AbeBooks.com. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.
Feed on

Last Thursday Wendy and I had the privilege and pleasure of seeing Andrew Petter, former Attorney-General, former Dean of the University of Victoria Law School, sworn in as 9th president of Simon Fraser University.

I first met Andrew in the early days of the NDP government in 1991 and we became friends. During those years I had offered constitutional advice to both the government and the Liberal opposition. I did that because I had spent three years, as a cabinet minister, speaking for BC’s interest in the run-up to the patriation of the Constitution. In so doing I had become fast friends with the late Mel Smith, one of the top constitutional lawyers in the country.

In the Fall of 1997 nine premiers, Quebec not represented, came up with what has been called the Calgary Declaration or the Calgary Accord. Premier Clark ad AG Petter asked for my views, After studying it and consulting with Mel I concluded that it was just Meech Lake and the Constitutional Accord revisited to become law without the tiresome annoyance of having to consult the people.

I met the premier and Andrew, in the downtown Vancouver Cabinet offices, preparatory to them bringing a bill into the Legislature,  and gave them my thoughts.

The problem the government faced was that if they supported the Accord, the public would dump all over them for, amongst other things, not holding a referendum. If they opposed it, the Opposition Liberals would call them traitors, a theme that would have been echoed across the land by the Central Canadian media we’re stuck with.

Drawing on my experience over the Patriation issue, I recommended that the government “love it” to death by adding some “motherhood” clauses which, in effect would change the Accord to simply a mushy declaration of warm all over feelings.

My advice was taken, the BC version of the Bill was passed and the Calgary Accord was never heard of again.

Andrew made a marvelous speech which captured the mood perfectly. While my post secondary education was at UBC, (LL.B, 1956) I became a lifetime alumnus of SFU when I was granted a Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa in 2007 and I’ve become interested in the university.

While my interest in UBC, my Alma Mater, was tepid at the best of times it turned to utter indifference when, after my original presention of the scholarship in my name at the School of Journalism I was never asked back! My scholarship and I’m not asked to present it!

This, I’m told, is because in my only presentation I told students that in the real world of Canadian journalism (an oxymoron I agree) they would either self censor or be censored. This, and other incidents I’m sure, incurred the wrath of those who donate to the Journalism School.

This all took me back a decade or so ago when I was asked by the editor of the Annual of the Ryerson School of Journalism, with Carlton the best in Canada, to do their main article. I accepted and was happy to do it for free.

I wrote it with the graduates in mind and I told them that when they got into the real world of journalism. they would face the huge challenge of getting anything published that might offend “the establishment” and that they would have to self censor or be censored.

Some weeks after I submitted it I received a call from the editor and she was embarrassed to tell me that my article “wasn’t suitable”.

“Is it badly written?” I asked.

“No” she replied, “it’s well written but just not suitable.”

“To whom?”, I asked.

“It just isn’t acceptable”, she said, “but I have two suggestions; we will pay you $100 or you can write us another one.”

“No,” I replied, “there’s a third option – you can all go f… yourselves”.

What better example can you have that I was bang on and that Ryerson yielded to the large media interests that help fund the school?

I’m very happy with my “new” Alma Mater which grants honourary degrees to the likes of Alexandra Morton and me and has the good common sense to appoint as President someone whose politics don’t match those of the “establishment” thus risking the ire of those who fund it.

In short, I’m very comfortable being a lifetime alumnus of a university which fosters and carries on the traditions of what a good university should be.

4 Responses to “Andrew Petter becomes President of SFU”

  1. Jeremy Arney says:

    I’m impressed that you have my name already here so I don’t have to bother typing it!
    Rafe you are little older than I but not by much, and you have had a very interesting life it would appear. Who knew you were doctor Mair? Not I. You have managed to do a lot of good, and could easily take a rest now and leave it to the younger folk around to carry on.
    However you and I do have one thing in common and that is a love for Canada and BC which will not allow you to do that.
    I sometimes feel as if I am pushing a mountain up another mountain, and the rubber band is getting frayed; then I remember what you are doing and the passion you show, and I find the will to go on.
    You are an example to me and I am absolutely to sure many others and I will do my very best to be there when you speak in Victoria later this month.
    Bon voyage
    Jeremy Arney
    Victoria BC

  2. BC Mary says:

    SFU is my old school too, Rafe, and I very much appreciate your comments on behalf of Andrew Petter and SFU. I even like it that Jeremy Arney described some of us as being driven to keep working long past our “best before” date because of “a love for Canada and BC” … so true.

    Best wishes all around.

  3. I love the third option you presented to Ryerson; trust Rafe Mair to tell it how it is. Thanks for keeping on keeping on.

  4. Sandra Hoffmann says:

    Well said…
    yielding to the wishes of the funders is just further selling out and magnifying what is already a corrupt system in which the funders have all the voice. It’s a sad day when academic freedom is lost and institutions of supposedly ‘higher’ education are bought out. I’m proud to say that I am also an alumni of SFU… thanks for helping me to realize that.

    Good job Rafe on saying it as it is and exposing the truth. Shame on those journalism schools that want to silence that truth.

Leave a Reply