Tommy Douglas gets stamped by Canada Post



Canada Post has issued a stamp to honour the late Tommy Douglas, "the Greatest Canadian", the father of universal medicare in Canada.

The stamp, issued on Friday, was to mark the 50th anniversary of the passing of Saskatchewan's 1962 Medical Care Insurance Act.

For philatelists, or stamp collectors, the official first-day cover was cancelled in Weyburn, the place Douglas first called home when he arrived in 1930 as the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church.

Born in Scotland in 1904, he came to Canada with his family in 1910 and settled in Winnipeg.

Growing up poor, he developed an infection that would have cost him his leg except that his father met a generous surgeon who agreed to treat Tommy for free, as long as his students could watch.

Through this experience, Tommy came to feel there was a need for all to have access to medical care.

"As Canadians, we take many things for granted, including universal health care. It's an honour to recognize the 50th anniversary of Saskatchewan's Medical Care Insurance Act and the man who made it all possible," said Jim Phillips, director of Stamp Services for Canada Post.

As the leader of the first socialist government in North America, Douglas brought many changes and social reforms to the province, and led the way for the changes to occur in the rest of Canada.

Known as the "father of medicare, he first introduced universal hospitalization in 1947 in Saskatchewan, and in 1959 he first announced a medicare plan for the province.

Douglas, who also served as an MP and the federal leader of the CCF and NDP, died in 1986.

In 2004, the CBC held a nation-wide contest to determine who was "The Greatest Canadian", and Douglas won through a national vote.

After this title was announced and promoted, internationally-renowned sculptor Lea Vivot announced her intention to gift a statue of Douglas to the City of Weyburn; she unveiled her tribute to Douglas, a bronze statue set up on the banks of the Souris River.

She was present at the unveiling in September 2010, along with Douglas' grandson, actor Kiefer Sutherland, and then-provincial NDP leader Dwain Lingenfelter, and then-federal NDP leader, the late Jack Layton.

The stamp designer, Derwyn Goodall, based the design on a famous portrait of Douglas by renowned photographer Yousuf Karsh, putting it against a modern backdrop showcasing the complexity and humane aspect of Canada's medical professions.

For the benefit of stamp enthusiasts, the stamp measures 40mm by 32mm horizontally, with over 13 perforations, and is printed by Lowe-Martin on Tullis Russell paper, using lithography in seven colours plus varnish, and they are tagged on all four sides. The stamps are available through Canada Post in panes of 16 stamps. They are also available by mail order from the National Philatelic Centre, or can be ordered on-line by following the links at canadapost.ca/collecting.

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