One of Leaside’s most interesting streets has to be Laird Drive, a major artery running north and south and incorporating the commercial and industrial streetscape (slowly changing) south of Eglinton to the quiet, residential section north of that major dividing line.
As most Leasiders know, Leaside was a thriving railroad community, whose executives seemed to wield great sway in naming local streets.
The Canadian Northern Railway’s dynamic duo, William Mackenzie and Donald Mann, named Laird Drive after William’s close friend, Robert Laird Borden, Prime Minster of Canada from 1911 until 1920. Ironically, another Laird, Alexander, from Scotland, became the first bank manager of the CIBC on Laird Dr.
Robert Laird Borden was born on June 26, 1854 on a farm in Grand Pré, Nova Scotia, the son of Andrew Borden and Elizabeth Laird, by all accounts a remarkable woman who encouraged her son’s studies. Robert became a lawyer and represented the City of Halifax in the House of Commons from 1896 until 1904. He was defeated in the 1904 election, but regained his seat four years later. Notably, Robert Borden was Prime Minister of Canada during the First World War (1914-1918), a time when young Canadians were joining their comrades on the battlefields of France.
In 1917, Borden formed a Unionist Government of the Conservative Liberals on the platform of compulsory military service. He represented his country at meetings of the Imperial War Cabinet and was chief delegate to the Peace Confederation held in Paris in 1919.
From 1918 until 1920, he was Chancellor of McGill University, and then served as Queen’s University’s Chancellor from 1924 to 1930. He also served in a number of diplomatic posts, including leading Canada’s delegation to the League of Nations Assembly in 1930.
After his retirement from political life, Borden became a noted memoirist whose works are still studied today.
Robert Laird Borden died in Ottawa on June 10, 1937, but his name lives on in many streets – Borden, Robert and Laird – in cities and towns across Canada.
Jeanne Hopkins spent most of her life in the historic Henry Farm community of North York. She realized her passion for local history in the Canadiana department of the North York Public Library, where she worked for 27 years. She is the author of many articles and five books of local history.