The Canadian Club of Ottawa

9 October 1903

Rudyard Kipling, the early twentieth-century British author, once quipped that in Canada “there is a crafty network of businessmen called Canadian Clubs. They catch people who look interesting, assemble their members during the mid-day lunch hour, and, tying their victim to a steak, bid him discourse on anything that he thinks he knows.” Since 1893, Canadian Clubs across the country have done just that. And in the process, they have helped to inform Canadians about the big issues of the day.

W. Sandford Evans, Archives of Manitoba

The Canadian Club movement began in Hamilton, Ontario in late 1892 when W. Sanford Evans and four other men met in the office of Charles R. McCullough. Evans, native of Spencerville, Ontario, ran Dr. Stephenson’s Children’s Home and Training School for Christian Workers in Hamilton. McCullough, who was born in Bowmanville, Ontario, was the principal of the Hamilton Business College. The other men present at the meeting were James Ferres, John T. Hall, George D. Fearman, and Henry Carpenter.

The six agreed to establish an organization whose purpose was to encourage the study of Canadian patriotic history, literature, arts, and resources. There would be no party politics, and their organization would be open to all men regardless of creed. They also agreed that speeches would be the focus of the new organization. In February 1893, a provisional organizational structure was formed with W. Sanford Evans as the Club’s first president, and Charles McCullough as Secretary. The following year, the Canadian Club was incorporated.

Canada was ripe for such an organization. Although the Imperial connection to Great Britain was strong, Canadian nationalism, especially among those born in Canada, was beginning to stir. Under Prime Minister (later Sir) Wilfrid Laurier, English-French differences were being ironed out (or at least papered over), settlers were pouring into the country, and the economy was strengthening. Canadians were beginning to feel their oats. While proud to be British subjects, and proud to be part of the British Empire, there was nonetheless a striving for a distinct Canadian identity, however difficult to define.

From Hamilton, the Canadian Club movement slowly spread across the country. Sandford Evans established the Toronto Canadian Club when he moved to that city in 1897. Galt was the third community to boast a Canadian Club, followed by Ottawa in 1903, St. Catharines, Winnipeg (organized by Sandford Evans when he moved to that city from Toronto) and Dawson City in 1904, Montreal and Orillia in 1905, and Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton, Portage La Prairie, London and Perth in 1906. Canadian Clubs were later to formed in other centres as well as in many major U.S. cities.

Charles R. McCullough, Ottawa Journal, 25 January 1908

The Canadian Club of Ottawa was organized at a meeting held on the 9th October, 1903 in the reception room of the Ottawa Amateur Athletic Association. Despite inclement weather, a large enthusiastic crown of gathered in the room. Like existing Canadian Clubs, it was stressed that “Canadian” included “every Canadian regardless of creed or ancestry.” There would be no politics, and any subject that would “tend to divide the feelings of the members” would be excluded. The Club’s purpose was “unity, pure and simple.” Lieutenant-Colonel Sherwood was unanimously elected first president. Elected first vice president was William Lyon Mackenzie King. King’s name was put forward by John MacMillan, the principal of the Collegiate Institute. MacMillan said King was “a young man who would take a prominent part in the club.” At the time, King was the editor of the Labour Gazette and deputy minister of Labour. Mackenzie went on to great things, becoming Canada’s prime minister in 1921.

Lieutenant-Colonel A. P. Sherwood, Topley Studio, Library and Archives Canada, 3426639.

To cheer on the new club and to give pointers on how to run it was Mr. Bruce Macdonald, the principal of St. Andrew’s College in Toronto and the President of the Canadian Club of Toronto. The constitution of the new Ottawa Club was modelled on that of its Toronto sister organization. It was agreed that the club would meet every two weeks, and invite speakers “as a form of entertainment and instruction.”

At the organization meeting, the Reverend Dr. W.T. Herridge and the Reverend Father O’Boyle both gave addresses to underline the non-sectarian nature of the new club. Herridge said that the object of the Canadian Club of Ottawa was to encourage patriotism—”not the patriotism of flag wavers or stump speakers but common-place patriotism” shown by the way every man went about his work. Father O’Boyle added that “Canadians should have as their ideal the building up of a national brotherhood.”

