Eugene Forsey, Canada’s Maverick Sage


Eugene Forsey's wit and wisdom are a legacy for the common good.

Eugene Alfred Forsey (1904-1991) was one of Canada's foremost constitutional experts and a provocative voice for social justice and the common good. Legendary for his sharp wit and high principle, he brought encyclopedic knowledge, irascible tenacity and common sense to the causes of democracy, justice, and equality for all. Those themes resound through this book, and resonate strongly in the Canada of today.

Forsey never managed to obediently toe a party line. Raised a Conservative, he converted to social democracy as a young academic in the 1930s. He spent the following decades working for the labour movement and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF, now the New Democratic Party) and calling governments to account in speeches, articles, and pithy letters-to-the-editor. From 1970 to 1979, he sat in the Senate as a Trudeau Liberal, but soon afterwards resumed his more natural role as non-partisan critic and gadfly.

In labour halls, university classrooms, broadcasting studios, and the Senate chamber, Forsey entertained even as he educated. So, too, does this account of his works and life, which blends the personal and the political to provide a rich resource for Canadians facing the challenges of the twenty-first century.

Helen Forsey, like her father, Eugene, is a social activist and writer who worked overseas with CUSO and other international voluntary organizations. An ardent feminist and environmentalist, she winters in Ompah, Ontario, and summers at Pouch Cove, Newfoundland.


With his probing mind, his thirst for knowledge, his refusal to compromise on the things that matter, and his love of country, Eugene Forsey was the quintessential Canadian. His daughter Helen has caught the man and the legend in this colourful, moving book. He, and our past, come alive.

This book is a treasure trove of facts and stories for all Canadians, especially young people and immigrants, to learn about Canada and to think about ways to take a stand for a just society today. It provides a window into an era when great ideas based on strong moral principles led Canada to become, for a time, the most respected country in the world.

Eugene Forsey was a force of nature, a bright spark of words, argument, deep commitment and wonderful humour. Join his daughter's journey of discovery!

Helen Forsey has written the authoritative book on her father, the magnificent parliamentary expert, Eugene Forsey. This is not a mere family reminiscence, although there is the pervading sense of intimacy. This is a scholarly work with a focus on the key areas of Forseys life and work, including his less well-known but very progressive views on the environment and social justice.

For followers of politics in our country, the book makes an excellent read as it covers such a wide range of issues and views. It is also a wonderful illustration of the important effects of cross-party friendships in political discussion and debate. Eugene Forsey was a master at both and this is well presented in this fine publication.

Literary Review of Canada (June, 2012)

This is no mere collection of family anecdotes and reminiscence, nor is it a volume of collected works, though it does include many pieces of Eugene Forseys writings. It is a scholarly work, well-researched and erudite, that combines the expected personal insights of a daughter writing about her father with an objective exploration of the work of a man well-known and significant to our history. (June, 2012)

About the Authors

Helen Forsey

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
Helen Forsey photo

Helen Forsey

Helen Forsey, like her father, Eugene, is a social activist and writer. She studied agriculture at McGill University, then worked in international co-operation and public education in Canada and overseas. Her writing and activism focus on feminist, environmental, political, and constitutional issues. A mother and grandmother, she divides her time between the Ottawa Valley and her father's homeland of Newfoundland.