Birthday Cake with a picture of a fishing rod and fish and the words "Happy Birthday Don" written on it

We have received dozens of emails, letters, notes, poems, telephone calls, social media notes, and greetings from across the country and I wanted to share a few of them (particularly some political and public service ones) with you. I also want to thank David Young, my friend from the Wolfville High School class of 1956 who notified many of our classmates who notes and remembrances I really enjoyed reading.

Like William Barclay , Don is a life-long student and many have benefited from his wisdom -- So in Barclay's words : There are two great days in a person's life - the day they were born and the day we discover why . Don discovered early the why of it and since then has been fulfilling his time with purpose . Happy birthday, dear Don from a friend of old.


Dear Don,
Mila and I are delighted to join with your family and friends in this special celebration of your 80thbirthday. I am a little behind you but we should both take strength from the fact that we are slowly but surely outliving many of our political opponents!

It was a high privilege for me to appoint you to the Senate of Canada where you served with much honor and distinction. Few Senators in the modern history of Canada have devoted as much energy and talent to the institution and fewer still have served their native Province with such unremitting devotion.

It has been a genuine pleasure for me to have met you so many years ago and to have had the pleasure of your company at national caucus and in parliament for so many years.

Please accept our affectionate best wishes and the expression of profound admiration for your magnificent contributions to Canada and to our beloved Nova Scotia.

Yours Sincerely,
The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney

Dear Senator Oliver,

Laureen and I are please to extend our most sincere greetings on the occasion of your 80th birthday.

It is truly a remarkable milestone, and we share in your family and friend’s joy and celebration for this momentous occasion. Through the decades you have lived, you have but a life full of memories to be celebrated and experiences that have been shared by those you love.

Thank you as well for your years of service to Canada in the Senate.

Laureen and I are delighted to join your family and friends in offering our congratulations on this special day,

Right Honourable Stephen J. Harper, P.C.

For the Hon. Donald H. Oliver, Q.C., on the Occasion of His 80th Birthday

Son of Wolfville, grandson of William White (That son of ex-slaves),
to do what is right
Is in Donny's D.N.A. Grandfather
A preacher was; Uncle Bill was rather

A politico; Aunt Portia--renowned
As a chanteuse; Uncle Jack was a crowned
Head of Labour . How would Donny proceed
To buttress family Glory --our need

To demonstrate " Black Excellence" --before
The phrase was ever born? His answer? Sure!
To enter Law, to be schooled in that Estate--
Where Will and Wealth conquer in congregate,

For Status is the secret word--the key--
The code--to Canadian Hierarchy ,
For a born citizen has that status--
Or one has "Landed Immigrant" status--

Or an "Indian" is "Status"--or not,
And "Status of Women" oft's "afterthought"....
But Canucks de couleur have low status
(Unless their incomes show gilt afflatus)....

So Law became Donny's public entree
Into courts--royal blue or sombre grey--
In meting out decisions with moxy
Or verdict contradicted by proxy

Rationales (whatever the Press will buy),
For a trial's always "a good college try"--
To plead that Common Sense is evidence,
Plus History as prec'dent consequence....

Certainly, in the end, political
Debate and Disobedience (Civil)--
Weigh in the balance of swaying jurists
(For whom Study' s like taking Cialis)--

Who may read Latin, glug Scotch, English speak,
Glug more Scotch, and scribe judgements dense as Greek,
Who'll explain that settlers preaching Bible
Truth, wound up with lands formerly "tribal,"

But all's just swell because now "Natives" had
The Bible, while the lands they lost were 'bad"
Under their management. Better the Crown
Own "Native" lands--while they kneel--to the Crown!

That's how Law works, eh? But Donny's difference
Is, he never saw State jurisprudence
As opportune to play Midas as Scrooge--
To take from the poor--to the wealthy deluge,

Or to play "Oreo" or Othello--
To pale or "pass" to be "that fine fellow":
No! He'd decipher legalese and help
Those downtrodden the upper-class would scalp.