The founding list of members of the Canadian Club of Ottawa was a veritable “who’s-who” list of the city’s elite. Notable among them were Thomas Ahearn and Warren Soper, Ottawa’s technology barons, George Perley, the lumberman, George Burn, the general manager of the Bank of Ottawa. Thomas Birkett, Ottawa’s member of Parliament, Otto Klotz, a future Dominion Astronomer, and Achille Frechette, translator for the House of Commons.

Sanford Evans, then living in Winnipeg, telegrammed his congratulations and best wishes to Ottawa’s Canadian Club. He added, “Let us have a Canadianism broad, deep, intelligent, sane and aspiring, uniting all, no matter what politics or creeds we hold.”  Ottawa’s Mayor Cook, also sent his congratulations having been being unable to attend the meeting.

Two weeks later, the Canadian Club of Ottawa hosted its first luncheon at the Grand Union Hotel. More than 250 men attended the inaugural event to hear Major-General the Earl of Dundonald speak on a new military program for Canada. Dundonald had served on the Nile Expedition that had attempted to relieve the forces of  General “Chinese” Gordon at Khartoum in 1885 as well as in the Boer War. In 1902, he had been appointed General Officer, commanding the Militia of Canada. The general argued that a militia consisting of trained civilians, which could be temporarily embodied for short periods of time, was to be preferred over an expensive standing army of professionals, or an army composed of conscripts.

Ottawa’s Canadian Club was established against the backdrop of some controversy in the Canadian Club movement. The Alaska Boundary dispute had just been settled in London. To the disappointment of Allen Bristol Aylesworth (later Sir) and Sir Louis-Amable Jetté, the two Canadian members of the international tribunal, Lord Alverstone, the Lord Chief Justice of England, had sided with the three American commissioners on the determination of the boundary of the Alaskan panhandle. Believing that Canada’s legitimate rights had been set aside, Aylesworth and Jetté refused to sign the document. Regardless, the agreement became law.

Many Canadians felt unjustly treated by the British in the negotiations. To the consternation of some members of the Canadian Club of Toronto, the club’s president and certain officers reportedly discussed the possibility of Canada leaving the Empire. When Aylesworth spoke to the Canadian Club of Toronto on the negotiations after his return from London at the beginning of November 1903, the atmosphere at the luncheon was tense.

Lady Drummond, 1907, Women’s Canadian Club of Montreal, Library and Archives Canada, 3607494.

Later that month, the Empire Club of Canada was established in Toronto along similar lines as the Canadian Club but with more emphasis on the “Empire” part rather than the “Canada” part. The founders of the new club stressed, however, that they were not in opposition to the Canadian Club. As there was a long waiting list to join the Canadian Club of Toronto, another organization offering a luncheon speakers’ series was warmly received. The Globe newspaper said it was the “latest organization to advocate imperialism,” and will “advance the interests of Canada and the united Empire.”

One thing that was noted very early on was the exclusion of women from virtually all functions of the Canadian Clubs. In late1907, two Women’s Canadian Clubs were formed almost simultaneously in Montreal and Winnipeg. In December of that year, at the Montreal luncheon chaired by Lady Drummond, Lord Grey, Canada’s Governor General, set out his plans to celebrate the tercentenary of Samuel de Champlain’s arrival in what was to become Canada. In Winnipeg, a luncheon hosted by Mrs. W. Sanford Evans featured two speakers, the Hon. T. Mayne Daly of Winnipeg and John Kendrick Bangs of New York. Daly was a former federal cabinet minister and had been appointed police magistrate of Winnipeg in 1903. Bangs was an American author and humorist.

Here in Ottawa, a Women’s Canadian Club was organized in early 1910. Its first president was Mrs. R.G. McConnell. Madame Lamothe and Mrs. Clifford Sifton were elected vice presidents. Sir George William Ross, Premier of Ontario from 1899-1905, delivered the first address to the Ottawa Women’s Canadian Club in December 1910, held in the assembly hall of the Collegiate Institute. Ross spoke on the subject “What every Canadian should know.”

Both the Canadian Club of Ottawa and the Women’s Canadian Club of Ottawa are still going strong after a century or more of service to the Ottawa community. One change from their early days, both organizations are open to all regardless of sex. The two clubs meet regularly through the year at the Château Laurier Hotel, bringing speakers of national and international note to the nation’s capital.


Canadian Club of Ottawa, 2020.

