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Hugh Guthrie

The Honourable
Hugh Guthrie
Personal details
Born (1866-08-13)August 13, 1866
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Died November 3, 1939(1939-11-03) (aged 73)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Political party


Profession Lawyer

Hugh Guthrie, PC, KC (13 August 1866 – 3 November 1939) was a Canadian politician and Cabinet minister in the governments of Sir Robert Borden, Arthur Meighen and R. B. Bennett.

He was born in Guelph, Ontario, the son of Donald Guthrie, and studied there and at Osgoode Hall, becoming a barrister. Guthrie was named a King's Counsel in 1902. He married Maude Henrietta, the daughter of Guelph businessman Thomas H. Scarff.

Guthrie was first elected to the House of Commons as a Liberal in 1900 from the riding of Wellington South. He sat in Wilfrid Laurier's caucus for 17 years, but crossed the floor to join the Unionist government of Robert Borden as a result of the Conscription Crisis of 1917. The former Liberal backbencher became a leading light in his new party, serving as Solicitor General under Borden. With the end of World War I, most Liberal-Unionists either rejoined the Liberal Party or joined the new Progressive Party. Guthrie, however, stayed with the Conservatives, becoming Minister of Defence and running for re-election as a Conservative in the 1921 election. After the election, he joined the Tories on the Opposition benches.

As a result of the 1926 "King-Byng Affair", Meighen's Conservatives formed a government in which Guthrie served as Minister of Justice and Minister of National Defence. This second stint in Cabinet ended with the defeat of the Meighen government in that fall's election. Meighen lost his seat, and Guthrie served as Leader of the Opposition and interim leader of the Conservative Party for a full year.

Guthie sought the party leadership at the

Bennett led the Tories to victory in the 1930 election, and Guthrie was appointed Minister of Justice and Attorney General. In 1931, he led the Canadian delegation to the League of Nations. In 1933, he introduced legislation making it illegal to carry a concealed weapon without authorization. In 1935, he clashed with opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Agnes Macphail who demanded an inquiry into inhumane conditions in Canada's prisons such as the whipping of prisoners.

Hugh Guthrie in earlier years

As the Great Depression worsened and millions were unemployed, the government became increasingly concerned about political instability and the growth of radical movements. Guthrie's department was responsible for the persecution of the Communist Party of Canada, and the arrest and incarceration of Communists, including leader Tim Buck, for sedition.

In 1933,Tim Buck was shot at by soldiers in an apparent assassination attempt while he was in his cell during a prison riot. Guthrie was forced to admit that the attack was deliberate, but claimed the intent was only to frighten him; however, the public outcry at this incident lead to Buck being released.

In 1935, unemployed workers in British Columbia's deserted the remote relief camps established by the Bennett government, and began the "On to Ottawa Trek". Thousands of unemployed workers

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