150+ Canadians Day 23: Tommy Douglas

Tommy Douglas contributed to peace by establishing universal health care in the Province of Saskatchewan. #Canada150

Thomas Clement (“Tommy”) Douglas, premier of Saskatchewan, first leader of the New Democratic Party, Baptist minister, politician (born 20 October 1904 in Falkirk, Scotland; died 24 February 1986 in Ottawa, ON). Douglas led the first socialist government elected in Canada and is recognized as the father of socialized medicine. He also helped establish democratic socialism in the mainstream of Canadian politics.

His family immigrated to Canada and settled in 1919 in Winnipeg. Douglas witnessed the Winnipeg General Strike of that year. Leaving school at the age of 14, Douglas began a printer’s apprenticeship. He became involved in church work and in 1924 decided to enter the ministry. He was at Brandon College for six years, and it was here that he was exposed to and embraced the Social Gospel a belief that Christianity was above all a social religion, concerned as much with improving this world as with the life hereafter.

His government established the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights, not only protecting persons’ fundamental freedoms and equality rights from government actors but from private institutions and persons.

Though Douglas did not realize his dream of a socialist Canada, he and his colleagues had considerable influence on government. Programs such as Medicare, a Canada-wide pension plan, and bargaining rights for civil servants were first advocated by Douglas and his party, and are now widely accepted in Canada.


“We are all in this world together, and the only test of our character

that matters is how we look after the least fortunate among us.”