Canadian social justice icon Stephen Lewis is speaking at the 30th Anniversary Gala for the Howe Sound Women's Centre taking place at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish on Saturday, April 14.
Lewis, a politician, broadcaster, author, educator and diplomat, is perhaps best known recently for his work as United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and for the work of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which supports dozens of projects in Africa. He is the former leader of the Ontario New Democrats and gave the eloquent eulogy at the funeral of federal NDP leader Jack Layton in August 2011. He is currently the Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto.
Lewis granted Pique an interview, which ran last week and today. Tickets for the gala, which also includes Katrina Pacey of the Pivot Legal Society, may be purchased at www.womeninfluenceourworld.eventbrite.ca
An overview of a 2011 study of conditions for women in the Sea to Sky corridor carried out by the Howe Sound Women's Centre can be read on page 52.
Pique: Was there anything in particular that put you on the political path you've been on?
Stephen Lewis: Yeah, birth! It's a DNA thing, there's no question about it. In my family, if I'd deviated, I would have been disinherited (He laughs).
I lived in a democratic socialist family and I invite the ideology; in my teens I went out to Saskatchewan to see Tommy Douglas and the CCF (Cooperative Commonwealth Federation) at work so I could get a sense of how what I believed in actually got applied.
All my life I've been a socialist. I smile when I read the desperate effort to use only 'social democrat' lest you be impaled by the word 'socialism' — It does not frighten me, I use it proudly. On every platform I've used democratic socialist, particularly in the United States where they have a momentary cardiac arrest.
Pique: Looking at your biography and your work over many decades, how do you maintain momentum? Do you ever have down time?
SL: Michele (Landsburg, Lewis's wife and an author and journalist) and I have three grandsons. (Our oldest daughter) Illana has two little boys and our younger daughter, Jenny, has a little boy who has lived with us from the day he was born. Jenny and Zimri, that's his name, are here at home, and he's now two-years-old. The three boys are Zev, Yoav, and Zimri — all Old Testament names, so I'm told. I'm a Biblical philistine so I don't know (laughing).
...I'm so smitten it's ridiculous. I'm completely crazy about him and we're good friends, and I miss him so much when I'm away that I notice that I'm beginning to curtail my trips so that I have evenings and mornings when I'm at home and can play with him either before he leaves for daycare or comes back.