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Dr. Edward Broadbent (1936-2024)

Doctor of Laws, honoris causa

Dr. Edward Broadbent's principled stand on poverty reduction, fair labour practices, commitment to democratic principles and human rights, as well as his lifetime of contributions to the betterment of Canadian society, has made him a model and inspiration to all of our graduates.

As one of Canada's most distinguished politicians and political scientists, Dr. Broadbent has made an indelible impact on Canada's political landscape. First elected to Parliament in 1968 from his hometown Oshawa riding, he was Leader of the New Democratic Party from 1975 to 1989, and was a Member of the Canadian Parliament for 23 years. Throughout his period of leadership, he was known for his work for an equitable tax system, equality for women, and the constitutional entrenchment of aboriginal rights. Frequently during the 1980s, as reflected in national opinion polls, he was the leader most Canadians preferred to see as Prime Minister. In his final speech in 1989 he moved a motion, which was adopted unanimously, committing the government of Canada to end poverty for Canada's children by the year 2000. He returned briefly to Parliament as the member for Ottawa Centre from 2004-2006. As a political figure he earned a reputation for fairness, integrity, and strength of character, working tirelessly to improve government and society.

As one of Canada's most distinguished citizens, Dr. Broadbent has also been an active contributor to important public policy decisions outside of the House of Commons. From 1990 to 1996, he was the first President of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development in Montreal (now called Rights and Democracy). During his time at the Centre, he worked with those involved in the struggle for democratic rights in Kenya, Guatemala, Burma, and a number of other developing countries. In 1993 he was one of the four international judges on the Tribunal on Violations of Women's Human Rights at the United Nations Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. In 1994 he served as a member of the panel of experts on the International Tribunal on Rights in Haiti. In addition he has also demonstrated his commitment to the voluntary sector, serving as co-chair of a national inquiry on Governance and Accountability in Canada's Voluntary Sector. He is also a member of the board of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Dr. Broadbent has also retained strong links with academic life and has steadfastly supported postsecondary education in Canada. In 1996, he was a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford University. Following that he held the J.S. Woodsworth Chair at Simon Fraser University and was a Visiting Professor at McGill. He then became Skelton-Clark Fellow in the department of Political Studies at Queen's University, where he is now a Fellow in the School of Policy Studies. In 2001 he published Democratic Equality: What Went Wrong? and has authored a number of articles and chapters of books in academic publications in Canada and Britain. He has been a guest lecturer at several Canadian universities as well as at Oxford and Edinburgh in Britain; Brown, Harvard and the University of Texas in the United States; and, Calcutta and New Delhi in India.

Dr. Broadbent was made a member of the Privy Council in 1982. In recognition of his lifetime of achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1993 and promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2002. In 2005 the Globe and Mail selected him as the Nation Builder of the Year, in particular citing his emphasis on civility in politics and his work on electoral reform. A year later, Time magazine named him as one of Canada's exceptional citizens.