Monday, September 15, 2008

Marion Dewar, March 31, 1928 – September 15, 2008

Marion Dewar, lifelong progressive activist, former Mayor of Ottawa, and a simply splendid human being, passed away this morning after a serious fall. She was 80.

Following in his mother's footsteps, her son Paul Dewar is presently running for the NDP in my riding, Ottawa-Centre. My thoughts and sympathies are with him and with the rest of her family at this time.

Marion was President of the New Democratic Party (1985-1987), a Member of Parliament in 1987, Chair of OXFAM Canada in 1995, and a member of the Order of Canada.

Marion was a grassroots kind of person. I recall her on an anti-Cruise missile demonstration, happily participating, walking and singing. She picketed the US Embassy after the US invaded Grenada. Warm and charming, she could also be as tough as nails. When her chairmanship of the Ottawa-Carleton Police Services Board was abruptly terminated in 1995 by Ontario's Premier Mike Harris, she and a fellow board member sued Harris, won, and won again on appeal.

More recently, Marion headed up a Citizens' Panel in Ottawa after the then-mayor, Bob Chiarelli, refused to investigate widespread police brutality at an Ottawa anti-globalization protest in November 2001. Because of her efforts in this respect, which culminated in a final report with substantial recommendations, the Ottawa Police Services were compelled to produce their own document, "An Agenda For Excellence," promising better oversight of police during protests. (A senior police officer told me that it was as close to an apology as we were likely to receive.)

The release of the report led directly to the formation of the Ottawa Witness Group, a community organization that continues to monitor police activities during major events. Marion took part in OWG functions, including a very recent pot-luck dinner, and her presence and wisdom were always appreciated.

I am honoured to be able to say that I was a personal friend of hers. I shall miss her very much.

UPDATE: Commenter LuLu points us to Marion in action (@1:37 and 2:50).


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