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Memoirs and Diaries

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Canadian Memoirs and Diaries
The Washington Diaries

The Washington Diaries

1981-1989
edition:Paperback

Canada’s legendary ambassador to the United States reveals his personal diaries from his time in Washington, from 1981 to 1989.

Allan Gotlieb was ambassador to the United States during a high point in U.S.-Canada relations, the Reagan and Mulroney eras. One of our country’s most effective diplomats, he was renowned for forging inside connections to the capital’s key decision-makers, and as he has said, “In Washington, gossip is not gossip — gossip is intelligence.”

Gotlieb kept a diar …

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Excerpt

September 24, 1984 
The new prime minister arrives in Washington on his first visit in that capacity at 10:30 tonight. I came home in the early evening, exhausted from an empty day of running around from place to place during the World Bank/imf meetings, attending a long luncheon given by Bill Mulholland in Georgetown and more than a few diplomatic receptions. I collapsed in front of the television, and both Sondra and I became very engrossed in an old movie, The Thomas Crown Affair. We got so caught up in it that we shaved our departure from the Residence a little too thinly. Jacques Helie had to drive like a bat out of hell to get us to Andrews on time. Due to unexpected traffic, he even had to put on his siren a few times, which he enjoyed quite a bit. We drove up onto the tarmac at Andrews just after the pm’s plane had touched down. I think they waited a minute before the door of the craft was opened. We arrived just at that very moment.

As we rushed up, Lucky Roosevelt, the chief of protocol, was waving frantically at us and shouting, “Hurry, hurry, we ­didn’t know what happened to you. You almost missed the arrival.” Indeed we did — we had only seconds to spare. What a grand start that would have made in my relations with the new government.

I drove into town with Mulroney and went up to his suite in the Madison. The prime minister was in buoyant spirits, to say the least. Before we got into any substance, he talked about Joe Clark, who had been against his coming to Washington so soon after the election. He argued against Mulroney’s accepting the president’s invitation on grounds of unseemliness. Mulroney talked scornfully of this advice. ­Didn’t he just win an election with a platform of “refurbishing” relations with the United States?

I have had several reports of the department advising against this visit. Sometimes I fear that the only bedrock policy of the officials of External Affairs is to differentiate ourselves from the Americans. Differentiation is all right if it results from legitimate policies but is not acceptable if it is the justification for developing our own. If we build our foreign policy on the basis of differentiation, we’re going to have a foreign policy that is sometimes perverse and sometimes immoral. Worse than that, we will have a foreign policy that runs counter to Canadian national interests. To borrow a phrase from the Russians when they attack the West in the un, these people in External behave like they are “divorced from reality.”

Bravo to Mulroney for following his own instincts. A leader in command.

September 25, 1984 
I briefed the pm in his suite at the Madison this morning, and at 11 a.m. we left for the White House in a motorcade, with two big Canadian flags flying on either side of the hood. At noon we proceeded to the president’s private dining room, where an intimate lunch with four on each side took place (Mulroney, Doucet, Burney, and myself being the Canadian team). We sat below the beautiful John Singer Sargent that dominates the room. As for the conversation, well, it was jokes, jokes, and more jokes. Reagan was amiability itself. The purpose of the function was for them to get acquainted. They certainly got to know each other’s current repertoire of jokes. By 1:10 p.m. we were out of the White House and onto the helipad. Handshakes from the farewell committee, headed by acting Secretary of State Ken Dam (this time he ­didn’t forget) and on to Andrews for a 3 p.m. departure.

These two Irishmen are going to get along like blazes. There is a special rapport between them, the rapport of two men who are not intellectuals but who are optimistic and confident, good communicators and fine story­tellers, and very pro-­business. The contrast with the Trudeau visit is stunning. There was no tension whatsoever. As events go, this was a non-­event. Yet it was profoundly significant. They established a very special relationship.

The prime minister was scrummed at the airport by the Canadian press. He was asked about my future. He announced that he informed the president that he has asked me to stay on in my post. He did.

September 26, 1984 
I wake up at dawn, anxious to start the day. I feel like calling a press conference, inviting all my critics and detractors and those who have scored me high on the Tory hit list. I will announce, “Ladies and gentlemen, my second term begins today.”

