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Vincent Massey

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Vincent Massey on Governor General Northern Tour 1956

Vincent Massey, Governor General of Canada

Gar Lunney / National Film Board of Canada / Library and Archives Canada / e002265650

About Vincent Massey:

Vincent Massey was the first Canadian-born Governor General of Canada. Vincent Massey was from a prominent Canadian family who headed agricultural equipment company Massey-Harris (later Massey-Ferguson). His brother was the popular actor Raymond Massey. A lifelong patron of the arts, Vincent Massey also used the role of Governor General of Canada to promote Canadian unity and identity.

Governor General of Canada:

1952-59

Birth and Death:

  • Born February 20, 1887 in Toronto, Ontario
  • Died December 30, 1967 while visiting London, England

Education:

  • BA - University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario

  • MA - Balliol College, Oxford University, Oxford, England

Professions:

Businessman, philanthropist and diplomat

Early Career of Vincent Massey:

  • Vincent Massey was a lecturer in history at Victoria College, University of Toronto, from 1913 to 1915.

  • He then joined the army, working as a staff officer.

  • Vincent Massey was President of Massey-Harris Co Ltd. from 1921 until 1925. While President of Massey-Harris, he concentrated on philanthropy and promotion of the arts and sciences.

  • In 1925, Vincent Massey was appointed to cabinet by Prime Minister Mackenzie King. He did not win a seat in Parliament and moved to the diplomatic service.

Vincent Massey as Canadian Diplomat:

  • Vincent Massey was appointed the first Canadian Minister to Washington in 1926.

  • He became Canadian High Commissioner to London in 1935. Vincent Massey fit well into the social aspects of diplomatic life, and made such a good impression in England that King George VI invested him with the Companion of Honour in 1946. Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King did not have the same confidence in Vincent Massey though, and relations between the two were strained.

Vincent Massey as Patron of the Arts:

  • While President of Massey-Harris, Vincent Massey began his art collection.

  • He was Chairman of the National Gallery in London, England from 1943 to 1946.

  • Back in Canada, Vincent Massey was Chancellor of the University of Toronto and Chairman of the National Gallery of Canada.

  • In 1949 he headed the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences. The Massey Commission recommended creation of the Canada Council.

Vincent Massey as Governor General:

  • As Governor General of Canada, Vincent Massey continued to promote the arts. He promoted a national arts festival which led to the formation of the National Arts Centre.

  • He established writers weekends at Rideau Hall.

  • He supported the Stratford Shakespearean Festival and opened many art exhibitions.

  • Although he did not manage to create a Canadian honours system as he had hoped, Vincent Massey did establish the Governor General's Gold Medal for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1954, and the Massey Medal to recognize national exploration, development, and description of geography for the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in 1959.

  • A strong anglophile, Vincent Massey carried on the traditions of the Crown with respect, but he also used the role of Governor General of Canada to promote the emerging Canadian identity and the need for Canadian unity. He also emphasized the need for Canadians to speak both English and French.

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