Civil litigation was his forte--
To clear out Murk that out-Dantes Dante--
And gravitate toward the Party that
Seemed "true-blue," rather than harlot-scarlet

(Nor a den of yellow-bellied blackguards,
Nor green-eyed brown-nosers tricky at cards,
Nor purple-faced, silver-tongued orators,
Who hiss like snakes, weep like alligators)....

After Acadia and Dalhousie--
Studies in Law backed by Philosophy,
Donny practiced law for 36 years--
And taught Law School to graduate fresh peers--

And snagged a Q.C.--became Queen's Counsel;
Kept Progressive Conservatives Trouble-
Free, legally speaking, through six campaigns
Federal, over two decades. Clear of stains,

Donald H. Oliver, Q.C., was named
To Canada's Senate. Soon, he was famed
For stating, "Visible Minorities
Must help govern all the bureaucracies

Through the Federal Civil Service: No more
Evasions!" For twenty-three years, he swore
And proved Loyalty to this Cause , and thus
Became Speaker Pro Tempore because

Of the esteem with which Senate colleagues
Viewed his championing--in their posh digs--
Of "unequal" Canadians, saying,
"The time is now come for disobeying

Politesse, for only Action matters!"
(How else--ever--a "glass ceiling" shatters?)
A doer because he dreams Utopia--
A doer cos he sought Ethiopia--

Donny Oliver now turns eighty years--
This gentleman, farmer, lawyer, whose careers
Have brought Glory to his family just
Brief generations from Slavery. Cussed

Be all those who ever thought he'd see arrest
By the breathlessly, restlessly prej'diced!
Praise all ye now Donny H. Oliver--
And his beloved wife and beloved daughter.

--George Elliott Clarke, OC, ONS, FRCGS, PhD, LLD 7th Parliamentary Poet Laureate (2016-17)

Très cher ami,
C’her sénateur,

car c’est ainsi que nous nous sommes connus
en 1991.
Vous veniez d’être nommé au Sénat en
septembre 1990.

Vous êtes arrivé à Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu,
au Centre d’immersion en français pour les parlementaires,
situé au Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean. Vous êtes venu avec Linda
et, peu de temps après,
tous les deux, vous avez fait la connaissance
de mon mari Charles
et ce fut, entre nous quatre, le début d’une
belle amitié.

Nous avons tous pris de l’âge
mais, comme le bon vin, notre amitié a bien

Je vous ai appris des mots et des verbes
pour que vous puissiez parler du Sénat canadien, des comités que vous présidiez
et des grandes institutions pour lesquelles
vous avez le plus grand respect.

C’’est pourquoi, votre nomination comme
«président pro tempore» à la Chambre haute,
en 2010, nous a réjouis et émus.

C’’est en français
que vous m’ avez parlé du mois de février,
mois de l’Histoire des Noirs,
et de votre engagement dans la lutte contre
toutes les discriminations.

Vous êtes diplômé en philosophie et vous aimez la littérature
ainsi vous avez écouté, dans nos cours de français, des extraits de L’étranger de Camus.
Je me souviens que vous avez aimé.

C’est en français aussi que vous avez parlé avec enthousiasme de votre chère ferme
qui est devenue pour nous un lieu mythique.

Vous nous avez parlé de vos sapins qui voyagent si loin,
de vos potagers et massifs de fines herbes
et des confitures et autres réalisations culinaires qui parfument votre vaste cuisine.

Nous avons parlé de grands vins et de la douce Bourgogne.

Vous et Linda, Charles et moi
avons partagé d’heureux moments et de savoureux repas.
Nous nous souvenons d’agréables déjeuners au «Tournant de la rivière » et de longs dîners à «L’Imprévu» et chez «Noeser», à Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

Parce que vous aimez l’art, comme toutes les belles choses de la vie, lors d’un court séjour à Québec, avec Charles et moi, vous avez visité des galeries d’art et vous avez acheté un ou deux tableaux de peintres québécois reconnus. Ils se trouvent peut-être aujourd’hui chez vous en Nouvelle-Ecosse.

