Former Prime Minister Paul Martin left a phone message with Tom Sutherland’s daughter Kirsten the day before the celebration of life service for the prominent Burlington lawyer, expressing his condolences. The two were once classmates at St. Michael’s College in Toronto.
“Whenever they saw each other, they always recalled the night they spent in jail together in Toronto in 1958,” Kirsten said. “They were marching down the street following a Liberal rally at Massey Hall. My dad had a bugle and was blowing it very loudly in a hospital zone. The paddy wagon arrived, picked them up and took them downtown.
“The next day one of the city newspapers erroneously ran the headline, ‘Paul Martin Jr. blows own horn’,!”
Sutherland died suddenly on Jan. 15 at the age of 79. His service was attended by more than 200 people at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.
One of his greatest thrills was officially introducing Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau at a Liberal rally in the James Street Armories in
May of 1979.
Kirsten remembers meeting several dignitaries including Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chretien, John Turner and Paul Martin while attending political events with her father.
A two-time federal election candidate, Sutherland lost by a huge margin to Progressive Conservative Bill Kempling in 1979, mainly because of anti-Trudeau sentiment that swept the country. But he was able to whittle into that deficit, even though he lost again to Kempling in 1980 when Trudeau came back into power with a majority government.
The 1980 election resulted from the defeat of the Joe Clark Tory government in the House of Commons on Dec. 13, 1979, which also had a peculiar Burlington twist.
Clark, in fact, had been at the Burlington Golf and Country Club that very day, speaking to the Burlington Chamber of Commerce.
He had to fly directly back to Ottawa for the vote, which he lost the same night. He had been Prime Minister for only seven months.
Liberal Party supporters still call it ‘the Glorious 13th’.
Tom served 11 years as a Burlington alderman, five of those also as a Halton Regional Councillor. He was a member of the very first regional council of Halton.
On Jan. 1, 1974, Burlington officially became part of a two-tier government structure, following a debate that raged for a decade before that.
Sutherland was one of the first city aldermen to push for fairer representation for residents living in north Burlington. As a result, when regional government was launched, Burlington then had eight wards, with two representatives from each ward – one to focus on regional matters, and the other on local issues.
During his career, Sutherland worked with people of all political persuasions. Former Burlington deputy-reeve David Coons said he thought there were more Conservatives at the service than Liberals.
Former mayor Walter Mulkewich, a longtime New Democrat, recalled that he and Tom both had the same style of briefcase.
“One night after a council meeting, we each picked up a briefcase and went home,” he said. “It was only then that I discovered the one I took was full of Liberal Party documents.”
Not long after that, Sutherland called him to say he had a briefcase containing materials belonging to the NDP!” They made arrangements to exchange briefcases and laughed about it at Mulkewich’s home over a couple of glasses of wine.
Sutherland had boundless energy, a never-ending curiosity, a deep sense of commitment to community and a passion for politics, but his greatest joy was in singing and entertaining others.
Only a few years ago, he was part of a quintet that performed a tribute to Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams and Nat
King Cole at the Spencer Smith Park gazebo as part of the City’s Concerts In The Park series.
Sutherland first practised family law in Hamilton, then for over 30 years in Burlington. Following his retirement from law practice, he was appointed an Ontario Civil Court Deputy Judge for the cities of Guelph, Burlington, Brampton and Milton.
He was affectionately known as “the Singing Judge”. Sutherland was one of two Canadian representatives at the NATO Youth Conference at The Hague in April of 1966. In the 1980s, he was a Canadian delegate to the United Nations, and addressed the general assembly on behalf of Canada.
Ironically Sutherland, a staunch Liberal, sat in the chair normally reserved for Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the party’s chief rival!
Between 1999 and 2004, he was appointed an elections observer for the U. N. in Ukraine, Armenia, Albania and Montenegro, and an elections supervisor in Kosovo.
Sutherland was involved in the drive to establish an art gallery in Burlington. The Burlington Cultural Centre evenutally opened in the late 1970s. Later the name was changed to Burlington Art Centre and it is now known as the Art Gallery of Burlington.
More recently he was chairman of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre steering committee, which laid the groundwork for the modern facility where his service was held.
His sister Loretta said Sutherland always was an entrepreneur, staking out his territory at the corner of King and James Streets in downtown Hamilton to sell The Hamilton Spectator every day when he was still going to school. He was one of 11 children.
He is survived by his partner, Judith Armstrong; three children: Kirsten (Simon Smith), Derek (Monica Navarro) and Matthew (Paula Lock), their mother Fran Sutherland and four grandchildren.
Written by: Denis Gibbons