One of Canada’s greatest journalists shares a half century of the stories behind the stories.
From his vantage point harnessed to a tree overlooking the town of Huntsville (he tended to wander), a very young Roy MacGregor got in the habit of watching people—what they did, who they talked to, where they went. He has been getting to know his fellow Canadians and telling us all about them ever since.
From his early days in the pages of Maclean’s, to stints at the Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen, National Post and most famously from his perch on page two of the Globe and Mail, MacGregor was one of the country’s must-read journalists. While news media were leaning increasingly right or left, he always leaned north, his curiosity trained by the deep woods and cold lakes of Algonquin Park to share stories from Canada’s farthest reaches, even as he worked in the newsrooms of its southern capitols. From Parliament to the backyard rink, subarctic shores to prairie expanses, MacGregor shaped the way Canadians saw and thought about themselves—never entirely untethered from the land and its history.
When MacGregor was still a young editor at Maclean’s, the 21-year-old chief of the Waskaganish (aka Rupert’s House) Crees, Billy Diamond, found in Roy a willing listener as the chief was appealing desperately to newsrooms across Ottawa, trying to bring attention to the tainted-water emergency in his community. Where other journalists had shrugged off Diamond’s appeals, MacGregor got on a tiny plane into northern Quebec. From there began a long friendship that would one day lead MacGregor to a Winnipeg secret location with Elijah Harper and his advisors, a host of the most influential Indigenous leaders in Canada, as the Manitoba MPP contemplated the Charlottetown Accord and a vote that could shatter what seemed at the time the country’s last chance to save Confederation.
This was the sort of exclusive access to vital Canadian stories that Roy MacGregor always seemed to secure. And as his ardent fans will discover, the observant small-town boy turned pre-eminent journalist put his rare vantage point to exceptional use. Filled with reminiscences of an age when Canadian newsrooms were populated by outsized characters, outright rogues and passionate practitioners, the unputdownable Paper Trails is a must-read account of a life lived in stories.