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Paul Martin rediscovers his father's Pembroke roots

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

The Right Honourable Paul Martin took a poignant, sometimes emotional, journey into his family’s past Friday retracing his father’s Pembroke upbringing during a visit to the Champlain Trail Museum.


The nation’s 21st prime minister was overwhelmed as he looked over a special display of photos, books and memorabilia that documented not only Paul Martin Sr.’s Pembroke lineage but the extended family, the roots of which run deep in the area.

Prior to addressing the Algonquin College convocation ceremony, where he received an honorary degree on behalf of his late father, Martin was led on a whirlwind tour of the museum by Ottawa Valley Historical Society board member Sylvia Whitmore.

“This is a wonderful museum,” the 78-year-old exclaimed afterwards. “Pembroke is incredibly fortunate to have this museum.”

Many of the artifacts provided to the museum came from Martin’s aunts, who remained in the area long after his father had left Pembroke and was subsequently elected to Parliament in 1935. The Martin family had initially moved here in 1904. With the city declaring Friday “Paul Martin Sr.” Day, Mayor Mike LeMay was on hand to present the formal proclamation to the prime minister. In his remarks, LeMay said that Martin Sr. is still not only highly regarded for his political accomplishments but for the genuine love that he had for Pembroke.

“Paul Martin Sr. is a part of that history,” said LeMay. “Raised in Pembroke, he went on to become a distinguished political figure. We, the people of Pembroke, are appreciative that you have allowed us to make this proclamation honouring your father.”

To commemorate the visit, Martin was present with a canoe woodcarving by award-winning Pembroke carver Karl Stang from the museum's curator, Angela Siebarth, and museum chairman Phil Corriveau. A humbled Martin could not say enough about how much he has appreciated these gestures.

“I cannot tell what this means to me and what it means to my family,” he said. “You have done such honour to my father. I don’t what I can possibly say to even measure up to one tenth of what you have all done except to say I am so grateful.”

Arriving in Pembroke Thursday to attend an informal dinner hosted by Fred and Barbara Blackstein, Martin recounted how emotional it was to see the street signs for “Paul Martin Drive,” a roadway named for the former external affairs and health minister that he unveiled in 1994, two years after his father died.

“In my mind, there is only one Paul Martin and that is my dad,” Martin added. 

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