|Member of Parliament|
August 10, 1953 – September 18, 1967
|Preceded by||Frederick Gordon Bradley|
|Succeeded by||Charles Granger|
|Born||June 23, 1905|
Wyecombe, Ontario, Canada
|Died||November 14, 1997 (aged 92)|
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
|Occupation||Teacher, civil servant, politician|
John Whitney Pickersgill,(June 23, 1905 – November 14, 1997) was a Canadian civil servant and politician. He was born in Ontario, but was raised in Manitoba. He was the Clerk for the Canadian Government's Privy Council in the early 1950s. He was first elected to federal parliament in 1953, representing a Newfoundland electoral district and serving in Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent's cabinet. In the mid-1960s, he served again in cabinet, this time under Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. Pickersgill resigned from Parliament in 1967 to become the president of the Canadian Transport Commission. He was awarded the highest level of the Order of Canada in 1970. He wrote several books on Canadian history. He died in 1997 in Ottawa.
Pickersgill was born in Wyecombe, Ontario, on June 23, 1905, the son of Frank Allan Pickersgill (1877-) and Sarah Smith (1878-). His parents were born in Ontario. When he was a young child, the family moved to Ashern, Manitoba, where his father was a farmer. John was the older brother of Thomas, Walter, Bessie, and Frank Pickersgill, all of whom were born in Manitoba. He was educated at the University of Manitoba and at the University of Oxford, and he taught history in Winnipeg.
On July 3, 1936, at Emmanuel College Chapel, Toronto, J.W. Pickersgill married Beatrice Landon Young (1913-1938). A graduate of the University of Manitoba, Beatrice was born in Winnipeg, the daughter of Dr. Fred Armstrong Young (1875-1964), MD, and Landon (Wright) Young (1878-1931). The marriage ceremony was attended only by immediate family members. A gravestone in Old Kildonan Cemetery in Winnipeg memorializes the 1938 death of Beatrice, "wife of John W. Pickersgill."
He joined the Department of External Affairs in Ottawa and soon worked at the Prime Minister's Office as Assistant Private Secretary to Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. In 1945, he became Special Assistant to the Prime Minister and was officially in charge of the Prime Minister's Office. He stayed on to work for King's successor, Louis St. Laurent, and became Clerk of the Privy Council in 1952. Pickersgill was a senior and trusted adviser to both Prime Ministers: "Clear it with Jack" was the byword on Parliament Hill for years.
Pickersgill entered the House of Commons of Canada as Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for Bonavista-Twillingate, Newfoundland, after the 1953 election. Pickersgill had become involved in the politics of Newfoundland at the informal request of leading federal politicians in the late 1940s. He was instrumental in supporting Newfoundland's pro-Confederation movement although he had no prior connection to the island.
He entered the Canadian Cabinet as Secretary of State for Canada in 1953 and was named Minister for Citizenship and Immigration in 1954. In 1956, when he addressed First Nations at a banquet following a reburial ceremony, he suggested that the First Nations chiefs present should take jobs that would make them independent of government support.
When the Liberal government was defeated in the 1957 election, Pickersgill was re-elected as an MP. He became a leading tormentor of the new government of John Diefenbaker from the opposition benches. With the 1963 election and the coming to power of Lester Pearson as Prime Minister, Pickersgill returned to Cabinet, first as Secretary of State for Canada and Government House Leader and then as Minister of Transport. In 1967, he retired from politics to become president of the Canadian Transport Commission.
In 1970, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada and was invested into the order in 1971. He was later bestowed the title "The Right Honourable", usually reserved in Canada for Prime Ministers, Governors-General and Chief Justices, as recognition of his service.
He and D. F. Forster authored the four volumes of The Mackenzie King Record, which was based on King's diaries. Pickersgill was a literary executor for King's diaries. Pickersgill is also the author of three political memoirs — My Years with Louis St. Laurent (ISBN 9780802022158), The Road Back (ISBN 9780802025982), and Seeing Canada Whole (ISBN 9781550410693) — as well as a history of the Liberal Party.
There is a Jack Jack Pickersgill fonds at Library and Archives Canada.