Farr, D.M.L. & Block, Nico. 2016. “Alaska Boundary Dispute,” The Canadian Encyclopedia,

Globe, 1903. “Welcome Aylesworth,” 22 October.

——-, 1903. “A Lunch and Talk Club,” 20 November.

——-, 1903. “Empire Club of Canada,” 26 November.

——-, 1903. “Retain Imperial Bond,” 4 December 1903.

Henry, Wade A, 1994. “W. Sanford Evans and the Canadian Club of Winnipeg, 1904-1919,” Manitoba Historical Society, Number 27, Spring,

Ottawa Citizen, 1903. “Canadian Club Formed,” 10 October.

——————, 1910. “Ladies Form A Canadian Club,” 5 December.

——————, 2017. “Over A Century Of Service,” 18 September.

Ottawa Evening Journal, 1903. “Organization Of The Canadian Club,” 10 October.

——————————, 1903. “The First Canadian Club Dinner a Great Success,” 26 October.

—————————–, 1908. “History Of Canadian Club Movement Since Its Inception In 1893,” 25 January.

——————————, 1910. “The Social World,” 9 March.

——————————, 1910. “Social Affairs,” 30 November.

——————————, 1910. “Women’s Canadian Club,” 1 December.

Ottawa Women’s Canadian Club, 2020.

Victoria Daily Times, 1903. “The Just Rights of Canada Ignored,” 20 October.

A.J. Freiman versus J. Tissot

9 October 1935

Anti-Semitism was rampant in Canada during the 1930s. Universities limited the number of Jewish students, private clubs excluded Jewish members, and Jewish professionals had difficulty finding jobs. Many restaurants, beaches, golf courses, and parks bore “Christians Only” signs, or something similar. Anti-Jewish sentiment ran especially high in Quebec, where traditionalists saw Jewish immigrants as a threat to a Quebecois society centred on the Church. In both French and English Canada, many saw Jews as not fitting in, and as carriers of left-wing ideas. The more extreme or ignorant bought into a ridiculous conspiracy theory that Jewish bankers had financed the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and aimed to take over the world. Jewish immigrants became unwelcome, and the government, responding to that sentiment, kept Canada’s doors firmly shut to the thousands of Jews trying to flee the rising fascist tide in Europe.

The collapse of the economy during the Great Depression added fuel to the racist fire. Between 1929 and 1933, Canadian economic output declined by more than one-third. The national unemployment rate topped 27 per cent. Every city had its soup kitchens. While Ottawa was partially insulated by its many public servants, unemployment rose sharply in the working class districts of LeBreton Flats, Lower Town, and Eastview (now called Vanier).  Scapegoats were sought to explain what went wrong. As so often has been the case throughout history, the Jews, especially successful ones, were convenient targets.

By the late 1930s, Ottawa’s Jewish Community had grown to about 5,000 members, up from roughly 400 at the turn of the century. One of the most prominent and successful was Archibald Jacob Freiman. Born in Virbilis, Lithuania in 1880, Freiman immigrated to Canada in 1893 with his parents and three sisters. In 1899, he co-founded the Canada House Furnishing Company on Rideau Street, near the corner of Cumberland Street, in downtown Ottawa.  After he became the sole proprietor, the store was renamed A.J. Freiman Ltd. Familiarly known as Freiman’s by Ottawa residents, the department store, re-located to 73 Rideau Street, was a port of call for shoppers for the next three-quarters of a century before it was bought by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1972. Besides being a very successful businessman, Freiman was also a leading Canadian Zionist, president of the Ottawa Jewish Community, and a major philanthropist, supporting both Jewish and non-Jewish charities.

A. J. Freiman
A. J. Freiman, 1914, Wikipedia

In May 1935, Freiman was personally attacked in a scurrilous article published in Le Patriote, a French-language, fascist newspaper published by Adrien Arcand, a Montreal journalist. Le Patriote, whose masthead featured a swastika, or sometimes a swastika surmounted by a cross, was one of a stable of odious little papers, put out by Arcand, the self-styed “Canadian Fuhrer,” that included Le Goglu, Le Miroir, and Le Fasciste Canadien. Their common denominator was virulent anti-Semitism and anti-communism. In 1934, Arcand had established the Christian National Social Party whose objective was to rid Canada of Jews, sending them to Madagascar. Barring that, Arcand advocated their forced re-settlement to the Hudson Bay. His papers advocated that Christians should boycott Jewish merchants, running advertisements saying “N’achetez pas jamais chez les juifs, car ils sont dangereux.” [Never buy from Jews because they’re dangerous.]

