In Eugene Forsey, Canada’s Maverick Sage (Dundern Press), Helen Forsey talks about hearing her father’s typewriter as he banged away on it in his study. Eugene Forsey was a prolific writer—the sound of that typewriter must have comprised the background noise of Helen’s childhood. It is also something of a keystone for her current awareness of her father, for it is through his writing that she explored his life to produce this book, which is not exactly a biography, though it tells the story of a life. It is much more—a book about Canadian history and public policy and what Ms. Forsey calls “a kit filled with the tools that he left us”—a manual for pursuing a true state of democracy.
Helen Forsey, who follows in her father’s footsteps as an activist and author, states her initial motive in writing the book as the desire to insert his voice and example into “the crucial debates of our time,” but notes that the work itself compelled her to expand her purpose and to bring to it her own voice and passionate advocacy of social justice.
Eugene Forsey (1904-1991), intellectual, activist and senator, was one of Canada’s foremost constitutional experts. He was also a vocal advocate for social justice, democracy and equality—the “common good,” as Forsey described it. These are the very things that concern us now, and not just in Canada. From the Arab Spring to the Occupy Movement, people are dissatisfied, disillusioned and just plain fed up with the ways their governments function and are demanding social justice that operates for the common good. Forsey’s thoughts and actions resonate now as much as ever.
This is no mere collection of family anecdotes and reminiscence, nor is it a volume of collected works, though it does include many pieces of Eugene Forsey’s writings. It is a scholarly work, well-researched and erudite, that combines the expected personal insights of a daughter writing about her father with an objective exploration of the work of a man well-known and significant to our history.
As Ms. Forsey says, her father’s causes were sometimes perplexing, but in order to understand how he made the decision to embrace those causes, it was necessary to follow the paths of his thinking to see how he reached his destinations. The essential element of the book is this path to understanding, and it leads the reader through the historical context within which Eugene Forsey lived and worked. It is a journey through history—the nation’s as well as the man’s—and makes a compelling case for taking up Senator Forsey’s advocacy of social justice. Eugene Forsey, Canada’s Maverick Sage is a must-read for anyone concerned with the state of our nation today.
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