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"TRY" 2008 Obituary


TRYON o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2008-05-16 published
Ottawa insider was at the centre of the October Crisis of 1970
Schoolteacher who joined the Privy Council Office thrived in the inner sanctums of power. He served five prime ministers, including Pierre Trudeau, whom he considered a friend
By Buzz BOURDON, Special to the Globe and Mail, Page S8
Ottawa -- It was the beginning of the October Crisis, and Jack CROSS was secretive when he called home to say he wouldn't be there for dinner. "I can't tell you why," he told his wife, Doris. "I'll be home when I can."
The date was October 15, 1970, and the federal cabinet was meeting to consider proclaiming the War Measures Act after the terrorist group Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) had kidnapped British trade commissioner James Cross and Quebec labour minister Pierre Laporte.
A few hours later, the government went ahead and Mr. CROSS, the assistant clerk of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada (orders-in-council), played a unique role in a drama that would divide opinion from coast to coast. Some people believed the government had overreacted by suspending basic civil rights, while others applauded prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau for protecting Canadians from an insurrection.
A career civil servant who had worked for six prime ministers from Mackenzie King to Mr. Trudeau, Mr. CROSS watched anxiously from Parliament Hill as the drama unfolded. Wondering whether "this still could be Canada," he waited while Mr. Trudeau consulted his advisers.
"Canadians might've been accustomed to uniforms and arms during wartime, but to have them appear in peacetime gave one an uneasy feeling," Mr. CROSS said decades later.
Finally, at 3 a.m., Mr. CROSS got his orders. Mr. Trudeau may have decided to proclaim the act, but certain legalities had to be observed. Mr. CROSS would drive to Rideau Hall and get it signed by Governor-General Roland MICHENER.
That short trip was not without drama, Mr. CROSS said in 1996. Within minutes, his armed bodyguard noticed that a car seemed to be tailing them. "When it got alongside, it slowed down, which made him very nervous. It stayed with us a little while, then sped away."
A few minutes later, Mr. CROSS arrived at Rideau Hall and was ushered in to see Mr. MICHENER, who was waiting in his dressing gown and pyjamas. As the Queen's representative in Canada, he wasn't going to sign something he was uncertain about, so Mr. CROSS had to some explaining. "He had some hesitation about signing a document that strong," Mr. CROSS said.
Mr. CROSS then had to go to the Queen's Printer to get the act printed. The final legality was to affix the Great Seal of Canada to the original. By that time, it was 6 a.m. Even so, his night was not over.
Back on Parliament Hill, 35 reporters clamoured for details as the sun came up. Mr. CROSS's boss, Gordon ROBERTSON, the clerk of the Privy Council, agreed that he and Mr. CROSS would answer their questions.
After Mr. ROBERTSON spoke, Mr. CROSS took over. Described in that day's edition of the Ottawa Citizen as a "second spokesman," he outlined the act's history. It had been invoked only twice, and that was during each world war.
"It is a blunt instrument. If we had had more emergencies, graduated instruments with dealing with certain kinds of emergencies might have been developed," he told the reporters. "But now it is the whole damn thing or nothing. Once proclaimed, it is up to the government to exercise discretion - the powers used should be commensurate to the conditions."
It had been an unforgettable night, both for Mr. CROSS and for Canada. By the time the impromptu press conference was over, Montreal police were already rounding up the first 500 people. Mr. CROSS went home for breakfast and then returned to work. Tragically, Mr. Laporte was found murdered on October 17, while Mr. CROSS of Britain was released unharmed December 3.
The son of Wesley CROSS and Louisa CROSS, he was the youngest of eight children raised on a farm near Chesterville, Ontario, a village located just west of Cornwall. After high school, he attended Ottawa Teachers College and graduated in 1934. His first assignment was to teach at a one-room schoolhouse near Chesterville. He remained there for several years and left teaching to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force after the outbreak of the Second World War. He served in a secret radar group attached to a night squadron in Yorkshire, England.
