“Canada has lost a great mind in Stephen Clarkson,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted, after learning of the University of Toronto professor’s death on Feb. 28.
That we have. And TVO had the pleasure of having had Clarkson as a guest on the air on numerous times over the past couple of decades.
One of the most memorable appearances came in 2011, when Clarkson took on the American ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson, and former deputy prime minister of Canada John Manley in a debate over the Canada-U.S. border security pact. Despite being outnumbered, he pulled no punches in going after his opponents and easily gave as good as he got.
Clarkson died at age 78, having spent several years undergoing chemotherapy for multiple myeloma. He ultimately succumbed to pneumonia.
Clarkson was a much lauded political scientist at U of T, and many of his former colleagues came out to pay their respects at his funeral service Friday morning at Saint Thomas’s Anglican Church, a stone’s throw from the downtown Toronto campus.
The current and former presidents of the university were there: Meric Gertler and David Naylor. So were current and former faculty members such as constitutional scholar Peter Russell; the Munk School’s John Kirton; former Olympian Bruce Kidd, now the principal at U of T’s Scarborough campus; and political scientists Graham White and Mel Watkins. Others in attendance included former Liberal cabinet minister David Collenette, former NDP cabinet minister Ruth Grier and her husband, the former MP Terry Grier, and former Liberal MPP Tim Reid, as well as the journalist and one-time political candidate Michael Valpy.
“His passion for Canada drove him to be a prophet for this country and continent,” Rev. Robert Mitchell said in his sermon. “His students were his disciples.”
During his younger days, Clarkson was married to two of Canada’s most interesting and prominent women. It was at Trinity College at U of T that he met fellow student Adrienne Poy, who after their marriage would become Adrienne Clarkson and eventually Canada’s 26th governor general.
After their divorce, he married Christina McCall, an author and journalist. The Globe and Mail’s Gloria Galloway described their relationship as “not just a love match but a meeting of the minds.” In the early 1990s, the political pair authored one of the definitive works on the current prime minister’s father – a two-volume biography called Trudeau and Our Times. The first volume opened with a line often quoted to this day: “He haunts us still.” McCall died in 2005.
“Stephen had an enormous intellect and a vast clarity of voice,” Mitchell told the memorial gathering. “God sends prophets for each generation and Toronto has lost a great one.”
In 1969, Clarkson, unhappy with how city hall was operating, ran for mayor of Toronto. He placed third behind the eventual winner, William Dennison, and the runner-up Margaret Campbell (who would go on to become a Liberal MPP in 1973).
“If love and intellectual friendship are the food of the soul, Stephen Clarkson was very well fed,” Mitchell concluded. “May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”
Image credit: University of Toronto
Get Current Affairs & Documentaries email updates in your inbox every morning.