HISTORY

The following is the unaltered text from the Canadian Nordic Society’s 30 year celebration booklet in 1993, written by first President Dan Harris.

 

THE CANADIAN NORDIC SOCIETY

 

Nineteen ninety-three (1993) marks the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Nordic Society’s foundation. Why was it formed? How did it begin? What are its aims? Has it met these goals? Here is its story:

 

The Beginning

In the spring of 1963, seven Canadians and one Swede met to discuss the forming of a Society to promote intellectual and social relations between the five Nordic nations and Canada to be similar to the Anglo-Norse and Anglo-Swedish Societies of Great Britain.

 

The eight founders were:

  • Commander Bruce Carnell, RCN - formerly Naval Attaché to Norway and Sweden

  • Colonel J. Haines - formerly Military Attaché to Norway and Sweden

  • D. Harris, CA - formerly Naval Attaché to Sweden

  • Dr. J. Ives - Geographer (Swedish Doctorate, pre-1975)

  • E. Johnson, P, Eng. - Engineer with Icelandic Connections

  • J. Leaning, RIBA - Architect Studied and Worked in Sweden

  • L. Öhman, P. Eng. - Engineer with the National Research, Council of Canada

  • Colonel S. Sprung - formerly Military Attaché to Finland and Sweden
     

The group believed knowledge of the Nordic Nations’ social developments and cultures would be of great value to Canada.

 

The founders, after making discreet enquiries, learned that the Nordic countries’ official Ottawa representatives would encourage the Society’s objectives, provided that it did not become an “old times” association, and was properly incorporated and operated.

 

The Department of External Affairs, informed of the Society’s formation, stated it would have a continued interest in the Society’s activities and was always to be kept informed of its programs. It requested the Society to pay particular attention to Finland.

 

In May 1963, the founders, and some forty other persons, met and passed resolutions to incorporate the Society under the Canadian Corporations Act and approved the bylaws drawn up by a friendly and interested solicitor. In the fall, the Secretary of State for Consumer & Corporate Affairs approved the draft after changing one word in Section 16, and authorized the issuance of the corporation’s charter.

 

The charter states “the objectives of the Society are to encourage and promote intellectual and social relations between the people of Canada and the peoples of the Nordic Countries with the principal activities being the study of Nordic life, languages and cultures, lectures, conferences, exhibitions and demonstrations in Canada, travel and an interchange of cultural opportunities.  The Society shall cooperate with other organizations having similar objectives and shall assist, whenever practical, organizations encouraging similar activities in the Nordic countries relating to Canada”.

 

“The Society is non-sectarian and non-political, and shall not have any religious or political affiliations.”

 

The charter sets out the powers and duties of the Society’s officers and the procedures for elections. Where the charter is silent, the provisions of the Canadian Corporations Act apply.

 

After the charter’s issuance, two of the founders and one other member called on the Nordic heads of mission to inform them of the Society’s incorporation, and that the honorary president would be Dr. R. A. MacKay of Carleton University and a former Ambassador to Norway. The Ambassadors became honorary members of the Society and expressed pleasure in the intellectual emphasis of its activities. Over the past years, heads of mission, as honorary members, have to come to those events of interest and occasionally, themselves, have given talks on a variety of topics.

 

The Society’s present honorary president is the internationally famous Professor Trevor Lloyd, D.Sc., Ph.D., a member of Finland’s Geographical Society, recipient of the Danish Geographical Society’s 1984 Gold Medal and Canada’s Consul to Greenland in World War II. He succeeded the late Hon. J.B. Kearney, a former Ambassador to Norway, in 1979.

 

The Membership

In 1963, the Society began with 50 members. In recent years, the numbers have varied between 160 and 200. Even members of the Austrian, British, German and Dutch embassies, anxious to retain connections with the Nordic countries, have joined the Society.

 

Cooperation with Other Organizations

The Society has held joint meetings with the Arctic Circle, the Association for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies in Canada founded by Dr. Gurli Woods, a former president of the Society, the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, the Canadian Nautical Research Society, the Naval Officers Association, Zonta, Carleton and Ottawa Universities, the Danish Club, the Friends of Finland Association, and the Parnassos Cultural Society.

 

It maintains correspondence with the Anglo-Finnish, Anglo-Norse and Anglo-Swedish Societies of London. The Society’s members are welcome to attend meetings of those three Societies when visiting Britain.

 

Programs

The Society’s first program was given by Dr. Roger Pilkington, author of “Small Boat to the Skagerrak and Sweden” in HMCS Carleton’s Ward Room. In return, the Society arranged for Dr. and Mrs. Pilkington to make a cruise up the Rideau Canal. Another 1963 program was by the former premier of Saskatchewan, Tommy Douglas, about his visit to Scandinavia. He stated the Scots were really shipwrecked Norwegians!

 

In the Society’s early years, programs were much concerned with labour/management relations. Could Swedish experience be used in Canada? In addition, the office of the Ombudsman was of so great interest that in 1967, the Swedish Embassy brought the Ombudsman from Stockholm. The Society arranged a joint meeting with other organizations. Over one hundred persons attended the event.

 

In the seventies, a talk by Mrs. Sumelius on women’s issues caused so much controversy that the Danish Ambassador demanded a special evening to reply on behalf of the male species. In 1992, Dr. Tuulikki Petäjäniemi enlightened an audience about the status of women and men in Finland.