In an article, titled La juiverie d’Ottawa se lamente [Ottawa Jewry Moans], Le Patriote insinuated that Freiman sympathized with the torture and slaughter of Christians, that he was an unethical and dishonest businessman who engaged in illegal business practices, and that he had a loathsome and repulsive character.  An English translation of this article, along with a defamatory cartoon of Freiman, was circulated in Ottawa by Jean Tissot, a Belgian-born, Ottawa police detective. Tissot gave William Graham and Harold Munro, executives of Bryson-Graham & Co, a Spark’s Street department store competitor of Freiman, a copy of the article. He sought their aid in driving all Jews out of Ottawa, and forming an association of Christian merchants. Outraged, Munro gave the offensive material to Freiman who called the police. Following Freiman’s complaint, Tissot, a city detective with twenty-five years’ experience, was charged with criminal libel and suspended from the force. Ottawa’s police chief had previously reprimanded him for peddling subscriptions to Le Patriote.

Le Patriote
Le Patriote, Headline, 6 June 1935
“The big Freiman is desperate and wants to stifle Jean Tissot”

During the trial, Tissot’s lawyer argued that there was a “hidden motive” behind the prosecution and “while we have not been able to get to the bottom of it, we know it exists.”  The counsel for the prosecution stated that “In all my thirty-five years’ experience, I have never listened to such statements made to a jury by a defence attorney.”  On 9 October, 1935, the jury found Tissot guilty of criminally defaming Freiman. He was fined $50. Tissot subsequently retired from the Ottawa police force, and was given $1,500 in lieu of a pension. The mainstream newspapers were firmly on Freiman’s side.  In an editorial after the trial, The Ottawa Evening Citizen said that A.J. Freiman deserves the thanks of the people for taking action …to stop the spreading of racial hatred among ignorant people.”

Although Freiman’s victory and the broad support he received from the community helped put the brakes on anti-Semitism in Ottawa, this was not the end of Jean Tissot. He twice ran for Parliament in the poor, largely francophone riding of East Ottawa, first on an Anti-Communist ticket in the General Election held a few days after his conviction, and again in a 1936 by-election under the Union Nationale banner. Both times, he received about 15 per cent of the vote, well behind the winning Liberal candidates. In 1937, Tissot was appointed Chief of Police in Rouyn, a small town in north-western Quebec. He was later fired.

Archibald Freiman, successful businessman, philanthropist and Zionist, passed away suddenly on 4 June 1944 at the Adath Jeshurun Synagogue, the Ottawa synagogue he had helped build on King Edward Avenue. He had just unveiled a plaque in memory of his friend, the synagogue’s cantor, who had died two years earlier. Freiman’s funeral was attended by all sections of the community, both Jewish and Gentile, including prime minister Mackenzie King, religious orders, the Red Cross, government officials, and an honour guard of forty airmen.


Irving Abella, A Coat of Many Colours, Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada, Lester & Orpen Dennys Ltd, Toronto, 1990.

Bernard Figler, Lillian and Archie Freiman, Biographies, The Northern Printing and Lithographing Co., Montreal, 1962.

Dr. Michael Keefer, “Anti-Semitism in Canada (Part I: A Disgraceful History),” The Canadian Charger, 3 September 2009,

Le Patriote,  “La Juiverie d’Ottawa se lamente,” 16 May 1935.

————-, “Le gros Freiman est aux abois et veut étouffer Jean Tissot, ” 6 June, 1935

Montreal Gazette, “Tissot Resignation Accepted by Board,” 26 October 1935.

The Ottawa Evening Citizen, “Zionist Leader Charges Detective With Libel,” 22 May, 1935.

——————–, “Witnesses Tell of Jean Tissot Asking for Aid,” 8 October 1935.

——————–, Jean Tissot Found Guilty on Defamatory Libel, 9 October 1935.

——————-, “Criminal Work of Race Hatred,” 11 October 1935.

——————-, Jean Tissot Chief of Rouyn Police, 16 August 1937.

Virtual Jewish History Tour” Ottawa Canada. Jewish Virtual Library,