Hon. Eugene Whelan

Eugene “Gene” Francis Whelan was a local politician, most famous for his role as Canada’s Minister of Agriculture.

He was born on July 11, 1924 in Amherstburg, Ontario to a farming family and began his political career at the age of 21, when he was elected trustee for the Separate School Board, subsequently becoming a councillor and then a reeve for Anderdon township. He was made the warden of Essex County in 1962. That was also the first year he was elected to the House of Commons, in the then-riding of Essex South.  He won the next 8 federal elections, serving from 1962 to 1984.

During his time in the House of Commons, Whelan was known as a folksy politician who would “tell it the way it was” and for his trademark green Stetson hat. He was appointed the Minister of Agriculture by Pierre Trudeau and served in this position from 1972 to 1984. In 1983, Whelan was asked to arrange a 3-week tour of Canadian farms for his counterpart from the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. It was at the final reception for Gorbachev, hosted at Whelan’s house, that perestroika was born, according to sources.

In 1984, Prime Minister John Turner appointed Whelan to be the ambassador of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. In 1987, for his meritorious service to the people of Canada, Whelan was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He was appointed to the Senate in 1996 and served until mandatory retirement in 1999.

Eugene Whelan died at his home on Feb. 19, 2013 and is buried at St. John Cemetery, Amherstburg.


Nobody’s going to fill his hat (21 February 2013) Windsor Star, p. A1, A5

“No bull” Whelan stood up for the little guy, ex-PM says (21 February 2013) Windsor Star, p. A5

Eugene Whelan. Fonds. Library and Archives Canada.

Eugene Whelan dead at the age of 88 (20 February 2013) Maclean’s as viewed on April 29, 2020

The Hon. Eugene Whelan, P.C., O.C., Senator, as viewed on Apr. 30, 2020

Former Agriculture Minister Eugene Whelan Dead at 88.  (February 19 2013) CBC. As viewed on Apr. 29, 2020

Whelan, Eugene F. Whelan: the Man in the Green Stetson. Toronto: Irwin, 1986