September 27, 1984 
Lunch with Jeffrey Simpson at the Metro­politan Club. We discussed the new government off the record. Simpson went on at length about how he expects Joe Clark to be a great pillar of strength and stability in cabinet, the rock on whom Mulroney will rely. It was as if the Joe Clark he was talking about was not the same Joe Clark who was prime minister from 1979 to 1980.

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Mrs. Simcoe's Diary

Mrs. Simcoe's Diary

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Elizabeth Simcoe’s diary, describing Canada from 1791 to 1796, is history written as it was being made. Created largely while she was seated in canoes and bateaux, the diary documents great events in a familiar way and opens our eyes to a side of Canadian history that is too little shown.

During her time in Upper Canada (now Ontario), Mrs. Simcoe encountered fascinating figures, such a explorer, Alexander Mackenzie, and Mohawk Chief, Joseph Brant. She took particular interest in the First Natio …

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Of This Earth

Of This Earth

A Mennonite Boyhood in the Boreal Forest
edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback

Rudy Wiebe has written award-winning fiction for decades. He is recognized as one of Canada's finest literary treasures. Twice he has received Canada's most prestigious prize for fiction writing: The Governor-General's Award (equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize for fiction).

Now comes new recognition for Wiebe's nonfiction writing. His recently released childhood memoir, Of This Earth: A Mennonite Boyhood in the Boreal Forest, has won the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction (considered to b …

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Concubines Children

Concubines Children

Portrait of a Family Divided
edition:Paperback
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Finalist for the 1994 Governor General’s Award

The Concubine’s Children is the story of a family cleaved in two for the sake of a father’s dream. There’s Chan Sam, who left an "at home" wife in China to earn a living in "Gold Mountain"—North America. There’s May-ying, the wilful, seventeen-year-old concubine he bought, sight unseen, who labored in tea houses of west coast Chinatowns to support the family he would have in Canada, and the one he had in China. It was the concubine’s …

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Roughing It in the Bush

Roughing It in the Bush

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback

Roughing It in The Bush chronicles Susanna Moodie’s harsh and often humorous experiences homesteading in the woods of Upper Canada. A frank and fascinating account of how one woman coped, not only with a new world, but with a new self, this unabridged text continues to justify the international sensation it caused when it was first published in 1852.

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Excerpt

The early part of the winter of 1837, a year never to be forgotten in the annals of Canadian history, was very severe….

The morning of the seventh was so intensely cold that everything liquid froze in the house. The wood that had been drawn for the fire was green, and it ignited too slowly to satisfy the shivering impatience of women and children; I vented mine in audibly grumbling over the wretched fire, at which I in vain endeavoured to thaw frozen bread, and to dress crying children….

After dressing, I found the air so keen that I could not venture out without some risk to my nose, and my husband kindly volunteered to go in my stead.

I had hired a young Irish girl the day before. Her friends were only just located in our vicinity, and she had never seen a stove until she came to our house. After Moodie left, I suffered the fire to die away in the Franklin stove in the parlour, and went into the kitchen to prepare bread for the oven.

The girl, who was a good-natured creature, had heard me complain bitterly of the cold, and the impossibility of getting the green wood to burn, and she thought that she would see if she could not make a good fire for me and the children, against my work was done. Without saying one word about her intention, she slipped out through a door that opened from the parlour into the garden, ran round to the wood-yard, filled her lap with cedar chips, and, not knowing the nature of the stove, filled it entirely with the light wood.

Before I had the least idea of my danger I was aroused from the completion of my task by the crackling and roaring of a large fire, and a suffocating smell of burning soot. I looked up at the kitchen cooking-stove. All was right there. I knew I had left no fire in the parlour stove; but not being able to account for the smoke and smell of burning, I opened the door, and to my dismay found the stove red-hot, from the front plate to the topmost pipe that let out the smoke through the roof.

My first impulse was to plunge a blanket, snatched from the servant’s bed, which stood in the kitchen, into cold water. This I thrust into the stove, and upon it I threw water, until all was cool below. I then ran up to the loft, and by exhausting all the water in the house, even to that contained in the boilers upon the fire, contrived to cool down the pipes which passed through the loft. I then sent the girl out of doors to look at the roof, which, as a very deep fall of snow had taken place the day before, I hoped would be completely covered, and safe from all danger of fire.

She quickly returned, stamping and tearing her hair, and making a variety of uncouth outcries, from which I gathered that the roof was in flames.

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