Mémoires des Montréalais
Written by Roger La Roche
May 04, 2017
Some time after their appointments, the new commissioners quickly proceeded with a call for tenders to determine the Expo 67 logo and to develop its graphic representation both on the event site and on the publications of the Canadian Company of the 1967 World’s Fair. But what must have been a quick and simple operation took on unimaginable political proportions, even being debated acrimoniously in the Canadian Parliament.
In early 1963, the Company mandated Guy Beaudry, Communications Manager, to prepare a logo project. He selected to work with communications firm Y. M. & B Advertising Art Ltd. A few months later, about twenty sketches are presented to the board of directors: the members retain two for further analysis, but remain dissatisfied with the final result. At the beginning of June 1963, Claude Robillard, director of planning, was asked to propose a selection of graphic art experts to submit an emblem for the Expo. Five of them respond to Robillard’s request and present a logo project; Frank Lipari, Ernest Roch, Alan Fleming, Jacques Guillon and Julien Hébert.
But Paul Bienvenu, the first general commissioner, had already chosen one of the logos proposed by designers Y. M. & B and does not look favorably on the steps taken by Robillard. The Commissioner General convenes the executive office at the end of June to adopt one of the projects submitted by the communications firm, and presents the ideas to the members in attendance, but the quorum was not reached that day, and the decision is therefore overturned. It should be noted that Claude Robillard was not invited to this meeting of the office. Meanwhile, the projects from the artists were submitted to the Canadian Company of the World Expo in 1967, and Robillard is delighted by the proposal of Julien Hébert.
Forward to the meeting of the Board of Directors of the Company of August 10, 1963, held the day before the ceremonies and marking the beginning of the construction of the islands and attended by the Prime Ministers of the Canada and Quebec. Claude Robillard then only presents Julien Hébert’s project (the other proposals were not submitted to the directors). Paul Bienvenu intervenes from the beginning to make his choice, that is to say one of the proposals of the firm Y. M. & B. This intervention by the Commissioner General is not well received by members of the Board of Directors who remind him that the President, that is to say the Commissioner General himself, does not have the right to vote, except for to separate the voices. Despite this, Carsley, the Assistant Commissioner, and Beaudry, a member of the Board of Directors, support the choice of Bienvenu.
After a long discussion on the two logos, the Bureau adopts, by a majority vote, the proposal of Julien Hébert. The Company now has its logo and can start to make it known to the world … at least that’s what we believe. A few months later, in Ottawa, MPs have a generalized “repulsion” when they see the emblem of the Canadian exhibition for the first time.
The proposal of Julien Hébert, renowned industrial designer and professor at the Institute of Applied Arts, is based on an ancestral representation of man: eight elements based on an old cryptogram representing man standing, his arms extended to the top, are gathered in pairs — which means friendship and universal solidarity – and are grouped in a circle that symbolizes the Earth. Simple, modern and above all easy to understand, the symbol of the Expo is challenged by a number of politicians of all names, clearly demonstrating their total lack of sensitivity or even artistic education…
Protect the logo property
This event, however, results from a simple formality: the basic symbol of Hébert’s logo, the man with outstretched arms, can not be protected by a simple copyright, because it is a universal symbol found in the public domain. However, the Company has the firm intention of protecting the ownership of the logo, to avoid its improper use and to guarantee its own income resulting from the multiple licenses of uses, commercial or not. To do this, the leaders benefit from an amendment to the law of the Company, which must be presented to the Canadian Parliament in December 1963: they include the logo, in the form of an appendix, to the text of the law, thus making much stronger the copyright protection associated with the logo. This turns out to be a bad idea…
On December 6, 1963, Jean-Paul Deschatelets, Minister of Public Works and member of the cabinet responsible for the Expo, introduced Bill C-120 (with a reproduction of the logo attached) to modify the restrictions on the site of the Expo, and making a few other changes, including the addition of two directors to the Company’s Executive Committee.
Blue logo modified
On December 20, at the second reading of the bill and after several hours of debate, the leader of the official opposition, John Diefenbaker, rises in the room and says, “… what brain produced this appendix? This appendix is most interesting. This is the emblem of the exhibition and I wonder what is its purpose. What is the meaning? I presume it takes an artist’s temperament to understand it, but I must say that it is difficult to interpret. In my childhood, we used to draw men with two or three lines. It was very simple. Our artistic notions stopped there. For me, the emblem is an artistic monstrosity. I would have thought it was a good time to place a maple leaf in the centre of the emblem to bring out the Canadian character. I have never seen such a monstrosity. Canada will be ridiculed. Nothing represents Canada, indirectly or otherwise. Could the honourable representative re-read the description of the nightmares that haunted the artist while he was giving birth to this thing, because it was not easy to follow. Canada will be represented, we are told, by an emblem contrary to all the principles of the Canadian nation. I say that we must reject this symbol.”
