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November 20, 2023

Letter to the Editor: David McLaren was a friend you could trust

David McLaren

LETTER TO THE EDITOR — The David McLaren I knew forty years ago was a fellow junior bureaucrat in the Ontario Ministry of Health. In an organizational culture noted for both pomposity and duplicity, David stood out as young man dedicated to a few bedrock principles. Clarity in communication was one. Honesty was another. Doing your homework before venturing a grand opinion was yet another.

Some bureaucrats didn’t like David. He made them uncomfortable. He insisted on asking “why” questions before submitting to “how” instructions. He took the rather quaint position that we in government should do what we said we would do.

David brought these same principles to friendship. If you asked him for help, he would give it. If you offered him help, he accepted it with grace. He would not offer you the indignity of false agreement with you, merely to be sociable. He was not querulous by nature, but he could be augmentative if you offered him an argument that was shallow, lazy or stupid. He was a faithful friend to your best nature, not your worst. He was a friend you could trust.

The causes he espoused over the years were the causes of those who had been trampled. His sympathy was not the facile pat on the back while heading somewhere else. If he felt something was wrong and people had been hurt, he needed to discover why they were hurt, how they had been hurt, and what must be done about it. Only then could he turn sterile analysis into practical sympathy.

Decent housing. Adequate income levels. Democratic socialism. Recognition of indigenous rights. A fair green world. These he cared about, just as he cared about the landmark achievements of his wife Lenore, and the journeys and pursuits of his children and Lenore’s children.

The last project he and I worked on together was last year, when he doggedly tried to uncover why seniors in his part of Ontario had the worst rates of access to primary health care in the province. We faced the same obstructionist bureaucracy in which we had earlier wallowed. It felt like old times.

If there is a heaven, David is there now, arguing with its gatekeepers over the innate unfairness of the entrance fees.

John Butler,
Grey Highlands

 


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