Avie Bennett Historica Lecture reflects on ‘nation maker’ Sir John A. Macdonald

Award-winning author and journalist Richard J. Gwyn

Award-winning author and journalist Richard J. Gwyn

Award-winning author and journalist Richard J. Gwyn will examine the legacy of Canada’s first prime minister on Oct. 1 at the annual Avie Bennett Historica Canada Public Lecture in Canadian History.

Gwyn was invited to give his talk “John A. Macdonald: The Good, the Bad, the Great” at the 2015 York University event to mark the 200th anniversary of Macdonald’s birth in 1815, says Professor Marcel Martel, who serves as chair of the Department of History and holds the Avie Bennett Historica Canada Chair in Canadian History.

“Richard Gwyn is a well-known journalist who decided to write a biography of the first prime minister of Canada,” he says. “It is appropriate to invite and give him an opportunity to explain why we should pay attention to Macdonald now, and what we can still learn from this well-known politician.”

Gwyn, whose journalism career includes three decades with the Toronto Star, is the author of John A.: The Man Who Made Us and Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times.

“This will be an opportunity to discover or rediscover Macdonald, but also how Canadian society changed during the second half of the nineteenth century,” says Martel. “Macdonald had to deal with serious issues, such as Louis Riel and Métis rights, Aboriginals, relations between French Canadians and English Canadians, and implementing an economic policy that would benefit the country.”

Professor Marcel Martel

Professor Marcel Martel

The lecture will give fans of the Macdonald biographies a chance to meet Gwyn – who was awarded the Order of Canada in 2002 – and ask him questions and share their views. He is the recipient of five honorary degrees and multiple writing awards, including the Shaughnessy-Cohen Prize for Political Writing.

Gwyn is also known for his columns on national and international affairs, his TV and radio appearances as a commentator, and five other highly acclaimed books, including a biography of Canada’s 22nd prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

The Avie Bennett Historica Chair in Canadian History was founded by the Historica Foundation of Canada with York Chancellor Emeritus Avie Bennett. Since 2004, it has served to promote the study of Canada’s heritage as a vital and lively academic discipline. The lecture will be held at 7pm in the Schulich Executive Learning Centre at York University.

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