John Wiggins Fisher (1913-1981)

Year Born: 
1913
Year Died: 
1981

Pioneer

Fisher, John Wiggins (1913-1981)

Perhaps it was because of the magical region where he was raised that John Fisher loved Canada so much that he later came to be nicknamed Mr. Canada.

He was born in Sackville, N.B. and his parents, F.A. Fisher and Nora Millicent Wiggins, owned a farm in Frosty Hollow in Tantramar, an area of marshes, rivers, wooded trees and brooks at Chignecto Bay where New Brunswick meets Nova Scotia.

John graduated from Dalhousie Law School in 1938, went into law, and was called to the Bar. He learned French and became legal counsel with the Rowell Sirois Royal Commission on federal provincial relations. But he abandoned law and joined the Saint John Citizen followed by the Halifax Herald.

John's introduction to radio was on Halifax's first radio station, CHNS. Hugh Mills, in The Birth of Radio in Canada by Bill McNeil and Morris Wolfe, recounted that John was one of a group of amateur actors who would meet with a book of plays and say their lines into a microphone "which was just a big horn off a gramophone." That was early radio drama.

In 1943 John became the CBC's "Roving Reporter", travelling Canada from the Magdalen Islands to the Queen Charlottes to tell stories about the nation's people in the radio series John Fisher Reports. It was during this time that he got his nickname.

In 1957 he changed careers again to head the Canadian Tourist Association and in 1961 became special assistant to the then prime minister, John Diefenbaker. From 1963 to 1968 he was Centennial Commissioner, organizing Canada's 1967 Centennial Celebration. It was during this time that the name Mr. Canada stuck and he even became known by that name internationally.

In 1967 he received the Centennial Medal and the same year was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada "for his contributions to the success of the Centennial celebrations 1967 as Commissioner of the Centennial Commission and as speaker and author on Canadian subjects." He was awarded honorary doctorates by several universities and in 1978 received the Queen's Jubilee Medal. Among his other awards - one of his earliest - was the Beaver Award in 1946 for his outstanding contribution as a broadcaster and commentator. He won two La Fleche trophies for "distinguished contribution to Canadian radio." He was named an honorary chief by several First Nation communities.

Mr. Canada died in 1981.

Written by Jerry Fairbridge - October, 2002

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