Harper government quietly removes Therese Casgrain's name from honour

Harper government removes feminist icon’s name from honour

Thérèse Casgrain Volunteer Award–now rolled into the Prime Minister’s new Volunteer Awards–was named after Quebec heroine

Michele Nadeau, president of the Therese Casgrain Foundation, holds a photo of her grandmother Therese Casgrain in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Michele Nadeau, president of the Therese Casgrain Foundation, holds a photo of her grandmother Therese Casgrain in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

OTTAWA – The Harper government has spent millions to commemorate the War of 1812 and other episodes from Canadian history, but has also erased at least one inspiring piece of the past.

Thérèse Casgrain, a feminist icon and Quebec heroine who died in 1981, has been quietly removed from a national honour, to be replaced by an volunteer award bearing the prime minister’s banner.

The Thérèse Casgrain Volunteer Award, was started in 1982 by the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau.

It honoured Canadian activists such as June Callwood until it was eliminated — unannounced — by the Harper government in 2010.

An image of Casgrain and her namesake volunteer-award medal also disappeared from Canada’s $50 bank note in 2012, replaced by the image of an icebreaker on a new currency series.

An image of the so-called Famous Five women was removed from the same bank note.

“It was a very difficult thing for the family to see the award disappear all of a sudden,” Michele Nadeau, Casgrain’s granddaughter, said in an interview. “It was a great disappointment.”

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, which had administered the Casgrain award, was instructed in 2010 to create a Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award in its place, to be handed out in a ceremony each year presided over by Stephen Harper.

Casgrain fought for the right of Quebec women to vote, which they finally won in 1940. She also became the first female leader of a political party in Canada, heading the CCF in Quebec, and was appointed to the Senate in 1970 by Trudeau.

A spokesman for Employment and Social Development Canada, the successor department to Human Resources, says the Casgrain award was reviewed in 2010 following the fall speech from the throne, which announced plans for a new volunteer award.

“Discussions took place with the Casgrain Foundation and it was decided that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada end the … program, rather than re-orient and re-launch it,” Pierre Nolet said in an email.

“There was no public announcement of its end. The spirit and objectives of the Therese Casgrain Volunteer Award were retained in two national categories of the PMVA (Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award).”

Nadeau, however, says her family and the Montreal-based Therese Casgrain Foundation, which she heads, were not consulted about whether the award should be eliminated.

“We were informed of a sort of internal review that was done by the Human Resources Department, and they decided to discontinue. But we were never consulted.”

“Basically, we were advised that at some point the award would be discontinued. … Members of the family, the grandchildren, etc., the great grandchildren, were rather upset.”

The Prime Minister’s Volunteer Awards, launched in 2011, honour 17 Canadians from across the country each year. The awards ceremony was held Feb. 27 this year in Toronto, with Harper personally presenting a medal and certificate to each winner, and having his picture taken with them.

The Casgrain Award was killed once before by the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney in 1990, but was revived in 2001 by the Chretien Liberals.

Two members of the Therese Casgrain Foundation sat on the selection committee for the two volunteer awards handed out each year, but Human Resources handled all the administration. Much the same group of public servants now administers the new prime minister’s award.

The department gave the Casgrain family two commemorative packages about the Casgrain award and its 31 recipients after the demise, including a book and a copy of the medal.

A $51,000 focus-group study commissioned by the federal government in late 2010 found strong resistance to naming a volunteer award after the prime minister.

“They (participants) were uncomfortable with the notion that through the reference to ‘Prime Minister’ there was the possibility that the awards might be perceived to be political in nature,” said the Harris-Decima report.

“Not-for-profit organizations shared particularly strong feelings about this issue.” Few participants felt ‘prime minister’ conveyed any sense of prestige.

Another volunteer award begun in 1995, the Caring Canadian Award, is handed out by the Governor General each year.

Other elements of Canada’s past have gone uncommemorated in recent years, notably the 25th and 30th anniversaries of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, signed into law in 1982 under Pierre Trudeau.

In 2012, Harper suggested “divisions” around the patriation of the Constitution kept the government from commemorating the 30th anniversary, a reference to the fact Quebec did not sign the deal.


Harper government removes feminist icon’s name from honour

  1. “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

    ― George Orwell, 1984

  2. It appears Harper and the majority of his cronies are against female equality as well as denying Climate Change exists or is a problem. The word fascists comes to mind.

  3. Jeez, imagine that, a conservative (well, sort of) government does not want to honour a raving commie CCF member.

    Good for them.

    • Are you aware that Canada has both a Communist and a Marxist party?

      So if that’s your political belief, you don’t need to join other parties.

      How she became a ‘raving commie’ in your mind is a mystery. Check it out.


      In any case the govt isn’t there to reward it’s ‘own’….but to honour all Canadians who help no matter what their party.

    • The Harperites don’t want to honour a woman who fought for women’s right to vote. Imagine that!

      Not sure which rankled them more – that a woman would dare challenge the government of the day, or that the award was created by Trudeau.