Nous avons aussi visité une magnifique exposition Colville au Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal et vous avez écrit un article en français sur cette visite.

Nous gardons le souvenir de délicieux repas ensemble au «Caveau» à Montréal et chez «La Mère Michel» … sans crevette!
Enfin, plus récemment, nous étions réunis au restaurant «Roselys» de l’Hôtel Reine Elizabeth.

Depuis presque 30 ans,
toujours un immense plaisir de se retrouver tous les quatre.
Nos conversations, en français toujours,
sont animées, amicales et chaleureuses.

C’est avec beaucoup d’émotion et d’affection que nous vous souhaitons BONNE FÊTE
que nous vous félicitons pour 80 années d’une belle vie bien remplie et riche de tant de réalisations.

Nous sommes heureux d’en faire partie.

Merci pour votre gentillesse à mon égard, comme votre professeur de français. Je me souviendrai toujours de la merveilleuse soirée que vous avez pris le temps d’organiser à mon intention «Chez Noeser» lors de mon départ à la retraite en 2009.
Merci de votre délicate attention à souligner ma modeste contribution comme canadienne lors du Jubilée de diamant de la Reine Elisabeth II en 2012.

Merci pour les égards attentifs et les mots généreux que vous avez eus pour moi en ces occasions inoubliables. Charles et moi vous en sommes très reconnaissants.

Avec nos souhaits les plus chaleureux,

Elizabeth et Charles

Very dear friend,
Dear Senator,

for this is how we met in early 1991.
You had just been appointed to the Senate
in September 1990.

You came to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu,
at the French Immersion Centre for parliamentarians,
at the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean.
You came with Linda
and, shortly after,
you both met my husband Charles
and that led the four of us,
to develop a fond friendship to this day.

Since then, we have all grown older
but, like good wines, our friendship has well matured.

I taught you the words and the verbs
so that you could speak about the Canadian Senate, the committees you chaired
and the grand institutions for which you have the greatest respect.

For this reason, your nomination as «president pro tempore» in the Upper Chamber, in 2010, delighted and moved us.

I listened with interest
as you spoke, in French, of Febuary,
Black History Month,
and I learned of your commitment in the fight
against all discriminations.

You have a university degree in Philosophy and you are fond of Literature
thus I once included in our classes, audio
excerpts from L’étranger by Camus read in French. I remember you enjoyed that.

You told us, in French, about your beloved farm in such enthusiastic words
that your farm has become a mythical place for us.
You spoke of your Christmas trees that travel to faraway places
and of your vegetable gardens and your herb gardens and the jams and other creations that bring sweet scents to your large kitchen.

We spoke of vintage wines and of the beautiful region of Burgundy.

You and Linda, Charles and I
shared many happy moments and savoury meals.
We remember several tasty brunches «Au Tournant de la rivière » and prolonged dinners at «L’Imprévu» and «Chez Noeser», in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

Because you appreciate art, as all fine things in life, once during a short stay in Quebec City, with Charles and I, you visited art galleries and, as I recall, you purchased a painting or two of major Québécois artists. Perhaps they are still in your home in Nova Scotia.

I also recall we visited a magnificent Colville Exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montreal and you wrote an article, in French, following this visit.

We also remember many fine meals together at the «Caveau» in Montreal and at «La Mère Michel» … sans crevette !
Not so long ago, we were reunited at the fine restaurant «Roselys» at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.

For nearly 30 years now,
always an immense pleasure to meet, to get together, all four of us.
Our conversations, always in French,
are lively, friendly and enthusiastic.

It is with much emotion and affection
that we wish you a HAPPY BIRTHDAY
that we congratulate you for 80 years of a lovely and well-fulfilled life rich of so many achievements.

