Motion Recommends That the Government Accept the Neustadt, Ontario Home's Donation and Designate It as a National Historic Site Celebrating Diefenbaker's History and Legacy
OTTAWA, ONTARIO - Conservative Critic for Canadian Heritage Peter Van Loan has introduced a Private Member's Motion that seeks to acquire the birthplace of former Canadian Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker and convert the property into a museum. The property, located in Neustadt, Ontario, holds great historical significance.
John G. Diefenbaker was born in 1895 and he lived in Neustadt until his family relocated to Saskatchewan in 1903. The grandson of German immigrants, he was the first Canadian Prime Minister of neither French nor English heritage. He was first elected in 1940 as MP for Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and led the Progressive Conservative Party to electoral victory in 1957, the first federal PC win in 22 years. Diefenbaker's legacy of the promotion human rights and northern development continues today. He introduced the Canadian Bill of Rights, the first human rights legislation in Canadian history. Diefenbaker also reinstated the right of status Indians to vote, a right that was revoked by the Laurier government in 1898. Diefenbaker's government also contained many firsts - the first MP of Chinese descent, the first female cabinet minister and the first Aboriginal senator were all elected with, or appointed by, Diefenbaker. He was a strong supporter of rights and freedoms of Canadians and people abroad, and was outspoken against South African apartheid in a time when this was not a widely-held position among other world leaders.
Diefenbaker's birthplace in Neustadt was purchased by a history enthusiast who understood the significance of the home. During this period the home was operated and maintained by volunteers and the Canadian Royal Heritage Trust in an effort to preserve the location. The owner of the property died recently and left the home to the Government of Canada in his will so that it could be used as a museum commemorating Diefenbaker. If the donation is not accepted, the house will be sold and Canada risks losing this important piece of Canada's national heritage.
"John Diefenbaker's commitment to Canada left a permanent impact on our country through his commitment to diversity and freedom," said Peter Van Loan. "It would be a tragedy to see a site as significant as his birthplace be lost due to the government's slow response. A museum intended to educate the public on the contributions made by Diefenbaker during his lifetime is a fitting tribute of a great prime minister."
The Minister of Environment and Climate Change, who oversees national historic sites, recently indicated that the government was not interested in acquiring the location. "Diefenbaker's birthplace in Neustadt is an important piece of history for Grey County," local MP Larry Miller said. "I have advocated for the creation of a museum at this location for several years, and I sincerely hope that the government reconsiders its position and recognizes the significance of the house for all of Canada."
There is widespread support for the government's acquisition of the home. In addition to MP Miller's work on the issue, the Municipality of West Grey Mayor Kevin Eccles, whose jurisdiction includes Neustadt, has expressed West Grey Council's support of this initiative.