Monday, January 11, 2016

The Honourable Howard Pawley: 1934 - 2015

Blog written by Paul Lorilla

On December 30, 2015, The Honorable Howard Pawley passed away.  He was a lawyer, a professor, a provincial minister, the Premier of Manitoba and an Officer of the Order of Canada.  To me, I have always known him as Professor Pawley.

When I arrived at the University of Waterloo, there was only one class I wanted to attend, Professor Pawley’s Canadian Federalism: Past, Present and Future – the one that eventually shaped my path to become a public servant. He was so dedicated to this course that he would show up for a night class in front of 10-12 honours students while traveling to and from Windsor to Waterloo.  He was part of the University’s Stanley Knowles Visiting Professor in Canadian Studies and he had our attention from the moment he showed up on campus.  He was more than a professor, he entertained us with countless stories of his time as a Premier and discussions he had with Prime Minister Mulroney, various international leaders and diplomats, the life of a politician, the NAFTA debates and the Meech Lake Accord. Each class built a momentum that pitted our values and ideals about politics, policy and what it is to be Canadian. To this day, his class atmosphere produced one of the most valuable intellectual debates I have experienced and influenced the lens from which I view public service.  At Waterloo, he observed my passion for human rights, social justice, international development and indigenous issues.  He would often tell me that if there was one thing I could focus on and make a significant difference in the country, I should dedicate my time on indigenous policy – learn the history, build relationships, understand the culture and contribute to progressing our nation.
He is one of the most influential mentors in my life.  When I left Waterloo, he was my reference to attend Carleton University’s M.A. Program at School of Canadian Studies.  He suggested that I intern in various Government departments and one day, my passion may even lead to creating an organization that would help communities outside of Canada.  We did not agree on all things and surely debated his stance on various issues but rest assured, he cared for his students as evident in the way he kept emailing and asking about my family, my studies and my career progression. He was patient and respectful and was always a willing reference and an advisor if need be. He was also a visionary.

In 2003, I joined the federal public service.  I have dedicated more than a decade of my work on indigenous issues and currently a Senior Advisor, Aboriginal Affairs with the Department of Canadian Heritage. I am the Founder and Director of the Isa Mundo Foundation which was launched in 2005.  I know that all these endeavors were shaped in some way by Professor Pawley.  He always believed that I would find a way to contribute, his role was to support and inspire, which he did in countless ways.  In our last encounter, he reminded me to be a strong and compassionate public servant. To always consult, be inclusive and to stand for things I believed in.  I remember him telling me how Isa Mundo is a legacy I should be proud of and to continue the work despite the challenges and stress of directing a non-profit organization.  He said in the future, I will see generations of children and youth who benefited from our projects by providing opportunities to be able to contribute to their families, communities and nations. 

It took some time for me to digest the fact that I would no longer be able to contact Professor Pawley via email or see him in Ottawa from time to time. Upon his passing, I read accolades about his life’s work and I learned how respected and praised he was for his “ability to listen, to consult and to lead gently by consensus”.  As I read tributes for him, I am grateful that I was able to spend time and converse with Professor Pawley and so thankful for his friendship.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau summed it up best that Professor Pawley was "… a remarkable Canadian, widely respected for his championing of human rights, social justice, and economic development … his legacy will live on in the many advances our country has made toward achieving greater social justice for all."

Professor Pawley, through the Isa Mundo Foundation, I vow to continue to help those less fortunate in the world - as you have taught us all.  Rest in peace, you will be missed.
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