We are happy to have been included.

Thank you for your kindness towards me as your French language instructor. I will always remember the wonderful evening you found the time to organize to honour me «Chez Noeser» when I retired in 2009.

Thank you for your thoughtfulness in emphasizing my modest contribution as a Canadian upon the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II in 2012.
Thank you for the consideration and the generous words you had for me on these unforgettable occasions. Charles and I remain very grateful.

With our warmest wishes,

Elizabeth and Charles

Dear Don,

Happy birthday and welcome to the eighth decade of life on this planet: certainly a great blessing. With thanks to Linda, I am delighted to join with your family and friends in celebrating this wonderful event.

I vividly recall meeting you when you were a fourteen year old adolescent quiet, bright and very polite. I was a nineteen year old sophomore at our beloved Acadia University where your comfortable home was on the border of that beautiful campus. I often wondered what was like for you and your siblings to be the only black family in the town. Occasionally, I caught glimpses of you running across the campus with trumpet in hand en route to a music lesson or merely going to school. I have many good memories of eating occasional Sunday meals at your home with your parents, Shirley, Eugenie, you, Nancy, and David round the table. I also remember the importance of music in your family as evidenced by every child learning to play some instrument.

Since I recall my own grandmother proudly speaking about your grand-father, the Reverend Captain William Andrew White who, while still a seminary student, became one of the founders of my home church in New Glasgow. Another connection I had with your family was through the personal relationship I had with your step-brother, the Reverend Dr. William P. Oliver who was married to my mother’s first cousin, the former Pearline Borden. I often visited them en route home from Acadia. Their encouragement meant a lot to me. He was certainly the paramount leader for racial justice in Halifax and throughout the province at large. I considered him a model I wanted to emulate.

Certainly, your impressive family lineage set a very high bar for you and your generation. Yet, your intelligence, diligence, perseverance and commitment enabled you to expand the legacies of your family beyond Nova Scotia’s borders throughout the far reaches of the Canadian nation. Like your forbearers, however, you never lost sight of your people and the unspeakable injustices inflicted on them for so many generations.

Thank you Don for all your many strivings and notable accomplishments all of which aimed at improving the moral quality of our common life. May God continue to bless you in all your endeavours.

Peter J. Paris
The Elmer G. Homrighausen Professor Emeritus
Princeton Theological Seminary

What a very special day for Don's 80th birthday. Don is truly a great Canadian. He has contributed more to the well being and welfare of Canada that most other Canadians. He was a thoughtful and important advisor to Hon. Robert Stanfield at both the provincial and Federal levels. For over 20 years he contributed to the success of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada as the legal counsel to every Federal election campaign in the 1970's thru to 1990. He was a leading advisor to the Hon. Brian Mulroney in the 1984 and 1988 Federal elections.
He was so highly thought of as a contributor to Canada's success, that Prime Minister Mulroney appointed Don to the Senate of Canada and Don so impressed his colleagues that he rose to the position of Deputy Speaker of the Senate of Canada. In addition, Don travelled to many countries around the world representing Canada and did so in exemplary fashion. He was welcomed everywhere he travelled as someone who represented the best of what Canada had to offer.
I am in Florida for the winter, otherwise I would be there to celebrate this special day for Don, but please extend my best wishes to a truly Great Canadian.
Paul Curley
Former National Director P.C. Party of Canada.

Happy birthday, Senator Oliver!
On this special occasion, I wanted to share how monumental an influence you have had on me. I cherish the deep and engaging conversations we have shared - they have left such a lasting impression. Your greatness of spirit, generous mentorship, and embodiment of higher ideals have been a core inspiration for my path into public service and seeking of a higher calling.
Watching you as you face your illness in the past years has been tremendously moving. Throughout your life, you have been a role model in how to face challenges and adversity with renewed perseverance, grit, and grace. My life has been made richer by your presence, and it has been an honour.
With love and the deepest respect, Mina