John Diefenbaker

John George Diefenbaker PC CH QC FRSC FRSA (/ˈdfənˌbkər/; September 18, 1895 – August 16, 1979) was the 13th prime minister of Canada, serving from 1957 to 1963. Between 1930 and 1979, he was the only federal Progressive Conservative (PC or Tory) leader to lead the party to an election victory, doing so three times, although only once with a majority of seats in the House of Commons of Canada.


John Diefenbaker

Diefenbaker in 1957
13th Prime Minister of Canada
In office
June 21, 1957  April 22, 1963
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor GeneralVincent Massey
Georges Vanier
Preceded byLouis St. Laurent
Succeeded byLester B. Pearson
Leader of the Opposition
In office
April 22, 1963  September 8, 1967
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterLester B. Pearson
Preceded byLester B. Pearson
Succeeded byMichael Starr
In office
December 14, 1956  June 20, 1957
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterLouis St. Laurent
Preceded byWilliam Earl Rowe
Succeeded byLouis St. Laurent
Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada
In office
December 14, 1956  September 9, 1967
Preceded byWilliam Earl Rowe (Interim)
Succeeded byRobert Stanfield
Secretary of State for External Affairs
In office
June 21, 1957  September 12, 1957
Prime MinisterHimself
Preceded byLester B. Pearson
Succeeded bySidney Earle Smith
Member of Parliament
for Prince Albert
In office
August 10, 1953  August 16, 1979
Preceded byFrancis Helme
Succeeded byStan Hovdebo
Member of Parliament
for Lake Centre
In office
March 26, 1940  August 9, 1953
Preceded byJohn Frederick Johnston
Succeeded byDistrict Abolished
Personal details
Born
John George Diefenbaker

(1895-09-18)September 18, 1895
Neustadt, Ontario, Canada
DiedAugust 16, 1979(1979-08-16) (aged 83)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Resting placeOutside the Diefenbaker Canada Centre, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Political partyProgressive Conservative
Spouse(s)
    (m. 1929; died 1951)
      (m. 1953; died 1976)
      Alma materUniversity of Saskatchewan (BA, MA, LLB)
      Profession
      • Politician
      • lawyer
      Signature
      Military service
      Allegiance Canada
      Branch/serviceCanadian Expeditionary Force
      Years of service1916–17
      RankLieutenant
      Unit196th Battalion
      Battles/warsWorld War I

      Diefenbaker was born in southwestern Ontario in the small town of Neustadt in 1895. In 1903, his family migrated west to the portion of the North-West Territories which would soon become the province of Saskatchewan. He grew up in the province and was interested in politics from a young age. After brief service in World War I, Diefenbaker became a noted criminal defence lawyer. He contested elections through the 1920s and 1930s with little success until he was finally elected to the House of Commons in 1940.

      Diefenbaker was repeatedly a candidate for the PC leadership. He gained that party position in 1956, on his third attempt. In 1957, he led the Tories to their first electoral victory in 27 years; a year later he called a snap election and spearheaded them to one of their greatest triumphs. Diefenbaker appointed the first female minister in Canadian history to his Cabinet, as well as the first aboriginal member of the Senate. During his six years as Prime Minister, his government obtained passage of the Canadian Bill of Rights and granted the vote to the First Nations and Inuit peoples. In foreign policy, his stance against apartheid helped secure the departure of South Africa from the Commonwealth of Nations, but his indecision on whether to accept Bomarc nuclear missiles from the United States led to his government's downfall. Diefenbaker is also remembered for his role in the 1959 cancellation of the Avro Arrow project.

      Factionalism returned in full force as the Progressive Conservatives fell from power in 1963, and while Diefenbaker's performance as Opposition Leader was heralded, his second loss at the polls prompted opponents within the party to force him to a leadership convention in 1967. Diefenbaker stood for re-election as party leader at the last moment, but only attracted minimal support and withdrew. He remained an MP until his death in 1979, two months after Joe Clark became the first Tory Prime Minister since Diefenbaker.