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Chalk-drawn protest in Amsterdam

Political cartoonist Bierman first challenged Nazis on sidewalks

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

VICTORIA, BC — Dutch Canadian political cartoonist Bob Bierman will always be remembered for goading another prominent Dutch Canadian into suing him after he was caricatured pulling wings off flies. That libel suit, launched by then-human resources minister Bill VanderZalm, and future British Columbia premier, was the first ever to be filed over a political cartoon in Canada.

Robert (Bob) Maximillian Bierman died recently at the age of 86. Born in the Netherlands, Bierman, who was part Jewish, survived the Nazi occupation of his country. Even during those dark times, he could not help drawing cartoons. They depicted Nazis and were drawn in chalk on the sidewalks of Amsterdam.

In 1951 Bierman and his wife Angelina immigrated to Canada, where they raised two sons. Bierman worked at various jobs, including as a mill worker and draughtsman. He was offered a regular spot in the Victoria Daily Times in 1956 after sending it a cartoon depicting the installation of the world's tallest totem pole in a local park.

As time passed, Bierman's work became edgier. Issues like the Vietnam War became a flashpoint for opinion. That is when the nose of U.S. President Richard Nixon on Bierman's cartoons began to resemble an altogether different part of the human male anatomy. It became a kind of trademark friends and colleagues still remember with even more fondness than the fly cartoon.

Bierman was often told to tone things down and always refused. Twice he was either fired or quit, but was later rehired.

VanderZalm, who eventually lost his court case against the cartoonist, disliked Biermanís work, although he admits that Bierman was good at what he did. A selection of Biermanís work has been published in an anthology of his work titled 1984: A Collection of Political Cartoons. Over 500 of Biermanís cartoons belong to a Simon Fraser University library.