Former Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar has died

Former Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar has died
Kelly Egan
February 6, 2019
February 6, 2019 8:51 PM EST
Paul Dewar.Tony Caldwell
Paul Dewar died on Wednesday, a year after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer — a battle he fought with a riveting, emotional openness, even leaving a touching deathbed message of gratitude and hope.
“The time has come for me to say goodbye,” the former Ottawa Centre MP said in a final Facebook message posted just after 6 p.m.
“I want to say thank you. My whole life was filled with the kindness of the people of Ottawa, but never did I feel the true depth and generosity of your love more than this past year. You were a constant source of comfort and solidarity for me and my family. I am so grateful for all that you have done.
“I told you that I thought my illness was a gift and I genuinely meant that.”
Dewar, 56, was diagnosed with Stage 4 glioblastoma in February 2018, an aggressive form of brain cancer that took the life of Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie in 2017.
He leaves behind his wife of 25 years, Julia Sneyd, and two sons, Nathaniel and Jordan, all with him when he died just after 5 a.m.
The outpouring was immediate, widespread and tearful, as Dewar was a one-time pillar of the New Democratic Party, a member of one of Ottawa’s best-known political families, and beloved in many circles.
“Paul Dewar dedicated his life to inspiring young people & serving his constituents in the Ottawa community and across Canada,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote. “He set a strong example for all of us — and we will dearly miss him. My deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.”
“Paul dedicated his life to making Ottawa a welcoming, accessible and inclusive city,” wrote Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, who gave the keys to the city to Dewar in September. “He served, volunteered, mentored, and inspired thousands of Ottawa residents during his years as a teacher, a community leader and a Member of Parliament.”
The federal NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, was quick to offer his condolences. “Paul Dewar represented the best of us — he spent his life working for justice & believed in the potential of young people to change the world. Paul made Canada a better country and we are all lesser without him. We hold his family close in our hearts.”
There were also messages from Premier Doug Ford, police Chief Charles Bordeleau, comedian Rick Mercer, and just about every media personality who ever benefited from his friendly manner.
The city knew this day was upon us. In a number of interviews in 2018, Dewar had spoken about the illness and the clarity it had given him about his life, his social advocacy and the desire to leave the world a better place. To that end — even while critically ill — he created Youth Action Now, a group that aims to enhance leadership qualities among young people
In September 2018, this newspaper published a tribute to Paul Dewar and the impact he had on his community.
Dewar was born and raised in Ottawa to a strong Catholic family, the son of Ken and Marion Dewar, who would become one of Ottawa’s most socially progressive mayors (1978-1985), best remembered for the Project 4000 effort that brought Vietnamese “boat people” to Ottawa amid a refugee crisis in Southeast Asia.
He freely admitted that he learned at her knee. “My mother taught me everything I needed to know about politics,” he said in 2006.
Though he was dyslexic, Dewar earned two university degrees and became a public school teacher in the elementary system in Ottawa, while getting involved in the education labour movement.
Following in the footsteps of one-time NDP leader Ed Broadbent, Dewar took Ottawa Centre in the 2006 federal election and held until 2015 when he was defeated by Liberal Catherine McKenna.
While in federal office, he rose to become the party’s foreign affairs critic and developed a reputation for taking principled stands on issues ranging from the war in Afghanistan, free trade deals to defending human rights in the developing world.
Indeed, John Baird, the former Ottawa-area Conservative MP and one-time foreign affairs minister, tweeted out his admiration for a man who sat across the aisle in the House of Commons.
“Devastated to learn of the passing of my friend and former colleague Paul Dewar. An incredibly decent guy and great parliamentarian and champion for Ottawa. He was caring, companionate and competent.”
Paul Dewar’s goodbye: ‘My whole life was filled with the kindness of the people of Ottawa’
Paul Dewar: Friends, politicians, others react to passing of former Ottawa Centre MP
Editorial: Paul Dewar’s gifts to Ottawa
How Paul Dewar is living and dying with love and community
In 2012, following the death of leader Jack Layton, Dewar ran for the leadership of the party but finished a disappointing fourth.
His Facebook message underlined the issues that were important to him during his public life: recognition of our Indigenous peoples, protection for the environment (especially Gatineau Park and the Ottawa River), a celebration of the arts and the promotion of Canada as a safe haven in a battered world. He encouraged people not to be dismayed by the insurmountability of problems like climate change.
“The secret is not to focus on how to solve the problem, but concentrate on what you can contribute — to your country, your community and neighbours.”
In remarkably candid interviews with the Citizen, the fitness-minded Dewar said he first noticed something was wrong while skating on the Rideau Canal in January 2018 and there was a persistent pain in his left arm.
Diagnostics revealed a cyst on the right side of his brain. He underwent brain surgery on Valentine’s Day and soon took part in an experimental drug therapy. He went public with his diagnosis in February 2018. He spent the rest of the year with his family, taking in a U2 concert in Montreal and spending long stretches at the cottage on Big Rideau Lake.
To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-726-5896 or email
I'd actually interacted with him on at least a couple of occasions. I can't say I necessarily agreed with his beliefs, but I do sincerely believe that his heart was in the right place and he did prove open to new ideas too.