Editorial: Take a bow ‘Mr. Civil Liberties’

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“No other individual has contributed more to ensuring that the civil liberties that we all hold so dear in this country - and often take for granted - remain a world standard for our way of life.”

That’s Edward Greenspan speaking about Alan Borovoy who retires as general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association on June 30, and was feted last week for his 41 years at the helm of the CCLA.
“He has given so much to this country that we wanted to honour his important achievements and to see him off in style,” said Greenspan.

That they did. No less than Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie; former York University president Harry Arthurs; Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Robert Sharpe; CCLA chairman John McCamus; and incoming CCLA general counsel Nathalie Des Rosiers rained tributes on Borovoy at his gala dinner.
He’s earned it.

According to a press release, the CCLA was formed in 1964 by a group of mostly Toronto citizens who were “alarmed about a proposal by the Ontario government to drastically increase police powers. Since then, the CCLA has spoken out forcefully on hundreds of issues, from film censorship to the rights of welfare recipients, from forced religious teaching in the schools to the rights of political groups to demonstrate in the streets.”

Borovoy joined in 1968 after having worked with other human rights and civil liberties organizations and “from the moment he came on the scene, Alan has been at the forefront in the battle to expand and ensure that civil liberties for all Canadians remain secure.”

Now he’s chosen to step away, and while admitting to Law Times he was overwhelmed by all of the honours, Borovoy gracefully added, “It’s given me the feeling that something in our program has caught on with people, and that’s a very nice feeling to walk away with; that we may have been making more of a difference than I could have realized.”

While he’s handing over the reins others should learn by Borovoy’s example. Listen to Sharpe: “In a way it’s been an ideal legal career devoted to public service. He didn’t go into law to make money; he went into law because he believes in his principles and he was prepared to dedicate his whole life to those principles.”

So, as the old cliché says, “all good things must come to an end.” Des Rosiers will step in on July 1 and she sounds like a great replacement. After all, she was smart enough to say this: “No one replaces Alan Borovoy, and I’m not going to try.”
- Gretchen Drummie

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