The late 1960s were turbulent times, when life in many parts of the world was shaped by a contagious spirit of rebellion, led by the young, against the way things were. Those years were punctuated by riotous challenges to authority, the rise of feminism, riots in the black ghettos of U.S. cities and demands by student activists for power-sharing on university campuses. In the United States, the Vietnam War divided the country and
sparked protests and demonstrations around the world. And in Canada, campaigns by Quebec separatists for national independence transfixed the country. The seven Canadians profiled below have mixed emotions about that noisy and often anarchic period. Two of them, Murray Farr and Anne Cools, were bom shortly before the baby boom began in 19J+6 but they shared many of the experiences of their younger contemporaries.
MURRAY FARR: The 45-year-old Farr says that he remembers the summer of 1968—in large part because he almost faced charges of conspiring to start a riot. Delegates from the Democratic party met in Chicago that year to choose a candidate for the U.S. presidency— and that national convention was a focal point for antiwar activists. Farr, a Vancouver native then working in the United States, was to be the producer of the Festival of Life, a countercultural event outside the convention. Before that Farr attended a meeting in New York City where such activists as Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman were talking about the planned protests. Recalled Farr, now director of the Dalhousie Arts Centre in Halifax: “Hoffman and Rubin
were discussing creating some martyrs, hoping for some deaths—and for me, that was no Festival of Life.” Farr left the meeting. In the aftermath of clashes between protesters and police outside the convention hall, U.S. authorities charged Hoffman, Rubin and six others with conspiring to incite a riot. All of them, who became known as the Chicago Seven after one defendant chose to be tried separately, were acquitted of the conspiracy charges in 1970. Despite such events, Farr, who is divorced and has no children, remembers the era with fondness. Said Farr: “I loved the spirit and the energy of the late 1960s. Rock ’n’ roll revolutionized youth culture and it became the international language of politics, which was a new phenomenon.”
BOB RAE: Political discourse dominated conversation in Rae’s parents’ household during the 1960s, and he plunged easily into campus politics at the University of Toronto, where he received a BA degree in 1969. Now Rae, 39, who is the leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party in the provincial legislature, says that he was impressed by the intensity of campus politics in the 1960s. He wrote numerous articles in the student-run newspaper, The Varsity—including one in October, 1968, in which he rudely described newly elected Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau as “the patron saint of the Pepsi Generation.” Rae—
who also served in Ottawa as a federal NDP MP from 1978 to 1982—recalls taking part in demonstrations against the Vietnam War in Toronto, Washington and in Oxford, England. But he stresses now that the adversarial style of the period profoundly influenced his current, more moderate political philosophy. Declared Rae: “Those confrontations made me see the need for compromise.” At the same time, he added that he hopes to see demands for 1960s-style reform politics during the 1990s. Said Rae: “People are looking for the idealism, the sense of commitment and engagement that were part of that era.”
SUSAN MUSGRAVE: The Vancouver poet-author dropped out of school 21 years ago in Victoria at 16. “I was an ‘A’ student, top of my class, and I just got bored,” she recalls. “I started writing poetry as a form of rebellion.” She said that for half a year she was taking doses of psychedelic LSD about once a week. In March, 1967, she ran away from home to a love-in that was taking place in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. There, she said, she found instant friends who offered her a place to stay. Added Musgrave: “The 1960s were wonderful that way. All over North America, there was a generosity of spirit.” But her drug-taking ended that month when she suffered a breakdown. Musgrave, 37, who has written 14 books of poetry and prose, said that she
still flouts convention. Married three times, she met her second husband, Paul Nelson, in 1980 while she was married to a Victoria criminal lawyer. He was defending a man who, with Nelson, was facing drug smuggling charges. In 1986 she married Stephen Reid in a jailhouse ceremony while he was serving a 21year robbery sentence in Kent mediumsecurity prison, near Vancouver. But Musgrave, who shares a house with the paroled Reid, now a novelist, and her 5 V2 -year-old daughter, Charlotte Nelson Musgrave, says that she does not spend much time recalling the 1960s. Said Musgrave: “I don’t have any reason to be nostalgic because I was there. I couldn’t go back and I don’t want to.”
