CBC Digital Archives

This Hour has Seven Days: Politics, religion, sex and football

In just two seasons between 1964 and 1966, This Hour has Seven Days staked its claim as the most defiant and controversial program in Canadian broadcasting history.~ Created by Douglas Leiterman and Patrick Watson, Seven Days launched a new era of public affairs television, actively taking on the role of the nation's ombudsman and interrogator. Some — including certain members of the CBC brass in Ottawa — called it "sensationalism," "arrogant" and a breach of journalistic neutrality. But Canadians loved it. Millions tuned in every Sunday night at 10 p.m. to watch the show everyone would be talking about the next day. The CBC Digital Archives presents nine complete episodes here, selected from the 50 programs made before the show was cancelled. Due to copyright issues, satirical sketches and songs that originally aired between news segments have been edited out.

media clip
Fresh from a sensitive mission to Africa during the Congo Crisis, Social Credit leader Robert Thompson faces a determined interviewer. Warner Troyer wastes no time: "Are you going to join the Liberal government?" Thompson denies it, explaining his expertise merely made him the right man for the job. Was the trip a reward for supporting the Liberal minority government? No, Thompson says, calling such suggestions petty. Indeed, Thompson says he was proud to stand as an opposition member representing Canada -- particularly in countries where opposition rarely gets much respect. 
• Raised in Innisfail, Alta. in the 1920s and 1930s, Robert Thompson trained as a chiropractor before he joined the RCAF in 1940. In 1944, he was posted to Africa as commander of the newly-formed Imperial Ethiopian Air Force. He remained in public service in Ethiopia and the Sudan for 15 years before returning to Canada in 1958.

• After Ernest Manning urged him to run for the leadership, Thompson took over the top job of Social Credit party in 1961 following a highly contentious battle between the Alberta and Quebec wings of the party. Thompson was elected to federal Parliament in the next election in 1962, as the member for Red Deer, Alta. Despite Warner Troyer's repeated suggestions in this clip that Thompson might join the Liberal government, when Thompson did leave the Socreds in 1967, it was to join the Progressive Conservatives.

• External Affairs Minister Paul Martin Sr. tapped Thompson as an emissary to Africa due to his extensive experience in the region and his friendly relations with many African leaders, including Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. Word of Thompson's appointment to the mission caused quite a stir in the House of Commons, prompting over an hour and a half of debate on the floor questioning why Martin didn't send someone from within his own ministry.

• Just two days after Thompson's appearance on Seven Days, Belgian paratroopers dropped from U.S. planes and a force of white mercenaries drove rebel forces out of Stanleyville, Congo, freeing over 780 hostages held in the city. Thirty hostages, including one Canadian, died in the operation.

• Watch the follow-up on this story in the next week's episode of Seven Days. For background on the newly-independent Republic of Congo, please visit the CBC Digital Archives clip Congo Crisis.
Medium: Television
Program: This Hour has Seven Days
Broadcast Date: Nov. 22, 1964
Guest(s): Billy Joe Booth, Don Estes, John F. Kennedy, Paul-Émile Léger, Ken Lehman, Merle Miller, Angelo Mosca, Gregory Peck, Joseph Ritter, Ralph Sazio, Robert Thompson, June Wilkinson
Host: John Drainie, Laurier LaPierre, Carol Simpson
Reporter: Tom Koch, Warner Troyer, Larry Zolf, Robert Hoyt
Duration: 56:20

Last updated: September 17, 2013

Page consulted on August 7, 2014

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