Ontario will honor 25 individuals with the Order of Ontario on Wednesday at Queens Park. Among the distinguished citizens is my nominee -- Brian Stewart -- a passionate journalist and mentor of many.
He is also my personal Canadian hero.
My nomination was supported by TVO's Steve Paikin, Janet Stein from Munk School of International Studies and Stephen Lewis.
In his letter of support -- Stephen Lewis, the one time Canadian ambassador at the UN, described Brian as a candidate worthy of the honour especially for his "extraordinary coverage of the Ethiopian famine of 1984-85 that was inspirational. Not only did he report on the outpouring of support from Canadians, but he generated that support through that stark imagery, the careful and fastidious reporting and remarkable success in further galvanizing the country."
That is precisely why I nominated Brian Stewart for Ontario's highest civilian honour. I was a youngster in Ethiopia when he made a personal impression on me and what was happening inside the country that I was born and lived in. In his reporting, he thought me and opened my eyes to the realities of my home country.
When he reported from Ethiopia during the famine -- he was sensitive and eloquent of the tragedy he was observing. He explained how "as each week passes, the hordes of famine victims in northern Ethiopia multiply in this endless, silent, frightening march for food, a spectacle hard to believe for our age. To some it's more an image of the great plagues of famines of the medieval world".
He continued: "To others more science fiction, a projection of a crumbling world after a nuclear holocaust." These words helped save countless lives as well as inspire the world to be more human and sensitive to the world's shortcomings."
Stewart's accomplishments are outstanding and includes four decades of public service with the CBC. He has covered war, the issue of child slavery, famine and civil unrest. He was also a political columnist with The Montreal Gazette that earned him a National Newspaper Award at the beginning of his career.
In 1973, he became CBC's foreign affairs and military specialist. He has also been with NBC as a foreign correspondent as well as being host and producer of The Journal.
Upon watching Brian Stewart's reporting -- Canada's great former Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, led a worldwide mission to help Ethiopia. His Foreign Minister, Joe Clark, became the first western Minister to visit then communist Ethiopia and wept upon being shown the crises by Brian Stewart at Bole International airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
With the blessing of the then Prime Minister, Canada's then UN ambassador, Stephen Lewis, gave his debut speech to the United Nations on the Ethiopian famine -- "I cannot remember in my entire adult life scenes of such unendurable human desolation.
It was heartbreaking. There is no doubt in my mind that Canadians sat and wept as we did and would wish to respond with compassion, generosity and fervor. What must come now is a Herculean effort on the part of all member nations to address those conditions which give rise to the crisis."
This week -- my province will honour distinguished individuals with the Order of Ontario. Their contributions vary from film, social justice, human rights to journalism. However, my nominee was a great choice for the high honor. Through his journalism skills -- then and now, he continues to promote the great ideal of our Canadian signatory compassionate values to the world.
He is an exceptional choice for the Order of Ontario. Brian Stewart is a Canadian at our best.