ANNE COOLS: Barbados-born Cools, who in 1984 became the first black member of the Canadian Senate, became a radical in the 1960s. At age 19 in 1963 she toured Europe alone and visited the graves of Canadian soldiers killed in both world wars. That experience shaped her opposition to the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. By 1969, as a student activist in Montreal, she took part in a student sit-in to protest the way in which racism charges were investigated at Sir George Williams (now Concordia) University. But in that protest, a few demonstrators smashed the university’s computer equipment. Cools was convicted of mischief for taking part in the sit-in and served a four-month jail sentence in 1970. Ten years later the federal cabinet granted her a pardon for that conviction—
and she has repeatedly stressed court findings that she was not involved in the destruction of the computer equipment. Recalled Cools, 44: “People were young, naïve, well-intentioned and caring. We rebelled against being on the road to the establishment.” The onetime student activist later became involved in more moderate party politics and, in both the 1979 and 1980 federal election campaigns, she ran unsuccessfully as the Liberal candidate in the Toronto riding of Rosedale, the home of many of the city’s richest citizens. In 1984 Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau appointed her to the Senate. According to Cools, her 1960s activism changed the course of her life. Declared Cools: “I lived out my commitment not by becoming a member of an abstract organization, but by doing frontline activity.”
GRAYDON CARTER: With the recent success of his New York City-based satire magazine, Spy, Graydon Carter is, for the moment at least, the darling of the city’s high-society rich and influential people whom he lambastes each month in his publication. Still, there was little evidence 20 years ago that he would become the gadfly of Manhattan. At that time Carter was an 18-year-old high-school student in Ottawa—and, by his own admission, “a muffin-faced, useless kid, totally unpolitical and without
ambition.” And he said that several personal failures—including the folding of The Canadian Review, a magazine devoted to politics and literature, in 1977—had a more profound influence on his life than the events of the 1960s. Indeed, the 38-year-old Carter says that he was more interested in reading, sports and cars in 1968 than in the counterculture or social comment that galvanized many of his contemporaries. Said Carter: “I don’t think I even had a beer much before my 18th birthday.”
DOUGLAS MacKAY: The 38-year-old editor-in-chief of the upstart Daily News in Halifax—challenging the established papers—speculates that many people in their late 30s and early 40s now look back on the 1960s with fondness because “it was a great time to be alive, especially in Canada.” Added MacKay: “We had much of the pleasure without any of the pain. Vietnam is something we never had to deal with in the same way the Americans did.” Twenty years ago, MacKay had just finished high school in his native
Winnipeg. He played guitar and sang in a rock band but he says that he had no sense of what he was going to do with his life. Journalism was something he decided in 1970 to pursue as a career. But he added that he believes the baby-boom culture is as strong now as it was then. Declared MacKay: “In the late 1960s the baby-boomers were reaching an apex of teenage power. Now they are reaching an apex of prime-life power. The effect of that population bulge on society is something to behold.”
MARK STAROWICZ: In the fall of 1968 Starowicz began a one-year term as editor of the student McGill Daily in Montreal. He drew upon experience gained during four years as a part-time reporter at the Montreal Gazette—until he was fired for writing a satire of the 1967 Santa Claus parade. In 1969 he cofounded The Last Post, a left-wing monthly magazine, which took up the cause of French-speaking Quebecers. Declared Starowicz: “We did not need the fuzzy abstractions coming from the States. We had a concrete fact: six million people in Quebec on the bottom rung of the ladder.” Later that year Starowicz began 18 months at The Toronto Star, then joined the CBC as a radio producer. There, he has been an innovator in radio as executive producer of the telephone interview program As It
Happens, and as creator and producer of the newsmagazine show Sunday Morning. He is now executive producer of CBC TV’S national nightly current affairs show, The Journal. Starowicz, 41, says that he is proud of his activities in Quebec but dislikes the current nostalgia craze. Said Starowicz: “I am sad to see the 1968 generation canonizing themselves. We used to resent the powers-that-be for not listening to us and now, socially and generationally, we seem to be committing the same offence. We risk becoming the most hated generation in history.”
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