"Stunning:"Kiefer Sutherland's reaction to statue of grandpa Tommy Douglas
WEYBURN, Sask. - Socialist icon Tommy Douglas is considered the father of Canada's public health-care system, but he was simply "grandpa" to actor Kiefer Sutherland.
Sutherland travelled to Weyburn, Sask., Douglas's hometown, to unveil a statue of Douglas on Friday.
"This has been such a desire of mine since I can remember. I was about five or six when I started hearing the stories from mother and from my grandma and grandpa about this amazing town," Sutherland told the crowd gathered under overcast skies.
"You have been a part of my life growing up and you certainly have had a huge impact on my family's life and I can never express the depth of the gratitude that I have for all of you."
Rays of sunshine broke through the clouds just as Sutherland reached up to uncover the statue.
"That's just gorgeous!," Sutherland exclaimed, then placed his hand on the hand of the Douglas statue. "I have waited a long time to hold my grandpa's hand again."
He later told reporters it was an emotional moment for him.
"My grandfather died when I was 18 years old and it wasn't until I stood next to that (statue) and kind of could just feel the proximity of the size and the likeness and everything else, how much I missed him and I got sad about that actually for a moment."
Sutherland got a hometown welcome from a star-struck crowd of hundreds, as he signed autographs and cheerfully posed for pictures.
One grinning fan stood next to the "24" star wearing a custom-made T-shirt that said "I'm with Jack Bauer," referring to Sutherland's character on the show. Another gave Sutherland a Saskatchewan Roughriders ball cap.
"I think it's a real historical day for Weyburn, for the province and for the country really," said Wendy Tingle, who waited more than an hour for the unveiling, sometimes under driving rain.
"He's the greatest Canadian," Tingle said of Douglas.
Sutherland said he was flattered by the attention, but not surprised by the number of people who showed up for the unveiling and to pay tribute to Douglas.
Douglas, a former premier of Saskatchewan and a former federal NDP leader, was committed to social reform. Sutherland said his family, including his mother, actress Shirley Douglas, appreciated the recognition from the community.
"It was very funny. My grandpa never wanted a monument. His work was going to be his legacy and I think we all respect that," said Sutherland.
"I think it'll probably mean a lot more to us though."