After demobilization, he started work with the Privy Council Office on February 1, 1945, the day after he was interviewed. "I had never heard of it. One of their men had left the previous day and they wanted him replaced as quickly as possible. It was just a matter of timing," Mr. CROSS told his cousin Clarence.
Then numbering only 35 people, the Privy Council Office was housed in the East Block of Parliament Hill. During the war, it had issued 12,000 orders-in-council per year, but a radical reorganization was needed and Mr. CROSS played a part in that, editing and publishing orders and regulations.
Mr. CROSS met about everyone in government, including Mackenzie King, who visited "at least once a year. He'd sit by the window, and reminisce about what he had done in his past and about government. It was always a very friendly visit."
Meanwhile, he had met someone else who ended up being very important. Some time in 1953, a friend invited him to go bowling, where he encountered an attractive young woman named Doris. Little did he know that they had been set up by his friend, who had decided to play matchmaker. They began seeing each other and romance bloomed. They married in 1955.
Over the next 31 years, Mr. CROSS built an enviable reputation as a senior civil servant, a behind-the scenes expert in many areas, including the documentation and protocol for the appointment and installation of ministers of the Crown and provincial lieutenants-governor.
Working for such famous privy council clerks as Arnold Heaney, Jack Pickersgill and Mr. ROBERTSON, he knew of developments long before they became public knowledge. He kept those secrets to himself. "He was a very private man who believed strongly in his official oath of secrecy," said his daughter, Catherine TRYON. "He knew what was going on before it happened, he knew about cabinet shuffles, and when an election was to be called."
One day in 1967, Mr. CROSS inadvertently let the cat out of the bag. He prematurely informed Mr. Trudeau that he was promoted to minister of justice. Prime Minister Lester Pearson had arrived later than expected from a trip and hadn't had time to ask Mr. Trudeau to accept the portfolio. "Mr. Trudeau, realizing my embarrassment, quickly assured me he would express surprise [to Mr. Pearson] later that morning."
Ms. TRYON realized her father knew a lot of important people, but "he was just my dad. I admired him for being a kind and loving father, devoted to his church, community, country and family. He didn't care about someone's rank, background or accomplishments. What he respected most was kindness, honesty and generosity."
Working at the highest level of government didn't mean Mr. CROSS, who cherished Canada's system of parliamentary democracy, lost his humanity. In the 1960s, he was able to cut red tape at two federal departments - Veterans' Affairs and National Defence - when they denied a terminally-ill woman the Canadian Memorial Cross 20 years after her adopted son was killed during the war.
At the time, only natural mothers could receive the award. Within three days, Mr. CROSS had the definition of "mother" changed, and the woman received her silver cross.
The last prime minister Mr. CROSS worked for was Mr. Trudeau, whom he met in 1949 when the latter was hired by the Privy Council Office. Their offices were two doors apart on the East Block's third floor and they soon became Friends. In fact, they may have been distantly related. Mr. Trudeau's mother was Grace ELLIOT/ELLIOTT while Mr. CROSS's mother was Louisa ELLIOT/ELLIOTT.
"They worked together, bowled together and according to my father 'even did some girl watching together.' Years later, Pierre would tell my father's staff, 'I used to work for Jack too!' " said Ms. TRYON.
After Mr. CROSS retired from the Privy Council Office in 1976, Mr. Trudeau paid him a singular tribute. "I hold Jack CROSS in high regard. He is a devoted, talented man, a friend who gave me my first job."
For his decades of devoted service, Mr. CROSS was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 1985. His citation mentioned his 1973 book, Guide to Canadian Ministries since Confederation July 1867-April 1973.
After working as a consultant, Mr. CROSS and his wife moved back to Chesterville in 1981. He spent his retirement with various community organizations such as the Shriners and Rotary. He also liked to play bridge and putter around his house.
Jack Lester CROSS was born in Chesterville, Ontario, on May 6, 1911. He died of natural causes in Ottawa on March 25. He was 96. He leaves his wife, Doris, daughter Catherine, sister Dorothea and five grandchildren. His son, Ronald, predeceased him.

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