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On Small-Time and Big-Time Politics


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Personal)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/03/31

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What years did you run? What parties did you run for? When did you run federally and provincially?

Don McKinnon: In 1983, I ran provincially. In 1984, I ran federally and for the Liberal Party both times. In 1983, I ran because a school principal I knew closely wanted me to run. So, I ran.

In 1984, I ran because one of the school trustees wanted me to run. I ran for the federal Liberal Party. I won the nomination getting the majority with 14 votes.

Jacobsen: How have you seen the political landscape change and stay the same since the 1980s?

McKinnon: I don’t think the Liberal Party has changed much. I got mad at the Liberal Party in 1984. I got into an argument during a presentation. One politician got into an argument with me.

They said, “Even if you get elected, you won’t run the country. The Cabinet and the Prime Minister will run the country.” I decided that was the end of the Liberal Party for me.

So then, I joined the NDP. I have been active. But I haven’t run.

Jacobsen: You, at an early age, became an atheist. Why? Did this influence the political perspective?

McKinnon: I became an atheist when my mother sent me to Bible school. An old guy read the Book of Genesis and said that this is what it is all about. I realized that it all didn’t make sense. I left The UCC and never went back.

Jacobsen: What was the influence of religion in the country in the 1980s? Looking at it now, how is it different?

McKinnon: It probably differs. I don’t think a lot of people have changed very much. A lot of people are inactive in the churches. If you look at the churches, a lot of them are suffering from not having enough attendance.

The UCC in our area, for example. My cousin goes there. They used to have 5 churches 30 years ago. Now, they can’t have enough congregations to run 1.

Jacobsen: Do you think Canada is heading the way of Europe with the number of religious as a total as well as religiosity as a level? Fewer people in the polls, in the pews, fewer praying, and so on, fewer believing in it. The number of non-religious going up and the number of the religious going down.

McKinnon: If you look at the Catholic Church, for example, and The UCC, the traditional churches have struggled to maintain ground. There are a number of left-wing and right-wing evangelical churches doing okay.

But even then, they are struggling. The number of people attending is down. The people who do believe may simply not take much part in the Sunday gatherings.

The number of people who don’t go has probably declined.

Jacobsen: How has the Christian faith generally treated the Indigenous population? In other words, First Nations, Inuit, and Metis, in this country.

McKinnon: I spent 5 years doing adult education for the Department of Indian Affairs. I think that a scandal involving the use of Indian kids was more the responsibility of the church than the federal government.

I think the federal government closed its eyes. I don’t think people realized how much sexual abuse was going on in the Indian schools. I think the church knew and tried to cover it up.

That is, in a sense, the opinion of somebody who was right there. For example, my story about Ray Hall who was in charge of Indian Affairs. I had coffee with him.

He said Cooper Island and four Indian kids had committed suicide. He didn’t know why. He would not have known if he knew about the sexual abuse. He was replaced by a guy. A fine Mennonite guy, I am sure he didn’t know the extent of the sexual abuse.

You know, there has been sexual abuse in the normal school system too. I have worked there. It is not an entirely baseless thing.

Jacobsen: You spent your career in the Department of Indian Affairs. What did you learn, general heuristics for understanding?

McKinnon: [Laughing] I learned what it was like to live in a big bureaucracy in the Department of Indian Affairs, which was useful when working in a school office.

You learn to make do, be nice, get things done, and get by. Does that make sense?

Jacobsen: Thank you for your time.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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