Their mandate is to canvass the country for ideas on the future of Canada. By next July, the dozen members of the Citizens’ Forum on Canada’s Future must answer—on behalf of all Canadians—the troubling question that Prime Minister Brian Mulroney posed in the House of Commons last week: “Do we all still want to live together?" Their one common attribute, according to their chairman, Keith Spicer, is a conviction that “Canada deserves a second chance. ” From interviews and reports from Maclean’s bureaus across the country, Associate Editor Paul Kaihla assembled the sketches of the seven men and five women—there are three francophones—who agreed to> lead the national soul-searching.
Keith Spicer, 56, CRTC chairman To the employees who worked under Spicer at The Ottawa Citizen for four years, the editor with the beige safari suits and dizzying social schedule was known as “Quiche Spritzer.” It was only one of many sobriquets in an eclectic assortment of careers that has led Spicer to his latest job as chairman of the citizens’ forum. Bom in Toronto, Spicer graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris in 1955 with a degree in French civilization, and in 1962—after founding the Canadian Overseas Volunteers—completed a doctorate in political science at the University of Toronto. Later, he cultivated a reputation as a witty loner throughout stints as a journalist, university professor, businessman and Canada's first official languages commissioner between 1970 and 1977. As chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission since last year, he has provoked criticism from the broadcast companies that it regulates. When the Prime Minister asked him to head the citizens’ forum three weeks ago, he refused. But Spicer, a divorced father of three, said that his children persuaded him to change his mind. “I am a father,” he explained, “and we need to worry about the Canada our children will have.”
Richard Cashin, 53, union leader, lawyer His background straddles the social spectrum of his native Newfoundland. Bom into a wealthy St. John’s merchant family, he is president of the 50,000-member Fishermen, Food & Allied Workers Union. In 1958, he graduated from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., where he was on a debating team with classmate Brian Mulroney. From 1963 to 1968, Cashin served in Parliament as the Liberal MP for St. John’s West. After losing in the 1968 election, he practised law in St. John’s
and, in 1970, he helped found the fishermen’s union. Observed Victor Young, chairman of St. John’s-based Fishery Products International Ltd. and a frequent Cashin adversary in labor negotiations: “Richard will bring a few fireworks to the sessions.”
Carol Corcoran, 35, native leader Mulroney last week erroneously described Corcoran as a barrister and solicitor, and a
former chief. In fact, the married mother of three said that she is none of those. The lone native representative on the constitutional task force, Corcoran graduated from the University of British Columbia law school in June, and she has now delayed plans to begin articling with the Prince George, B.C., law firm of Heather Sadler Jenkins. Bom in the northern B.C. community of Fort Nelson, Corcoran is the acting Indian band manager of the Fort Nelson band and a representative to the First Nations
Congress. Corcoran, who lives in Queen Charlotte City on the Queen Charlotte Islands, told Maclean’s that she is excited about the prospect of serving on the panel with “such a diverse group of people.” She added, “It seems awfully, awfully ambitious.”
Felix Fraser, 58, human rights commissioner Montreal-born Felix (Fil) Fraser, now an Edmonton resident and the only black member of the citizens' panel, pursued a broadcasting career that took him from Toronto radiostation studio operator in the early 1950s to Edmonton television-show host in the 1970s. He has been a publicist, writer and film producer, and has supervised an Alberta government program for alcoholics. Last year, he was appointed head of the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Said Fraser of his assignment to the panel: “There is now the possibility of not having a country. We better be serious.”
Thomas Kierans, 49, policy analyst The head of the Toronto-based G. D. Howe Institute, an economic think-tank, Kierans’s experience as a senior executive for several Toronto investment firms between 1963 and 1989 will bring a Bay Street sensibility to the constitutional task force. The son of former Liberal cabinet minister Eric Kierans, he was also a onetime adviser to former Ontario premier William Davis and headed a federal study on energy options for the Mulroney government. Last week, Kierans said that the citizens’ panel “may not work,” but added: “I can’t fault Mulroney for trying. As Teddy Roosevelt said, ‘In trying, you may get your nose bloodied, but you have to try.’ ”
Robert Normand, 54, newspaper publisher Normand is the only appointee to the constitutional panel with credentials in Quebec nationalist circles. In a Sept. 18 speech to the Americas Society in New York City, Normand
declared that one way Quebec could attain its ambitions was for Canada to become a decentralized confederation similar to Switzerland. But he added that the rest of the country would agree to such a plan only “if Quebec has the courage to affirm, calmly and seriously, that it is ready to declare independence unilaterally.” A lawyer by profession, Normand climbed the ranks of the Quebec civil service from legal adviser and law clerk in the 1960s to deputy minister for both Liberal and Parti Québécois governments in the 1970s and 1980s. During Quebec’s opposition to Pierre Trudeau’s constitutional reforms, he g served in the sensitive post of £ deputy minister of intergov^ emmental affairs. In 1987, he g became the publisher of Quebee City’s daily, Le Soleil.
