Starr Canadian Legacy Continues
By John Pidkowich
The Michael Starr Oshawa and
Canadian legacy continued as the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of
Michael Starr (Starchevsky) was celebrated in
Mr. Starr’s legacy was highlighted in a large
photo exhibit displaying his successful career as a politician, from Alderman
to Mayor of Oshawa, then federally in
Among the some 300 distinguished guests at the Lviv Hall, most attractively decorated for the special occasion, notable colleagues, friends and admirers spoke in praise of “Mike”, his “stellar” qualities and home-town “Oshawa’s favourite son”, including Jim Flaherty, Terry Kelly, Jerry Ouellete, Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Allen Pilkey, Dr. Colin Carrie, and Bill Davis as Keynote Speaker, among others.
The Starr Anniversary Banquet MC was Walter
Kish, who also chaired the anniversary committee that organized the event,
programme and week-long activities in
On behalf of the Starr Family, grandson Mike Nicol (son of Starr’s daughter Joan), delivered a stirring and fond remembrance of his grandfather, who cared for his family and fellow man, and concluded with a heart-felt thank-you to the organizers and guests who helped make the anniversary event possible and to continue the legacy of Michael Starr.
Proceeds from the event’s fundraising gala
banquet have gone toward creating Michael Starr Scholarships at two
post-secondary institutions in Durham Region -
Excerpts of what was said...
The Hon. Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance and MP for Whitby-Oshawa
I want to start by paying tribute to an honoured guest who is with us tonight. He was a close friend of Mike Starr’s and is the man responsible for naming the Ontario government building in downtown Oshawa for Mr. Starr.
I speak of course of the Honourable William Grenville Davis, our Premier from 1971 to 1985.
Following in the footsteps of his predecessor
as Premier, John Robarts, Premier Davis always put country first. He led on the
national stage, and both
Mr. Davis will remember that Mike Starr was one of the candidates in 1967 to succeed John Diefenbaker as leader of our party… His candidacy was historic. After all, here was a Ukrainian-Canadian vying to lead the party of Sir John A. Macdonald, D’Arcy McGee and Georges-Eteinne Cartier.
By the time Mr. Starr entered that race, he had already served as this area’s MP for nearly 20 years. A ground-breaking former Mayor of Oshawa who started the transformation of this city into the modern community it is today, he proudly referred to his roots during his maiden address on the Hill.
“I do not know at what precise point in time one ceases to be a new Canadian and becomes an old Canadian, nor does it matter,” he said frankly during that first Common’s speech, delivered in December of 1952. He went on, “If I may speak for those most closely concerned, I think it can be said that they care not what the first adjective may be as long as the second word is ‘Canadian.’
“Nor will it matter much to them or to any of us what they may be called, seriously or in jest, as long as the son of a poor immigrant from the Ukraine can take his place in this House, as I have done, commended to your favour by a group of Canadians old and new, of many creeds and faiths, of different positions and occupations in life, from the city, towns, villages and farms of (this) riding including the historic old townships of Whitby, East Whitby, Pickering, Reach, Uxbridge, Scott and Scugog,” [said Michael Starr].
Now, in reviewing Mike’s first Commons’ speech, I was pleased, particularly as Minister of Finance, to read his thoughts about taxation…
“None of us, Mr. Speaker, has any doubt about the power of this present administration to tax us, but we do ask that in these things which so closely touch our daily lives they heed (US Chief Justice) John Marshall’s warning to all who have taxing powers: ‘The power to tax, is the power to destroy.’”
I can assure every one here tonight that I am doing my best to heed Mike’s advice!
Less than five years after entering
Parliament, Mike made history. After the June 1957 election, he ‘followed John’
into cabinet as
The reception Mike received – particularly in
“I got the biggest thrill in some of those small places out west,” he said later. “The halls would be filled with people, and sitting there in the front would be the first Ukrainian immigrants with shawls and hands gnarled from work. I would speak for about twenty minutes in English and then I would switch to Ukrainian and the tears would start to run down their faces. A man came to me one day and said, ‘Now I can die, I have met a minister of Ukrainian extraction.”
Mike Starr – the first Ukrainian-Canadian Mayor of Oshawa or any other city its size in Canada, and the first Ukrainian Canadian to sit in a Canadian cabinet – lived to witness the day Canada became the first nation to recognize the independence of Ukraine. To him – seeing his ancestral home free of Soviet oppression -- that was perhaps the greatest honour of all.
To say that Mike Starr was a ground-breaking Minister of Labour is an understatement. He introduced and guided the Diefenbaker Government’s Winter Works Program for example…
Near the end of his life, John Diefenbaker paid the following tribute to Mike in his memoirs, One Canada.
“He was one of the best Ministers of Labour
in our history,” Mr. Diefenbaker wrote. “Of Ukrainian parentage, to me his life
epitomizes all those who have come to
I want to close my remarks by thanking the
members of the Michael Starr Anniversary Committee for all their hard work… a
new generation of
All of us in the
Hon. William G. Davis, Former Premier of
“I appreciate for one, the intervention of the Government of Canada in some fields of post secondary education. I happen to believe that we have a long way to go if we are going to compete with our neighbours to the south and other parts of the world. And that’s why I accepted the invitation, not just because of my affection for Michael Starr, but because I believe in what the committee said in terms of where the funds will go…
“I happen to know what we need to achieve in
the field of education at the elementary, secondary and now, particularly, the
post-secondary level… The head of
“Jim (Flaherty) was very kind to point out
that when I was Premier (not that this was not true before, and not since) most
Ontarians are Canadians first. I believe
that to be true today and that’s why
“I’m not here to preach, but… what Michael Starr meant to me and… how you remember him, is fundamental to our future as a province and as a country.”
1 - Michael Starr
2 - Guests attendees at Michael Starr 100th Anniversary Banquet