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Banner: First Among Equals: The Prime Minister in Canadian Life and Politics
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About This Site

Background and Scope

First Among Equals: The Prime Minister in Canadian Life and Politics is a project of Library and Archives Canada. This site replaces Canada Speaks and Prime Ministers of Canada: 1867-1996, two earlier websites that were funded by the SchoolNet Digital Collections Program of Industry Canada in 1996. Both sites have been integrated into this much larger website based on the National Archives exhibition First Among Equals: A National Archives Exhibition on Canada's Prime Ministers, which was co-curated in 1994 by John Bell, Maureen Hoogenraad and Susan North.

First Among Equals was presented with the support of the Horsham Corporation and was probably the largest exhibition ever mounted by the National Archives. Spread over three Ottawa venues -- the National Archives, the House of Commons and the Canadian Museum of Caricature -- the exhibition drew upon hundreds of documents and artifacts (including items borrowed from a number of institutions) to explore the changing role of the Canadian prime minister. The main exhibit, which was on display from May 20, 1994 to January 3, 1995, attracted more than 27 000 visitors and was described by the then-National Archivist, Jean-Pierre Wallot, as "...the most popular exhibition we have ever had [in the National Archives]."

The structure of the exhibition is recreated on this website, and includes digital versions of many exhibition materials and publications:

  • The full exhibition narrative (including captions and citations) as written by curators Bell, Hoogenraad and North, with some updating;
  • The curators' selection (with some changes) of documents, artifacts and publications;
  • An updated version of the booklet Canada's Prime Ministers, 1867-1994 (now entitled "Quick Facts" and found in the "Profiles" section of the site);
  • An updated version of the booklet Canada's Prime Ministers, 1876-1994: Biographies and Anecdotes (now entitled "Biography" and "Anecdote" for each prime minister, in the "Profiles" section of the site).

The website's "Speeches" section incorporates a revised version of prime ministers' speeches from the Canada Speaks site. In selecting speeches, the goal was to include at least two significant speeches for each prime minister, delivered during his or her tenure in office. As well, the site contains several speeches delivered before or after a term of office. Both of Canada's official languages -- English and French -- are represented in the items chosen. Please note that where a speech was available in only one language, an unofficial translation made specifically for the site has been provided for your convenience. You can identify translations by consulting the "Source" information at the bottom of each speech.

The First Among Equals website is augmented by links and other information relating to sources on prime ministers (see "Resources"). The site is further enhanced by the creation of a separate children's version. The children's site is intended for grades 4 to 6 and offers a variety of educational materials.

The First Among Equals exhibition also resulted in the following publications, which do not currently appear on this website:

-  a special issue of The Archivist (Vol. 20, No. 3, 1994), which featured exhibition-related essays by the three co-curators and other authors;
-  an education kit entitled Canada's Prime Ministers, 1867-1994 (sponsored by Kodak Canada). This latter publication was formally launched in October 24, 1994 at an event attended by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and four former prime ministers: the Rt. Hon. Pierre Trudeau, the Rt. Hon. Joseph Clark, the Rt. Hon. John Turner and the Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell;
-  a comprehensive digital finding aid, ArchiVIA CD-ROM: Prime Ministers, which provided item-level descriptions of portions of several prime-ministerial fonds held by the National Archives. This massive reference tool was prepared under the direction of main editor Maureen Hoogenraad and is now available online (currently only on-site at Library and Archives Canada).


Library and Archives Canada thank the teams of the two original SchoolNet projects, as well as the many staff members of the National Archives who worked on the original First Among Equals exhibition and its related publications. We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the following institutions, corporations and individuals who contributed to the original First Among Equals exhibition and/or this new Web version:

  • John Bell (personal collection of prime-ministerial memorabilia)
  • Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian Museum of Civilization
  • Currency Museum, Bank of Canada
  • Diefenbaker Centre, University of Saskatchewan
  • Harriet Irving Library
  • Horsham Corporation
  • Kodak Canada
  • Laurier House National Historic Site, Parks Canada
  • Library of Parliament
  • Office of the Prime Minister
  • Public Works and Government Services Canada
  • Saskatchewan Provincial Archives

We also acknowledge the contribution of the Department of Canadian Heritage's Canadian Digital Cultural Content Initiative, (CDCCI), whose financial assistance made this work possible.