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The Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons

 

Hon. George Black
P.C., K.C. (1930–1935)

Prime Minister R.B. Bennett was impressed by George Black’s performance as Commissioner of Yukon (1912–1915) and by his service in the First World War. Black recruited a Yukon infantry company for the 2nd Motor Machine Gun Brigade overseas, and was wounded during the Battle of Amiens in August–September 1918; however, after recovering in a London hospital, he returned to his unit. When Bennett nominated him as Speaker in 1930, Black had won his Yukon riding as a Conservative in four consecutive general elections. The Leader of the Opposition, former Prime Minister Mackenzie King, seconded the nomination, praising his judgement, discretion, quick decision-making and sense of humour, even if he had been a strong partisan as an MP. Robert Gardiner of the United Farmers of Alberta party concurred in the nomination.

Of United Empire Loyalist ancestry, Black was an original 1898 Yukon “sourdough” (named after the sourdough bread starter that prospectors brought with them during the Klondike River gold rush, near Dawson City, Yukon). He was a hardy and tenacious man, campaigning in his vast riding by canoe, snowshoe and dog team; he was severely injured after the 1921 election when a car rolled on top of him, and dogs pulled him on his sleigh to the mail road and then the railroad, to safety. He was a keen hunter, going for grizzly and black bears, mountain sheep, mountain goats, moose and caribou. While he was Speaker, he was reported to have kept a .22 calibre pistol in his Speaker’s quarters, and to have used it to shoot at rabbits from his window when they were chewing up shrubs on Parliament Hill.

In 1935 Black suffered a serious nervous breakdown, perhaps an after-effect of his Amiens wounds. He resigned the Speakership and travelled to England for psychiatric treatment. Meanwhile his wife, Martha Black, successfully ran in his place in the general election that year, and was the second woman to be elected to the House after Agnes Macphail in 1921. Black’s recovery went well, and he returned to Canada to win his Yukon seat again in 1940 and 1945. Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent recommended him for the Privy Council in 1951. After his wife died in 1955, Black remarried at the age of 84.

Black left his law practice to pan for gold in the Yukon, only to lose his fortune in a flood.

Next Speaker: Hon. James Langstaff Bowman

Previous Speaker: Hon. Rodolphe Lemieux


Artist: Kenneth Keith Forbes
Date: 1934

Born: Woodstock, New Brunswick, 1873

Died: Vancouver, British Columbia, 1965

Professional Background:
Law, Military

Political Affiliation: Conservative

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: