I have a bit of a soft spot for Sutherland, though I would never watch any of the awful shows he does. It has some to do with his dad, Donald Sutherland, who is undeniably one of the great actors of the past five decades. But in a much bigger way, it has to do with Kiefer Sutherland's grandfather.
Donald Sutherland married an actress, Shirley Douglas, who is immediately recognizable to any Canadian born before 1970. And as it happens, every time I cut something open and get stitches, every time I need a broken bone set, every time I need anything from a hospital, which I will certainly get for FREE, because I am a Canadian citizen, I have Shirley Douglas' father to thank.
Because Tommy Douglas was the Father of Medicare in this country. Beginning in the 1940s, Douglas led a long-standing charge to make legalized, paid-for medical care the standard in a part of the world little remembered on the world stage: a province named Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan is as big as Texas; in the 1940s, it barely had 0.8 million people; today, 70 years later, it has 1.1 million people. In Saskatchewan, that's progress.
In Alberta, we have a joke about Saskatchewan that any Albertan will understand immediately. "What is the first thing you see after you cross the Saskatchewan border? Manitoba."
Yet Tommy Douglas was a powerful speaker. He was a socialist speaker. A brilliant speaker. By sheer force of will, he would ~ through those people he influenced ~ bring this entire country around to his way of thinking.
"Saskatchewan was told that it would never get hospital insurance. Yet Saskatchewan people were the first in Canada to establish this kind of insurance, and were followed by the rest of Canada. We didn’t have Medicare in those days. They said you couldn’t have Medicare – it would interfere with the ‘doctor-patient relationship’. But you people in this province demonstrated to Canada that it was possible to have Medicare. Now every province in Canada either has it or is in the process of setting it up.
"And you people went on to demonstrate other things with your community health clinics. You paved the road, blazing a trail for another form of health service, to give people better care at lower cost. You did these things. You have demonstrated what people can do if they work together, rather than work against; if you build a cooperative society rather than a jungle society."
That's Tommy. And while I've been careful to use the last names of his descendants through this piece, I remember growing up when the man needed no other name to define him. If my grandfather, who was born, who lived and who died in Saskatchewan, started talking about what Tommy said, he meant Tommy Douglas.
And now his grandson, a Canadian, is the President of the United States.
I'm so proud.