Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Alan Borovoy, civil libertarian (1932-2015)

In memoriam: Alan Borovoy, 1932-2015 - NOW Toronto Magazine - Think Free - Bernie Farber:

"Alan Borovoy General Counsel Emeritus of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), probably Canada’s best-known defender of civil rights, a human rights driver in a career spanning more than 60 years fighting for the little guy, has died.

"Alan was a man of deep principle, stark honesty, razor wit and man with a whole lot of heart for the most vulnerable amongst us.... His fights were often lonely, though arguably he relished being the lone fighter for a cause he believed in. He took on popular concepts that were populated by unpopular people. He cherished freedom of speech as an absolute and in order to defend the concept against new hate laws he had to bear hateful anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers....

"Growing up as a young boy in the downtown core that was the home of many other Jews in the 1930s and 40s, Borovoy learned firsthand what it meant to be a minority. It led him into seeing the world for what it was and his goal was always to try and level the playing field.

It was while he was at the University of Toronto that political schisms most dominated the Canadian Jewish scene. A young Canadian Jewish activist community became fertile ground for an even younger and altruistic Borovoy. He saw how communism could become a destructive force and railed against it, but always with the view to achieve what he called 'a responsible anti-communism'....

"As editor of a Jewish university newspaper, Borovoy held strong to his conviction that free speech trumped everything. He advocated strongly in favour of a letter written by a Communist sympathizer. The establishment came down on him like a ton of bricks but he held strong.

"But perhaps his most controversial stand was as an opponent of Canada’s anti-hate laws. This put him on the outs with the leadership in the Jewish community which strongly supported it. When confronted about the evil of hatemongers, Borovoy’s favorite retort was that 'They should be left to wallow in the obscurity they so richly deserve'....

"And so it went throughout Alan Borovoy’s tumultuous career. Whether it was our nation’s struggle with national security or victimized minorities fight for decent housing; whether it was challenging the police complaints procedures or his battles with the Quebec government over the Oka crisis, Alan Borovoy was our moral barometer."

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