November 9, 2023
13 minutes (audio)
Erin: Welcome to the ON Parliament Podcast, where we help spread the word on Parliament. November 11th is Remembrance Day in Canada, a time for Canadians to honour those who have served and continue to serve the country during times of war, conflict, and peace. In recognition of this very important day, we thought we would take the time to remember some of the elected officials who served not just in Ontario’s Parliament, but who also served during the First and Second World Wars.
David: The three men that we will be highlighting today not only defended the country, but they also fought for their constituents’ rights while in office and left a lasting mark within the halls of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
Erin: That isn’t to say that these are the only individuals who have served both in the armed forces and in the Legislature. There have been countless others who have left an indelible mark as well. For example, one of our more noticeable traditions at the Assembly are the composite photographs.
David: The composite photographs show individual pictures of the elected Members from each Parliament. The one from the 14th Parliament of Ontario – displayed on the second floor of the building – features 13 MPPs wearing military uniforms.
Erin: The 14th Session took place during the First World War and ran from 1914 to 1919.
David: Another of the Legislature’s traditions that is featured in the building is reserved for the Speaker of the House. At the end of each Speaker’s time of service in the role, they have their portrait painted. These portraits hang on the first floor of the building.
Erin: Every Speaker can personalize their portrait with items that are important to them, but each one is depicted wearing the traditional uniform of the Speaker: black robes with white tabs, similar to a barrister.
David: Since the Speaker is portrayed in their traditional uniform, it’s not obvious that from the 1930s to the 1980s, nine of the fourteen Speakers appointed to Ontario’s Legislature served during either the First or Second World Wars.
Erin: Thomas Ashmore Kidd and James Howard Clark are two of the Speakers who have this distinction. Both served in the First World War before returning to serve in Ontario’s Parliament.
David: Thomas Ashmore Kidd was born in Burritts Rapids, a small town south of the nation’s capital, on May 1st, 1889. He was the middle child in a family of eight children. He attended the local school before moving to Toronto to pursue his studies. Eventually, he moved to Kingston where he established himself as a wholesale merchant dealing in cocoa, canned goods, sugar, and matches.
Erin: In 1910, Thomas Kidd joined the 56th Grenville Lisgar Regiment. By the time that war broke out in 1914, he had been an officer for almost 5 years.
David: Kidd’s Battalion was one of the first Canadian detachments to be sent to Europe. They sailed out on October 3rd, 1914.
Erin: The Battalion landed in Shorncliffe, England, before being dispatched to the front in France in February of 1915.
David: By April, the Battalion had been moved to Ypres, where Lieutenant Thomas Kidd would take part in one of the first and deadliest battles that Canadian soldiers saw during the First World War.
Erin: During the battle, Lieutenant Kidd suffered a gun shot wound to his left arm and shoulder as well as another injury to his head.
David: He was taken to a hospital in London where he recovered from the injuries to his arm and shoulder, but unfortunately, the wound to his head led to him being unable to return to the front.
Erin: He was awarded a medal of bravery for his actions during the battle of Ypres and was eventually transferred back to Canada where he continued to work for the armed forces until 1920. By the time he left the military, he had reached the rank of Major.
David: After the war, Kidd became interested in politics, first as a member of the Kingston city council, before setting his sights on provincial matters.
Erin: He was first elected to Ontario’s Legislature in 1926, representing the riding of Kingston. He was re-elected in 1929 and was appointed the 18th Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. He would stay in the role until 1934, when he returned back to his wholesale business.
David: But he never lost his interest in politics. In 1945, Kidd was elected to Canada’s House of Commons, where he served on the Joint Committee of Veterans Affairs and continued to be an advocate of veterans’ rights while in office.
Erin: Thomas Kidd left politics in 1950 and returned to his mercantile business in Kingston. He passed away at the age of 84, in December 1973.
David: Today, there is a street and hospital wing named after him in Kingston.
Erin: James Howard Clark was Ontario’s 20th Speaker. Like Thomas Kidd, he too served during the First World War before taking an interest in politics.
David: James Howard Clark was born in Ingersoll, a small town outside of London, Ontario on May 11th, 1888. He completed his education at the local high school before attending university in Toronto. In 1914, he began law school at Osgoode Hall.
Erin: While still in school, he enlisted with the 96th Lake Superior Regiment. After war had been declared in Europe, his regiment set sail for England on April 2nd, 1916. Upon arrival, Clark completed extra training and courses and transferred to the 4th Battalion, Canadian Machine Gun Corps.
David: While he was with the Machine Gun Corps, Lieutenant Clark participated in the Battle of the Somme in the summer and fall of 1916. It was during this battle that he was injured; he sustained a gun shot wound to his left hand and cheek.
Erin: After recovering in a hospital in England, Lieutenant Clark would go on to see action in some of the largest battles of the First World War: Passchendaele, Canal du Nord, Valenciennes, and Vimy Ridge.
David: During the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Clark and the rest of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps were instrumental in capturing the highly sought after ridge.
Erin: It was one of the greatest successes for the Canadian Armed Forces during the war.
David: Clark returned to Canada aboard the H.M.T.S Winifredian on July 17th, 1919. By the end of the war, he had earned the rank of Captain for his dedicated service.
