Last Saturday, I spent a great deal of time in my car driving kids to violin lessons, water polo practices, and picking my partner up from the airport. En route to one of these activities, I came across a report on the CBC hourly news from Newbrunswick of a statue being constructed or sculpted at the request of the speaker of the Senate.
The speaker, among other Newbrunswickers, is trying to have a likeness of R.B. Bennett, Canada’s Prime Minister during the Great Depression, placed on Parliament Hill adjacent to the other honourees who loom in bronze. Here is the CBC piece via the website. (I apologize for not getting the audio, but nobody from CBC Newbrunswick will get back to me.): Newbrunswickers Pushing for R.B. Bennett Statue
The CBC asked an historian to weigh in. Dr. David Frank from UNB is quoted in the article. This prompted me to email him and ask his opinion on Bennett, significance, ethical judgement, and historical perspective. Here is our correspondence: https://www.evernote.com/l/AI9IUY6VjJtJ3LOXmg5ps4n-Kj7NrJoAiYM
He pointed me to a review he did of P.B. Waite’s biography of Bennett: https://www.evernote.com/l/AI9YsbYOwAdBCoItZXSjBlE2o-x-3_7CgO4
As you can see from the comments on the CBC article, this has caused a bit of a stir. Even the artists’ own mother was appalled by the idea. So who is this guy who conjures such debate in Canada?
Here are a few resources which I found handy:
Biographer John Boyko who shares a different perspective than Waite:
Boyko in the Winnipeg Free Press: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/analysis/stephen-harper-is-our-rb-bennett-95245904.html
Donald Benham’s review of Boyko’s book: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/entertainment/books/theres-much-to-admire-in-nasty-tempered-rb-bennett-94646494.html
Excerpt from the Prime Ministers, edited by Chevrier: https://www.evernote.com/l/AI8WEwtPcZhMrZMuQi23QYWe3vQ1gEZtXRQ
Listen to Bennett himself as he addresses Canada: http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/politics/prime-ministers/prime-ministers-general/rb-bennett-triumph-in-canadas-great-dark-days.html
Here is the Library and Archives Canada flickr site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lac-bac/sets/72157630058610173/
What do you think? Does Bennett warrant a statue? Can you use your historical thinking concepts to develop an argument? What evidence can you cite? Tweet using #SJRCanHis #Bennett or comment below. I am interested in your thought and reflection. Be clear, be courteous, and be smart.