John W. Dafoe, editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, is the greatest Canadian of his time. The mark of it is on the outside of the man -- the huge, roughcast figure, the shaggy head of reddish hair, the carved-stone face. It is in his slow quiet speech, his power of writing, his prodigious memory, his uncanny grasp of men and events, his refusal to accept office, honor, or rewards. It is in the record of his life. That record, because it is so largely the record of his time, must be examined by everyone who wants to understand Canada, where it came from and where it is going in the world.
For nearly fifty years Mr. Dafoe has been doing a large part of Canada's thinking. Day in, day out, he has sat down in his littered office and slowly, with the stub of a pencil, has scrawled his closely reasoned and documented editorials. These, for their accumulative effect on Canadian politics, might almost have been the commandments written on tablets of stone and brought daily out of the wilderness. What Mr. Dafoe said today will be said all over Canada tomorrow, echoed in other newspapers, stolen by scores of journalists, voiced in Parliament, often denied by the government and quietly incorporated in government policy. In his own field of Canada, Mr. Dafoe has been more influential than any corresponding journalist in the British Commonwealth -- a last rugged relic of the days of personal journalism, when men like Greeley, Dana, and Watterson flourished in the United States.