      And of course there’s the whole branding issue – Harper wants to make sure everything has his imprimatur.

      As to the perception that it would now be political in nature… of COURSE it is. Can there be any doubt? And definitely no prestige, unless you’re a CPC toady.

  4. So, I see Harper’s psychosis started a long time ago.

  5. In 1982, the Thérèse Casgrain Volunteer Award, was created in 1982 by the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau. It was discontinued in 1990 under the Progressive Conservative government of “lying” Brian Mulroney, but was begun anew in 2001 under the Liberal government of Jean Cretin.
    So her name is gone from an award for volunteerism, big deal.

    The award itself should be discontinued, people do not volunteer expecting an award, at least those who I run with.

    I’d like to see the whole Order of Canada BS ended as well, nothing but a waste of taxpayer dollars.

    • Well you’ve got ‘dog in the manger’ down pat.

  6. It’s almost cathartic, how the political rise and now FALL of Harper, mirror the rise and FALL of that other Muldummy.
    Whereas Trudeau’s great and legendary achhievements for Canadians overshadow all of them.
    Anyway, maybe they all suck these days. I think I’m gonna vote for Socialism next.

    • Pierre’s father owned a chain of gas stations in Quebec which he sold to Petro Fina prior to WWII. As payment, Pierre’s dad got a lot of shares in Petro Fina. This sale made Pierre Trudeau heir to a sizeable fortune. Pierre’s dad died leaving his fortune to his wife.

      In the 1970’s the Arabs jacked up the price of oil and the Canadian government under Pierre Trudeau decided it needed a national “toy” oil company, i.e. Petro Canada. The boys in Ottawa decided they needed a chain of gas stations in their “toy” oil company. Petro Fina owned a chain of gas stations in eastern Canada. The stock was trading at about 10 bucks. The government began negotiations with Petro Fina and its stock rose and rose and rose. Finally, the government closed the Petro Fina deal, got the chain of gas stations, paid Petro Fina big dollars and our government got more debt.

      Trudeau got rich on the shares held.

      The documents concerning the sale were sealed for fifty years as state secret.

      One Maurice Strong was running Petro Canada for Trudeau at that time and was paid a commission of $1 Million Dollars on that deal.

      Pierre Trudeau, our CBC created national hero, was a crook.

      It’s high time those documents were unsealed to see the light of day, how many deceased and still living Liberals made out like bandits from that deal besides the Trudeau’s?

      Who said this?

      “Justin Trudeau has the arrogance of his father and the brains of his mother”

      • Another fairy tale from the Classic Crackpot Con Collectors Edition.

        • In 1981 Petro-Canada, a Crown corporation and an agent of Her Majesty, acquired Petrofina for $ 1.7 billion. The ultimate funding for the takeover came from Parliament in the form of Vote 5c, Schedule to Appropriation Act No. 4, 1980-81. Vote 5c created a non-budgetary trust account from which payments were made to Petro-Canada for the purchase of Petrofina. The Auditor General audited the trust account and, pursuant to s. 7(2)(d) of the Auditor General Act (“the Act”), sought to ascertain whether due regard to economy had been demonstrated and value for money achieved in using $ 1.7 billion of public funds to acquire Petrofina. In its 1982 and 1983 Reports, the Auditor General indicated that his request for certain documentation relevant to an evaluation of the transaction had been denied by the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and by senior officials of Petro-Canada. The Auditor General was of the view that he was entitled to that information by virtue of s. 13(1) of the Act which provides that “the Auditor General is entitled to free access at all convenient times to information that relates to the fulfilment of his responsibilities”. The Auditor General’s attempts, under s. 14(1) and (2) of the Act, to obtain the missing information from Petro-Canada’s auditors and from Petro-Canada were unsuccessful and the Governor in Council declined to exercise its s. 14(3) power to assist the Auditor General by ordering Petro-Canada to provide the information. The Auditor General then sought to obtain the information through the judicial process. He was successful in the Federal Court, Trial Division but that judgment was reversed by the Federal Court of Appeal. This appeal is to determine whether, under s. 13(1) of the Act, the Auditor General has a judicially-enforceable right of access to information including the records of Petro-Canada and Cabinet documents which relate to the acquisition of Petrofina by Petro-Canada. No issue affecting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms arose in this case.


        • In the result, I would dismiss the appeal and affirm the judgment of the majority in the Federal Court of Appeal setting aside the judgment of the Trial Division and dismissing the action with costs. Costs before this Court are also awarded against the appellant.

          ………..Emily lives in a land of lollipops, fairy tales and unicorns.

          • Pierre’s father owned a string of gas stations….he sold them to Imperial oil and retired. Died in 1935 when Pierre was a teenager, leaving him a trust fund.

            Same one Justin still has.

            You know you could just look this stuff up instead of fantasizing.

  7. And to think Harper wants more vote in Quebec!
    Trying to erase the memory of an important Quebec historical figure won’t help for sure.