Honorary Degree Citation - J. Edward Broadbent

by Reeta Tremblay, June 1999

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you a politician, scholar and human rights activist, the Honourable J. Edward Broadbent.

Dr. Broadbent was born to an auto worker's family in Oshawa, Ontario, in 1936. He studied at the University of Toronto, graduating first in his class with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy. He went on to acquire a Master's degree in the Philosophy of Law and a PhD in Political Science. He also pursued post-doctoral studies at the London School of Economics.

Upon his return to Canada he accepted a teaching position in the Political Science Department at York University. He taught for three years, until his election to the House of Commons in 1968, representing Oshawa-Whitby for the New Democratic Party.

He was a popular and hard-working parliamentarian, who was well respected both within and outside his party. When NDP leader David Lewis stepped down following his party's defeat in the 1974 federal election, Ed Broadbent succeeded him.

As leader, he emphasized economic issues and helped the party recover and rebuild. He waged a brilliant campaign, emphasizing tax reform, lower interest rates and equality for women. His efforts were rewarded with an impressive showing in the next federal election when the NDP captured 30 seats, only 10 fewer than the Liberals and an unprecedented 13 seats in the province of Ontario.

The Broadbent years of leadership were marked by growth and consolidation. In the 1988 federal election, his last as leader of the NDP, he led the New Democrats in a campaign that gained 43 seats in the House of Commons, the party's best showing ever.

He retired from politics the following year and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney appointed him President of the newly created International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development.

During his six years as the Centre's President, Dr. Broadbent worked tirelessly to promote and defend human rights, and the causes of justice and peace worldwide. He was outspoken and never hesitated to criticize governments, including our own, when he felt their policies and priorities required review. The agenda he established for human rights has become even more relevant within the context of global politics today.

In 1995, he accepted a post as Visiting Fellow at All Souls College at Oxford University in England. He obviously enjoyed his return to academia, because he then accepted a two-year appointment as the J.S. Woodsworth Chair in Humanities at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

Ed Broadbent is a proud Canadian and has dedicated his professional and personal life to advancing and protecting the Canadian ideal. He served as a pilot officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, he is a Director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and has been active in the Public Policy Forum. He has been described as one of the distinguished public intellectuals of our time, fulfilling a Canadian tradition that links public service and academic values.

He has accumulated many awards and honours during his distinguished career of public service. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada, the highest honour a private citizen can receive. He has been awarded honorary doctorates from four Canadian universities, including his alma mater, the University of Toronto. Concordia University is proud that he has agreed to be part of our convocation ceremony today and to accept an honorary degree from our University.

Mr. Chancellor, it is my privilege and an honour to present to you, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, the Honorable J. Edward Broadbent, so that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.