 

When bilingualism became a Canadian issue, the Society held a meeting to examine the Finnish bilingual situation. The press were invited to attend that meeting.

 

The members have always been interested in political, economic and scientific topics. A memorable evening was when former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, a month before his death, took part in a “question and answer evening”. (No journalists were present.) His parliamentary opponent, John Diefenbaker, came later. In the eighties, H.E. the Governor General Ed Schreyer, told of his visit to the Nordic Countries. In 1992 Ambassador Erik. A Heinrichs of Finland gave an interesting talk to celebrate Finland’s 75th birthday. In the fall of 1992, Danish Ambassador Mr. Bjørn Olsen’s talk about the possible effects of the Maastricht Treaty on Denmark attracted a large audience and much discussion.

 

In the political and economic spheres, a talk in the mid-80’s by Lasse Romert, that outstanding Swedish press attaché, on the so-called Worker Investment Fund Scheme attracted an audience suspicious of the plan. His plan on Swedish Elections was not so controversial.

 

In 1991, Dr. Gerhard Herzberg, Nobel Prize winner, told of his life’s work leading to the award.

 

Geographical and outdoor topics have been the members’ continued interest. In the seventies, at a joint meeting with the Arctic Circle, Professor George Kish spoke of A.E. Nordenskiöld’s voyage through the Northeast Passage. In the eighties, an illustrated talk by Captain Tom Pullen, RCN, about the first voyage of a passenger ship, built in Finland to Norwegian rules and with Swedish deck and engine room offices, through the Northwest Passage completely filled the Bytown’s Ward Room with the members of the Society, the Arctic Circle and the Naval Officers Association. Dr. Jocelyn Lillycrop’s illustrated lectures on Iceland, and Arctic areas of Scandinavia have attracted large audiences. She is a long-time member of the Society. Programs about orienteering and skiing have held the members’ interest.

 

The Arts have not been neglected. Programs have included Finnish and Norwegian painting and sculptures. In December 1992, the Norwegian Sculptor Carl Nesjar, famous for his fountains, at a joint meeting with the Parnassos Society, showed a film about his work and his cooperation with Picasso. One of his fountains, able to work in very cold conditions, will be featured at the next Winter Olympics in Norway. In the 70’s, the Society cooperated with the Canadian Film Institute in a Danish film program. Finnish and Norwegian porcelain have also been featured. In 1992, members attended a very special exhibition of Finnish Art Glass by Oiva Toikka at the Museum of Civilization.

 

Recently the Society’s literature programs have included “Knut Hamsun and his Letters” by Professor Harald Naess of the University of Wisconsin; in 1992; and in 1991, Professor Sandra Saari on “Millions of Women do—Ibsen’s A Doll’s House”. In 1990, Sara Lidman read extracts from her book “Naboth’s Stone”. In 1988, Sven Delblanc of Sweden read to members and others at the National Archives. Icelandic and Faeroese literature has also been featured.

 

Music has not been forgotten. The late Professor Michael Thompson of Carleton University, a Vide-President of the Society, gave two evenings on Bellman and Modern Swedish Music. In 1993 two live concerts were featured, one of them honouring the 150th anniversary of Edvard Grieg.

 

Two very special programs were on aquavit and the making of open-face sandwiches.

 

Other Activities

 

The Symposia

To bring knowledge of Scandinavian culture to the general public, the Society held day-long Scandinavian Symposia organized by Mr. G. Hynna, Dr. J. Lillycrop and Dr. G. Woods at the National Gallery in 1982, and at Carleton University in 1989. The five members of the Society giving programs were Professors Thompson and Williams, Dr. W. Blake, Mrs. N. Glynn, Messrs. Leaning and Harris.

 

Social Events

The Society’s social events are the mid-December Lucia Festival which the Society, in 1963, introduced to Ottawa—the first Lucia was a Canadian girl who had lived in Norway; an annual dinner and dance, and in the late spring, a Nordic lunch arranged by the chef of HMCS Bytown. The Crow’s Nest, appropriately, has been the Society’s principal meeting place during the past thirty years.

 

1993 Events

28 January—Dr. Kyllikki Kauppinen—“The Sauna & Winter Swimming”

4 March—Derek Yaple-Schobert—a piano concert of Nordic music

1 April—D. Harris—a Naval attaché in Sweden 1940-46

24 April—Annual Dinner and Dance

27 May—Annual General Meeting

10 June—Luncheon at HMCS Bytown

17 Sept.—Edvard Grief jubilee concert—Derek Yaple-Schobert (piano), Jennifer Rasor (soprano), Jan Järvlepp (cello), Wendy Desserud (viola), Sonia Pescatore (piano)

28 Oct.—Preview of 1994 Winter Olympics—with the collaboration of the Canadian Olympic Association and Canadian winter sports organizations, CTV and the Royal Norwegian Embassy

14 Nov.—Making Scandinavian Christmas decorations

17 Nov.—Kari Williams—Frida Hansen, a world-renowned weaver

11 Dec.—Sancta Lucia Festival

 

Conclusion

In its thirty years of life, the Society has contributed to bringing greater knowledge of the Nordic nations’ social developments and culture to Canadians. May it continue to flourish and meet the charter’s objectives!

                                                                                                         

CNS 1985 Lucia procession.jpg
CNS 1993 Jan John Leaning, Dan Harris, L
CNS 1993 Jan Ed Napke, Karin Birnbaum, G
CNS 1993 Sep Derek Yaple-Schobert, Jenni