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Canada's own father time
|By Emmett Macfarlane
Noted author, journalist and Canadian
historian Pierre Berton attended last Friday morning's Convocation
ceremony to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws from Western.
The media icon sat down with The Gazette following the
ceremony to answer a few questions.
How do you feel about
Western giving you an honorary degree?
Well, I'm very proud, very pleased. Three of my offspring, of which there are many, went to Western and graduated from Western. One took several courses before he graduated and now he's the most educated man [I know]. Western [has] a very lovely campus and it's one of the universities that's dear to my heart because of my family connection with it.
Of all your accomplishments, what are you most proud of?
How do you think history will portray Jean Chrétien?
He will be in the second grade. [There] are about five grades. The first grade is John A. Macdonald, Mackenzie King, perhaps Wilfrid Laurier. You go down and you hit Lester Pearson and you hit some of the others. I think [Chrétien would] be somewhere in there in the second grade.
Do you have an opinion about historical works like Mein Kampf being banned from Chapters and Indigo?
I don't believe in banning anything. I'm a free thinker about that. I don't believe there should be any laws about what you can write or what you can say even if people disagree with it. I think it's perfectly sensible that
Mein Kampf be in the bookstores because you may want to study the rise of the Nazi party and [the book is] essential to that part of the research.
Do you have any comment about the current state of the Canadian publishing industry?
The Canadian publishing industry has always been in trouble because [of] the smallness of the country and the fact that one third of the country doesn't even read English and the other two thirds don't read French. So it's precarious at the moment, and one thing that's been happening which I think is unfortunate in a way, is the amalgamation of so many individual publishers into one large publishing house. I belong to one of them, so I can speak to this. I hope that the small publishers will not go under because of the financial situation [of this day] because we need the small independent publishers to have a thriving literary background.
What is it like having an award named after you (The Pierre Berton Award from the National History Society)?
It's all right [laughs]. It's an award made up after the kind of history I do. I'm helping to select the people that get that award. I'm one of the jury, I guess. I think it's a good idea. I don't care if it's named after me or not but there should be an award for that kind of history in this country and there is.
Is there anything in particular that you're working on that we can expect soon?
I've finished two books that aren't yet published. My book called
Cats I Have Known and Loved will be out next fall and my book on the joy of writing will, I hope, be published sometime next spring. I'm just finishing it now. Then I'm going onto another one.