Thérèse Paquet-Sévigny, 56, UN official In the giant Quebec advertising firm Publicité BCP ltée from 1969 to 1983, Paquet-Sévigny rose to the post of president. During that time, she helped design the Quebec advertising for Pierre Trudeau’s federal election campaigns. Paquet-Sévigny later served in the CBC as vicepresident in charge of promotions and internal communications. Three years ago, the United Nations appointed her undersecretary general overseeing the body’s public information office.
Roger Tassé, 59, constitutional lawyer One of four panelists trained in the law, Tassé is also a veteran of Canada’s constitutional wars, including Meech Lake. Despite that, panel chairman Spicer, in a reference to the role of constitutional experts in the failed Meech Lake process, made a point of saying
that he intended to keep his panel free of legalistic intervention. At a news conference last week, Spicer quoted Shakespeare’s solution: “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Tassé nevertheless brings to the panel his experience as deputy federal attorney general from 1977 to 1985, which included a prominent role in constitutional reform as an architect of the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A Montreal native who lives near Ottawa in Quebec’s Gatineau Hills, Tassé left a private law practice two years ago to take up his present position as a vice-president of Bell Canada Enterprises. During the dying days of the Meech Lake accord, which he supported, Tassé was enlisted by Mulroney in a vain attempt to reconcile Newfoundland Premier Clyde Wells to the accord's clause recognizing Quebec as a “distinct society.”
Susan Van de Velde, 43, farm activist Scottish-born Van de Velde’s base as a cam-
paigner on behalf of farmers is a 3,000-acre grain and beef farm near Mariapolis, Man., about 150 km southwest of Winnipeg, where she lives with her husband, Emmanuel, and her six children. Van de Velde, who moved to Canada when she was 10, serves on Manitoba’s Farm Debt Review Board and Crop Insurance Board. She describes herself as “an ordinary Canadian,” and adds that, in the face of her new assignment, “I feel a little overwhelmed about what we have to embark on.”
Elsie Wayne, 58, mayor of Saint John, N.B. Both Spicer and Mulroney declared last week that the unity panel should be free from the intervention of politicians. Clearly, they did not take into account Elsie Wayne. Since 1983, the scrappy populist has won three terms as mayor of New Brunswick’s largest city (population 125,000). A small-c conservative, Wayne
openly supports the GST and sparked controversy earlier this year when she declared that homosexuals contributed to the destruction of the family. But last week, Wayne told Maclean ’s that she has “a lot of respect” for one of the keenest opponents of Mulroney’s last constitutional initiative—Newfoundland Premier Wells. Said Wayne: “I’ve been in the corner fighting all alone, too.”
Jack Webster, 72, former broadcaster For more than 26 years, until his retirement in 1988, Webster shocked and titillated listeners to his British Columbia radio and television talk shows with his gruff, piercing interview style. Bom in Glasgow, Webster arrived in Canada in 1947 after a seven-year career in the British army. He worked for The Vancouver Sun for six years and launched his talk-show career in 1963. An outspoken critic of Quebec demands for special constitutional status, the combative Scot made it clear last week that he would remain a fiercely independent panelist. Declared Webster: “I’m not there as a flack for the Tory government. I’m not there as a friend of Mulroney’s.”
Helena Zukowski, 51, freelance writer Born in Edmonton, Zukowski graduated with a BA in English and Russian from the University of British Columbia in 1960 and then completed studies in film and television at what is now Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto. In 1961, she became one of the original 16 overseas volunteers in what later was to be called cuso, a project initiated by Spicer as a graduate student. Later, she worked as a radio scriptwriter in Toronto and Vancouver, and editor of Palm Springs Life magazine in California. Zukowski, who is divorced, has two sons and lives with her 84-year-old mother, Sophie, in Abbotsford, B.C. □
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.