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1967: The Last Good Year by Pierre Berton
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1967: The Last Good Year (1997)

by Pierre Berton

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If a person was to read every book about Canada by Pierre Berton, I imagine you would become pretty darn knowledgable about our counry in short order. This is the book of his that I am starting with to do that goal. One down, forty or so to go.
  libraryhermit | Oct 19, 2010 |
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"Not to hope for things to last forever, is what the year teaches." - Horace
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385256620, Hardcover)

Few Canadians over the age of forty can forget the feeling of joy and celebration that washed over the country during Canada's centennial year. We were, Pierre Berton reminds us, a nation in love with itself, basking in the warm glow of international applause brought on by the unexpected success of Expo 67 and pumped up by the year-long birthday party that had us all warbling Ca-na-da, as Bobby Gimby and his gaggle of small children pranced down the byways of the nation.

It was a turning-point year, a watershed year--a year of beginnings as well as endings. One royal commission finally came to a close with a warning about the need for a new approach to Quebec. Another was launched to investigate, for the first time, the status of Canadian women. New attitudes to divorce and homosexuality were enshrined in law. A charismatic figure, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, made clear that the state had no place in the bedrooms of the nation. The seeds of Women's Lib, Gay Pride, and even Red Power, were sown in the centennial year. (Of all the pavilions on the Expo site, Berton singles out the Indian pavilion as having the greatest impact.)

The country was in a ferment that year. Canadians worried about the Americanization of every institution from the political convention to Hockey Night in Canada. People talked about the Generation Gap as thousands of flower children held love-ins in city parks. The government tried to respond by launching the Company of Young Canadians, a project that was less than successful.

The most significant event of 1967 was Charles de Gaulle's notorious "Vive le Quebec libre!" speech in Montreal. It gave the burgeoning separatist movement a new legitimacy, enhanced by Rene Levesque's departure from the Liberal party later that year.

Throughout the book, the author gives us insightful profiles of some of the significant figures of 1967: the centennial activists Judy LaMarsh and John Fisher; the Expo entrepreneurs, Philippe de Gaspe Beaubien and Edward Churchill; Walter Gordon, the fervent nationalist, and his rival, Mitchell Sharp; Lester Pearson and his bete noire, John Diefenbaker; the three "men of the world" who helped make Canada internationally famous: Marshall McLuhan, Glenn Gould, and Roy Thomson; hippie leaders like David dePoe, American draft dodgers like Mark Satin, women's activists like Doris Anderson and Laura Sabia, youth workers like Barbara Hall, radicals like Pierre Vallieres (author of White Niggers of America) and such dedicated nationalists as Madame Chaput Rolland and Andre Laurendeau.

In spite of the feeling of exultation that marked the centennial year, an opposite sentiment runs through the book like dark thread: the growing fear that the country was facing its gravest crisis. Berton points out that we are far better off today than we were in 1967. "Then why all the hand wringing?" he asks. Because of "the very real fear that the country we celebrated so joyously thirty years ago is in the process of falling apart.

"In that sense, 1967 was the last good year before all Canadians began to be concerned about the future of our country."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:50 -0400)

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