Erin: Upon his return, Clark completed his law degree and was called to the bar in 1920. He began working as a lawyer in Windsor, Ontario before finally opening his own law practice, which he would retain for the rest of his life.
David: Known as a great criminal defence lawyer, it was also during this time that he took an avid interest in politics running for the provincial seat in the riding of Windsor-Sandwich in 1934. It was no great surprise when he won.
Erin: During his time in office, Clark was known for his non-partisan and straightforward approach to difficult subjects, and so it was a natural choice when he was appointed Speaker of the House in 1939. In fact, Clark would end up being the Speaker for one of the longest sitting parliamentary sessions in Ontario’s history.
David: As Ontario’s 20th Speaker, Clark was in the chair for the majority of what would later become known as the Second World War. During his time in the role of Speaker, he oversaw the passing of several pieces of legislation that were directly related to the war including an act to help children who had been displaced to Ontario because of the fighting.
Erin: James Howard Clark retired from politics in 1943 and returned to his legal practice in Windsor. He passed away at the age of 64 on August 25, 1952.
David: You know Erin, one fact about Speaker Clark that I have always found interesting is that he was the last Speaker to receive his chair in the Chamber as a gift when he was finished in his role.
Erin: You’re right, and maybe because of that, he is immortalized with his chair in his portrait which hangs in the west wing of the building today.
David: Speaking of being commemorated within the Legislature, we have one final individual to discuss today: Norman Weir Foote.
Erin: Norman Weir Foote was born in Madoc, a small town to the north of Kingston, Ontario, on May 5th, 1904.
David: He received his education from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, as well as Queens University in Kingston. He went on to attend a Presbyterian College before entering the priesthood.
Erin: In December of 1939, after the outbreak of the Second World War, Foote enlisted with the Canadian Forces Chaplain Services and was posted to the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.
David: Foote was the Regimental Chaplain and received the rank of Honourary Captain.
Erin: Captain Foote’s regiment was sent to England where they received orders that they would be participating in a quick raid to test the German defenses along the coast of France.
David: Captain Foote, along with approximately 5,000 other men attempted to sneak across the English Channel to Dieppe, France, on the morning of August 19th, 1942.
Erin: A primarily Canadian-led mission, the Raid on Dieppe was one of the deadliest operations that the Canadian forces saw during the war. Although, many believe that it was instrumental in helping to plan the successful D-Day landings 2 years later.
David: Captain Foote and his regiment landed on the west side of the promenade in front of the town of Dieppe. They were able to clear a heavily fortified building and the pillboxes on the outskirts of town before they engaged in vicious street fighting with enemy soldiers.
Erin: During 8 grueling hours of fighting, Captain Foote made it his mission to help and save as many of his fellow soldiers as possible. He could be seen calmly walking on the beach tending to the wounded, dragging them back to the medical post, before going back out to assist other fallen soldiers.
David: When the landing craft finally arrived to evacuate the soldiers to safety, Captain Foote helped countless injured soldiers into the craft, often at great risk to himself. At one point, he even helped remove wounded soldiers from a boat that had been set ablaze by enemy fire.
Erin: Captain Foote had the opportunity to leave on numerous boats but each time, he chose to stay behind to help more fellow soldiers. When the last boat was leaving, he jumped off and intentionally let himself be captured so that he could continue to tend to the other wounded soldiers who were left behind.
David: For his bravery and acts of great valour at the Raid on Dieppe, Captain Foote was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military honour awarded in the Commonwealth.
Erin: John Foote is the only Canadian Chaplain to have been awarded this medal.
David: After the war, he chose to stay in the Canadian Chaplain Services until demobilization in 1948. By then, he had achieved the rank of Major.
Erin: Later that same year, Foote ran for a seat in the riding of Durham during the provincial election. He won his seat by a margin of over 1,300 votes.
David: He would go on to win his seat in the next couple of elections, serving at Ontario’s Legislature until 1959. During his time in office, he held numerous prestigious positions including one in Cabinet.
Erin: Following his retirement from politics, John Foote moved to Coburg with his wife. He passed away at the age of 83, in May 1988.
David: Along with a Royal Canadian Legion branch and an armoury bearing his name, John Foote is immortalized in the halls of Ontario’s Legislature. His name appears inscribed four times in the marble walls on the first floor of the building along with his Victoria Cross commendation.
Erin: His name is the only one within the hundreds that line the halls to bear the post-nominal letters “VC” for his acts of bravery.
David: Indeed, John Foote, James Clark, and Thomas Kidd are all remembered not only for their service to Ontario’s Parliament, but also for their heroic acts during times of war. Their portraits and inscribed names are only one way that their memories and legacies live on.
Erin: While we were only able to share the stories of 3 remarkable individuals today, on Remembrance Day, we honour them and the countless other individuals who have walked the halls of the Legislature and who have and continue to serve our country.
David: Thank you for joining us and reflecting with us today during this very special episode of the ON Parliament podcast.
Erin: But we’ve got to go, I think I hear the bells.
Erin: The ON Parliament podcast is produced by Parliamentary Protocol and Public Relations for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Social media by Parliamentary Protocol and Public Relations for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Additional research provided by the Table Research Office for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please support the podcast by sharing it with others and subscribing. For more fun facts about Ontario’s parliament, follow us on Twitter and Instagram: @onparleducation. Et en français : @parloneducation. Thanks again and see you next time.