judgment that got Mitchell through a crisis in the prime minister's own province involving the most difficult issue Trudeau had to face, the rise of separatism.
Pierre Trudeau was, however, a demanding prime minister. He had some disagreements with the commitment of the Pearson government to military support for NATO in Europe. He wanted a comprehensive review of Canada's foreign policy. The burden on External Affairs was substantial and agreement with the prime ministerial position was dubious, but Mitchell's good judgment prevailed.
The most convincing demonstration of Mitchell's good judgment was his perception of the potential capacity of young, unilingual Jean Chretien, who came to him as his parliamentary secretary. Mitchell became his mentor, guide and friend. Probably no one but Mitchell and Aline Chretien shared that perception.
Retired Senior Public Servant
>From his eulogy at the service at Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa 27 March 2004
Today we regret the passing but sing the praises and rejoice in the long and full life of a very special Canadian, Mitchell Sharp.
Mitchell Sharp: what splendid images of public service his name evokes, what fine contributions made to our country, what warm memories of his smile, courtesy, tolerance and thoughtfulness. What admirable qualities of frankness, honesty and integrity he demonstrated--and inspired in those who worked with him.
So we celebrate together and express our gratitude for Mitchell's unique accomplishments, accomplishments which both reflected the opportunities Canada has to offer and showed how such opportunities can be discovered, developed and brought to fruition through ability, hard work, understanding, judgment and determination.
I first met Mitchell shortly after the war, but our close association and growing friendship really began when, after a brief period in the private sector, he was named minister of trade and commerce by Mr. Pearson, and in 1964 I was privileged to become his deputy minister.
I quote from his Memoirs: "I missed Ottawa--not the physical climate, which is deplorable, but the continuous discussion of national and international affairs. On the whole, politicians and senior civil servants are more stimulating company than businessmen, so I opted for politics." It remains hard for me to imagine anyone from Winnipeg finding Ottawa's climate "deplorable"!
Central to the excellent working relationship we enjoyed as minister and deputy was our common view of how it should be conducted. Mitchell in his Memoirs had this to say.
To work well the relationship between Ministers and their top professional advisors should be one of mutual confidence. The mandarins cannot perform well unless they have direction and regular contact ... I was granted daily interviews with my minister when I was deputy and insisted on meeting daily with my deputy when I became a Minister ... As Minister I expected my deputy ministers to be frank and open in the expression of their views. Top officials worth their salt should be prepared to tell the minister, politely of course, that his pet ideas are for the birds.
I say amen to that!
Early in Mitchell's time as minister, in June 1963, Walter Gordon presented his budget. The opposition attacked its proposed "takeover tax" of 30 percent on foreign purchases of Canadian companies and attacked Gordon for alleged breach of budget secrecy. In the heated debate which ensued in the House, Mitchell was called on at short notice to defend his colleague. He challenged Mr. Diefenbaker to make an actual charge of such breach against the finance minister. It was his maiden speech and he was wildly cheered by his fellow Liberals. Mitchell later wrote, "Never again was I applauded as I was that evening."
The debate about adoption of a Canadian flag occurred while Mitchell was in Trade and Commerce. At first he was hesitant about the proposed new emblem but then he became strongly supportive. He was present when it was first hoisted and wrote of the occasion: "Like Diefenbaker, my eyes also filled with tears, not when the Ensign was lowered, but when the first truly Canadian flag flew in the breeze. At last we had an unambiguous symbol of Canada."
After the 1965 election Mitchell became minister of finance. When Mr. Pearson announced in 1968 his intention to retire, Mitchell decided to be a candidate to succeed him as leader. As things turned out, his campaign faltered when his budget bill was defeated in the House. He ceased campaigning, withdrew his candidacy and threw his support behind Mr. Trudeau. In his first government Mr. Trudeau appointed Mitchell secretary of state for external affairs. The years in that capacity, 1968 to 1974, were both demanding and challenging as he dealt with issues such as the Foreign Policy Review, the question of our continuing membership in NATO and the related decision to reduce our force levels in Europe. At home the rapid rise of nationalism in Quebec led to the FLQ crisis, when Mitchell played a key role in negotiations for the release of the kidnapped British trade commissioner, James Cross.
I was fortunate that my association with him did not cease when he left politics; I had the privilege of following in his footsteps when he joined the Trilateral Commission, which brought together North Americans, Europeans and Japanese to promote understanding among the principal industrialized countries, and in particular to bring senior Japanese into dialogue with their opposite numbers in North America and Europe.
I should also mention Mitchell's participation in the luncheon group that gathers on Wednesdays in Ottawa at the Rideau Club, where guest speakers are invited to address, off the record, matters of important public interest. For a time Mitchell presided over our meetings; he continued as an active participant in the deliberations until only a few weeks ago. It will not be the same at the Round Table without one of our best-loved members.
I would like to mention two personal memories of the period when we were together in Trade and Commerce. The first concerns our youngest daughter, Jennifer, who as a little girl had a lively motorcar ride up to Lake Simcoe to visit a friend, through the courtesy of Mitchell and his wife Daisy. Jennifer has never forgotten that kindness. The other day, when I told her of Mitchell's passing, she instantly exclaimed, "Oh dear, how sad. What a nice man and what a lovely smile!"
And Joan and I will not forget an incident at our home in Ottawa, where the Sharps had been invited to skate on the small front-yard rink. Mitchell's skates slipped out from under him as he stepped on the ice; he landed on the back of his head and lay silent and motionless before us. Fortunately he was out of it for only a moment or two and soon rejoined the party. But in those moments some frightening imagined headlines swirled through my head; one was: "Deputy tries to get rid of minister on home ice."
How fortunate it was that when time finally caught up with Mitchell, he had Jeanne d'Arc, his loving wife, and his son Noel by his side. While the frailty of his body increased over the final weeks, Jeanne d'Arc was always there to offer comfort and support, as she had done all through their short but richly happy marriage.
Now Mitchell has left us with our individual and collective memories of a life well and fully lived. His spirit, however, remains not only with us who are privileged to be here today but with all the myriad of people whose lives he touched over so many long and productive years.
I dare to believe that the harmony which he exemplified in his life and which enriched him through the creation and enjoyment of music will continue to echo where he walked and where he loved to be, here in Canada--perhaps especially in Winnipeg, his boyhood home, and in the lovely Madawaska valley where he had his treasured summer cottage and, not least, in Ottawa with its beautiful surroundings, where he felt so much at home and at peace.
Mitchell Sharp joined the Canadian Institute of International Affairs in 1938, just ten years after it was established. He remained an active and valued member until his death 66 years later. In 2003, the year of the Institute's 75th anniversary, we organized a meeting at which Mitchell joined in a panel discussion with six other former Canadian foreign ministers. On that occasion we presented Mitchell with the Institute's first Distinguished Member Award, recognizing his contributions to the CIIA, but more broadly his remarkable contributions to Canada.
We are honoured to bring together in this special issue of Behind the Headlines the reminiscences of Mitchell by six of the many people who knew, worked with, and admired a great Canadian.
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|Author:||Chretien, Jean; Clark, Joe Louis; Goldenberg, Edward; Herrndorf, Peter; Robertson, Gordon; Warren, J|
|Publication:||Behind the Headlines|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2004|
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