Tommy Douglas's medals on auction block
Tommy Douglas receives a standing ovation while arriving at the Palace Theatre to address an NDP rally in Hamilton, Ont. on June 11, 1968. (The Canadian Press)
Published Tuesday, January 17, 2012 6:25PM EST
REGINA - Medals from socialist icon and former Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas are on the auction block and his daughter hopes the collection stays together.
"I just hope that whoever buys it won't split it up and it would be wonderful if they would donate it or give it to a museum that already has a lot of his things," Shirley Douglas said Tuesday in a phone interview with The Canadian Press.
If the Canadian Museum of Civilization had the items, it could loan them to other museums across the country, she suggested. Then the public would be able to see the medals too.
"I've had so many calls about this from people that are concerned. They're just concerned about who's going to get them. It's been very moving almost to see so many people worried about my not getting them," she said.
"I'm not worried about not getting them. I'm worried about them not being acquired by one person who would like to give them to a museum."
The collection, including an engraved coronation medal from 1937, is being auction off at the end of January by Jeffrey Hoare Auctions Inc., a company based in London, Ont. The company's website says the lot also includes Second World War and Victory medals from Tommy Douglas's father, Thomas Douglas Sr.
Douglas hasn't seen the collection, but said she's interested in some letters written by her father and the medals that belonged to her grandfather.
Concerns about the auction are being raised by some Saskatchewan residents, including Gord Goddard, a retired soldier who has worked with the Saskatchewan Military Museum.
"I was, quite frankly, surprised," said Goddard, who spent 43 years as an active soldier and reservist.
"My initial reaction was, 'How come these aren't in the family and why are they up for public auction?' I would have thought somebody would have donated them, perhaps to the War Museum in Ottawa or something here in the province."
"Then my second was, this should be brought to the attention of the government."
Goddard said he wrote to Saskatchewan politicians and the federal government, but "ran up against a blank wall." He went to the media to raise awareness about the importance of the medals.
"They're up for public auction so anybody can purchase them and maybe someone within the government could do that on behalf of the province," said Goddard.
"There must be somebody out there who could do that and bring them back home and to me that's where they should be. Either that or in the family."
Tommy Douglas became leader of the Saskatchewan Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in 1942 and presided over the first socialist government in North America from 1944 to 1961. As premier, he ushered in public auto insurance, free hospital care and a provincial bill of rights.
He was chosen as the first leader of the federal New Democratic Party in 1961 and served for 10 years.
Tommy Douglas died in 1986.
His daughter, who is an actress and the mother of actor Kiefer Sutherland, sought to reassure people that the medals weren't stolen or misplaced. She said her father gave them to a friend and collector named Jimmie White sometime, she believes, in the 1970s.
"I wish we'd been more careful collecting things when he was still alive, but I think he gave a lot of things here and there."