We remember Paul Dewar

In our final Mainstreeter farewell, friends, neighbours, former students, and admirers of the late Paul Dewar provide our readers with some of their most cherished memories of an OOE community treasure. 


We knew Paul Dewar as our MP several years before we moved into a house two doors down from the Dewar/Sneyd family. We got to know each other as neighbours, and Paul was a familiar sight, walking to the Brantwood rink with his stick and gloves in the winter, easing up after a run in fairer weather, returning from a day at the Hill, always decent and always friendly. In 2017, I relapsed with lymphoma. It was a difficult period physically and emotionally for all of us while my diagnosis remained in the balance for months.  Amrita, my wife, did the full load of chores, and ten year old Annika had to pitch in as well. During this time, any show of love and solidarity was appreciated by us – food, dog walking, just keeping us company – every gesture was treasured. In the depths of treatment, I used to spend endless exhausted hours on our couch, just resting and recovering. Then one day I heard a familiar scraping sound. I looked outside to see Paul shovelling our driveway. When he bumped into Amrita a short while later, he told her not to worry about shovelling for the rest of the winter. We’ll miss him in our little corner of Brantwood Park, but the bigger world will miss him too. Our hearts go out to Julia and the boys.


Years ago, when I was doing research for a paper on refugees, I went to a session on the Hill. While I was checking in at security, Paul Dewar, the main speaker, strode through the lobby flanked by staff. He was wearing a trench coat with the collar turned up and had a big smile on his face as though he was on his way to a party to meet up with friends. When he addressed those gathered in the packed room to mark an anniversary of the Southeast Asian refugees who came to Ottawa while his mother was mayor, it was clear many of them were indeed old friends. The crowd loved him. Shortly after, I was in Watson’s Pharmacy on Main Street near closing time and saw Paul’s son, Nathaniel, then a high school student, cleaning the floor with a big mop. It may be more of a reflection on the hard work ethic of the Dewar family than on our country, I know, but seeing our MP’s son doing janitorial work, especially such a short distance from Parliament Hill where his father sat in the House of Commons, made me feel, at least at that moment, proud to be Canadian, and proud of the degree of equality we have achieved so far.


I grew up on Broadway Avenue in the Glebe. Paul Dewar was my teacher in Grade 7 at Hopewell Avenue Public School. By virtue of the small town that Ottawa can be, 15 years later I would reconnect with him when I began working as a photographer for the NDP. Paul was a brilliant, kind, and genuine figure – which as a politician, looked especially good on him. One of my favourite memories of Paul is from the day he met with Bono (see photo at page 2). His childlike excitement is still so clear in my mind.


The passing of Paul Dewar leaves a huge hole in the fabric of our neighbourhood, city and country. I did not know Paul very well. We only said hi to each other when he was walking his dog in our neighbourhood of Brantwood Park.  We also had very good conversations when he came to our door canvassing for elections. Canada has lost a unique man and politician. Of all the excellent qualities that Paul had, one characteristic rises to the surface each time I think of him, and that is: integrity. Looking about today in the rogues gallery of the world’s politicians and business leaders, one is hard-pressed to find people of whom we can truthfully say they marshall their ideas, opinions and actions through a lens of integrity.  But Paul did. I feel that integrity was the core of his being. And this was reflected in his policies and life’s goals, whether they be for his dear family, Canada or the world. Even during his last months, he strove to develop  Youth Action Now for Canada. He knew the future of a better Canada lies in the youth, and so he developed this organization, while at the same time battling through his illness. This is true grit. This is integrity. The world needs more Paul Dewars. In a time when many feel the moral compass of our leaders is swinging wildly, it is up to citizens to lead by example and to lead with integrity. He has inspired me to become more involved in social justice issues and to help make Canada the beacon of sanity, that it is known to be around the world. As the Hopi Tribe of the United States says: We are the ones we have been waiting for. Paul didn’t wait. Nor should all Canadians.


Paul Dewar relished being in, and contributing to, our community. I remember cleaning up after an AGM of the community association and he and Julia were there until the work was all done. And there was the shinny he’d play with his sons and sometimes his “Dipper” friends at the Brantwood rink. On the way to skating on the Canal last year, I saw Paul coming back from a long skate and he looked perfectly happy coping with not having to be a Member of Parliament representing all of us crazy constituents. But most of all, I remember how we all saw Paul spend his last half year or so in Old Ottawa East – with grace, humour, and energy, and launching an initiative to help youth. This, he showed us, is how we all should live and, if we are able, die. Thanks, Paul.

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