Late prime minister John Turner remembered on commemorative

By Jesse Robitaille

Canada Post fulfilled the latest chapter in a long tradition on June 7 with the issue of a single stamp commemorating former prime minister John Turner, who died last September.

Chosen by Turner’s family, the stamp shows the former leader in a different light – as an enthusiastic outdoorsman – with him at the helm during a 1985 sailing trip through Haida Gwaii, an archipelago off British Columbia’s west coast.

His Montréal Gazette obituary recalls Turner sharing a memory on his 77th birthday about being “out on the water” for 70 summers.

“Starting with summer camp at age seven, he took his final run, mobility waning and cane in hand, for a canoe trip in Algonquin Park in his 77th year. John canoed all over Canada including epic trips with his family and great friend Bob Engle into the waterways of the Northwest Territories,” added his obituary.

As an accomplished sprinter, he “narrowly missed his chance to compete at the 1948 Olympics,” according to a CBC News obituary. While he set a national record for the 100-yard dash a year earlier, he later dropped out after “smashing his knee in a car accident.”

The set’s booklet cover and official first-day cover (shown) both feature a February 1970 photograph of Turner (left), then the justice minister, presenting to the House of Commons a bill to establish a national law reform commission.


Due to COVID-19, a small, invite-only state funeral was held for Turner on Oct. 6 in Toronto, where mourners remembered his integrity, humility and grace.

CBC also reported daughter Elizabeth Turner, one of his four children, spoke at the funeral about her father’s love for the outdoors and nature, adding when people complained about the weather, he would ask, “Are you a Canadian or a tourist?”

Canada’s 17th prime minister (and the first to die since Pierre Trudeau in 2000), Turner dedicated much of his life to public service. First elected to the House of Commons in 1962, he spent nearly a decade as a cabinet minister under prime ministers Lester B. Pearson and Pierre Trudeau before taking the helm as prime minister in 1984.

His 79-day stint is the second-shortest tenure of a Canadian prime minister (after Sir Charles Tupper, at 68 days, in 1896).

Turner speaks in Glendale, Ariz., in 2019. He was 91 when he died last September. Photo by Gage Skidmore via CC BY-SA 2.0.

After the Liberals were defeated in the next election, Turner remained the leader of the official opposition for six years.  A corporate lawyer by trade, he advanced major justice reforms during his time as a politician and fought tirelessly for the environment.

“He was deeply committed to the law and democratic process, bringing about much-needed reforms to the Criminal Code,” current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement following Turner’s death, adding the late leader “was tirelessly devoted to upholding Canadian values and principles.”

“Mr. Turner was a humble man with a strong social conscience. He supported many charitable organizations, including Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. He was also an honorary director of World Wildlife Fund Canada and an ardent advocate for the protection of Canada’s lakes and rivers.”

Turner announces his candidacy as Liberal Party leader in 1968 upon Lester B. Pearson’s retirement. Turner was eventually defeated by Pierre Trudeau, who became Canada’s prime minister. Photo by Library & Archives Canada.


Designed by Montréal’s Paprika design study, the new issue featuring Turner is available in 10-stamp booklets and on an official first-day cover (OFDC) serviced with a cancel from Vancouver, B.C.

Colour Innovations printed 120,000 booklets – or 1.2 million stamps, each measuring 38 millimetres by 38 millimetres – using four-colour lithography.

The Toronto-based security printer also produced 7,000 OFDCs, each measuring 190 millimetres by 112 millimetres.

For at least seven decades, Canada Post has commemorated recently deceased prime ministers and governors general on stamps.

“It’s really an honour for us to be able to do this sort of thing for famous Canadians and someone who has given so much to Canada,” Jim Phillips, Canada Post director of stamp services, told CBC News in 2010.

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