MPs get carried away
It follows a long and painful series of speeches by several of the deputies, mostly those of the opposition, who make statements all more far-fetched than the others: “I am surprised that the minister accepts this symbol, because it is strangely similar to the insignia displayed by a certain movement against nuclear weapons” – Louis-Joseph Pigeon
“Is the minister serious when he tells us that this strange emblem will be reproduced everywhere for the World Expo? Thank God! it takes place in Montréal and not in Toronto. – Val Scott (MPP Toronto)
“I do not know all or most of the origin of this symbol, but I think, like the Leader of the Opposition, it is atrocious. It looks like a beatnik symbol and I think the symbol chosen for the World Expo should symbolize the country at the same time” – Gerald A. Regan
Minister Deschatelets repeatedly tried to explain the meaning of the symbol, while pointing out that it is not Parliament’s responsibility to pose as an art critic, and it was a waste of everyone’s time. Eventually Diefenbaker’s amendment is accepted, by simply removing the schedule. A smart gesture on the part of the minister, which removes the opportunity for Parliament to simply refuse the logo. This amendment could have had inconceivable consequences, which the Leader of the Opposition did not digest very well. It should be noted that a few members had spoken positively.
A successful approach
Back in Montréal, there were anxious feelings – the official flag of the Expo had been flying on Île Sainte-Hélène for several months. As Pierre Dupuy is absent, it is Deputy Commissioner Shaw who decides, for the time being, not to confront Parliament and to resume procedures for choosing a new logo. After all, the Canadian Exhibition Company is a Crown Corporation and reports to the Governor General of Canada (and therefore to the Canadian Parliament). His approach becoming politically motivated.
A few days after the release of the opponents to Parliament, the Deputy Commissioner asks Senator Louis Gélinas (head of the Fine Arts Committee of the Expo) to set up a working group that will analyze rejected proposals and choose the new logo, replacing that of Julien Hébert. A group of four experts is chosen: Ms. Marcoux-Bélanger, art collector of Montréal; André Prier, director of Canadian Art magazine; John Perkins, Chair of the National Council of Industrial Design and Evans Turner, Director of the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts.
During their first meeting, the members of this sub-committee of experts clarify their mandate themselves, starting by asserting that the logo submitted by Hébert complies in every respect with the graphic rules and acceptable to represent the Expo 67. However, they agree to review all the proposals to determine if one of them would be more appropriate.
Opposition to the control of art
Meanwhile, the debate has now moved to a public sphere, and everyone is making their comment – the majority being rather against the position of the deputies. The Society of Interior Decorators of Quebec strikes the strongest when it sends a telegram to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition denouncing the interference of Parliament in this file. It reads as follows: “This precedent should not excuse a dirigisme in art as in intellectual expression, as happened in some countries with authoritarian government. Unfortunately, this danger can not be eliminated if we consider the decision made by the Canadian government. The control of art by the Nazis and its consequences is still very present in the collective memory of its creators”
Prime Minister Pearson himself is rather uncomfortable. He says a few days later that “it is always difficult for a legislative assembly to decide on matters of art”. He adds: “I would not be surprised if a small group of artists attacking the design of an emblem can achieve better results than the House despite all its talents. He explained to the Commons that the government is considering holding a national competition while specifying that the original logo of Julien Hébert can be submitted again. This commitment by the Prime Minister is all Pierre Dupuy needs.
After a few meetings, the subcommittee set up by Senator Gélinas maintains the decision of the Company’s office and recommends keeping the Hébert logo. However, it does not oppose the organization of a national competition, especially, since the rejection of the logo by the Parliament, the Company is awash with spontaneous proposals of artists and ordinary citizens. In the meantime, Hébert’s proposal is getting more and more support, especially from professionals. At the Quebec Congress of Architects, John Lovat Davies, President of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, said: “It is hardly reassuring that some of the representatives of the Canadian people have so cavalierly rejected the symbol of first order that had been designed for the Expo. If you want maple leaves for Expo, plant trees!”
In the end, John Diefenbaker received a masterful dismissal from the Canadian Exhibition Company, and especially from Commissioner General Dupuy. At the 23rd meeting of the Board of Directors of the Company, March 12, 1964, the latter adopts the logo of Julien Hébert again and disdains the opinion of Parliament. The decision is justified by an economic argument: holding a national competition will take several months; however, each week that passes, causes losses for the Company which cannot pay the rights of use of the emblem of the Expo. In addition, the Communications Department needs the graphic identity of the Exhibition for its brochures and other documents. The deadlines would be disastrous for the financial health of the Company.
An affront to Parliament
Learning about this through the newspapers, Diefenbaker is furious. He expresses a virulent tone in Parliament by specifying that in his opinion this fact “constitutes an outrage and an affront to Parliament”. He says: “This is the decision made by the directors of the World Expo, the Centennial Exhibition of Canada, to which Parliament is contributing, to ignore Parliament’s directive and to use the emblem that Parliament had removed from the bill. To me, it is an arrogant affront to Parliament. These people may not believe us to be good judges in art, but we provide a lot of money for the exhibition. What the Leader of the Opposition did not realize was that his December amendment was limited to removing from the bill the schedule containing the emblem design. Under no circumstances was the Company required to have Parliament approve the symbol it proposed again.
But the debate is closed. Diefenbaker will not forget this affront and will try later to damage the reputation of the members of the Company, and more particularly that of Pierre Dupuy, by accusing them of wasting taxpayers’ money by their exorbitant wages as well as by excessive spending allowances associated with “princely” travel by the Commissioner and his deputy.
Hammering home to the opponents of the logo, its author, Julien Hébert receives a few weeks later an official recognition from a New York jury, winning a special mention at the exhibition of the Art Directors Club of Montréal. This contested logo is now part of the historic heritage of Montréal and Canada.
© Archive Canada fonds Compagnie Canadienne de l’exposition universelle de 1967
© Archive Canada fonds Canadian Company of the 1967 World’s Fair
Many thanks to Roger La Roche
for allowing us to re-post this article.