Looking Back: 120 Years of Canadian Club of Ottawa

To celebrate the 120th anniversary of the Canadian Club of Ottawa, we are looking back at our historical roots that have helped define the Club as the leading forum for issues that matter most to Canadians. The following historical facts provide key insights on our founding and growth over the last century plus, showcasing our enduring Canadian legacy.

Establishing a Pillar of Patriotism

Founded in October 1903, the Canadian Club of Ottawa was one of the first established Canadian Clubs nationwide. Its primary objective was clear from inception—to promote patriotism and foster the study of Canada's institutions, history, arts, literature, and resources. Rapidly growing to over a thousand members in its first year, its success sparked the creation of similar clubs across the nation.

Distinguished Voices of History

One defining hallmark of the Canadian Club of Ottawa is its distinguished lineup of speakers. Leaders in Canada and beyond—representing business, politics, academia, the arts, and more—have graced the podium over the years. Notable Club speakers have included Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Governor General Lord Grey, Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, British Ambassador James Bryce, U.S. Secretary of State Elihu Root, and author Rudyard Kipling—to name a few.

Leadership and Legacy

A proud historical fact for the Canadian Club of Ottawa is the early involvement of William Lyon Mackenzie King. A founding Club Vice President, King swiftly assumed presidency just a year later, foreshadowing his future role as Canada's 10th Prime Minister.

An Enduring Premier Podium

The Canadian Club of Ottawa takes pride in its role as the premier podium in the Nation’s Capital. Hosting events that inform, engage, and inspire, memorable moments include the inaugural luncheon at the Grand Union Hotel (now the British High Commission) in 1903, a special dinner attended by premiers of all nine provinces in 1905, and a 1909 banquet honoring surviving members of the first Canadian Parliament.

Flashing forward to 1976, the Club orchestrated a surprise address by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, organized in just one week in collaboration with the Ottawa Women's Canadian Club, addressing economic anxieties of the time.

Founding Principles and Visionaries

Reflecting on founding principles, Sanford Evans' words resonate: “Let us have a Canadianism broad, deep, intelligent, sane and aspiring, uniting all, no matter what politics or creeds we hold.” Founding members in 1903 included Ottawa tech barons Thomas Ahearn and Warren Soper, lumberman George Perley, George Burn (GM of the Bank of Ottawa), Thomas Birkett (an Ottawa MP), Otto Klotz (future Dominion Astronomer) and House of Commons translator Achille Frechette.

An Iconic Canadian Venue

For 120 years, the Canadian Club of Ottawa has called the historic Fairmont Chateau Laurier,  located at 1 Rideau Street, our home. Notably, the first meeting held there in September 1912 featured Sir George Reid addressing The Australian Commonwealth and its relation to the British Empire.

Looking to the Future

As we reflect on 120 years of the Canadian Club of Ottawa, our gratitude resonates deeply. We extend our sincere appreciation to the Canadians who have entrusted us with this vital platform, allowing us to shape meaningful conversations that echo the pulse of our nation. We look ahead to the future, eager to continue our role in fostering Canadian dialogue for generations to come. Here's to the next century of insightful and thoughtful discussion!