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Dedication to Stephen Lewis

The standard model of the politician is one of a man or woman that is pragmatic and willing to compromise. Stephen Lewis is a politician but nothing like that. His concern is for humanity and the job he is doing, not his own personal political survival and he has paid the price several times for this seeming folly. He and his kind are what we as a world community need as our leaders but time and again this is not what we get. We get the sliders and the scammers while men and women of true altruistic nature are pressed back from the forefront of responsibility. He is a Canadian that we can all be proud of and a citizen of the world that earns his keep.

Stephen has worked tirelessly and in a dedicated fashion on the problem of Acquired Immune Deficiency in Africa and gone well beyond his mandate as Deputy Director of UNICEF. From 2001 until 2006, working as United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. In his role as Special Envoy, he worked to draw attention to the HIV/AIDS crisis and to convince leaders and the public that they have a responsibility to respond and not ignore the problem. He has written articles for newscasts, a book called ’Race Against Time’, appeared on countless broadcasts as a regular and as a guest and begun a foundation in his name regarding this issue. He has liaisons with a variety of organizations like Oomama (Grandmothers helping Grandmothers in Africa) that assist him in his efforts to solve this massive issue.

It is seldom mentioned that even the most righteous women and men get political backlash from the very people that should be supporting them and this is the case with Stephen. He is constantly suffering the slings and arrows of minor nonsense that seems to pervade political life in Canada and elsewhere. He mentions this occasionally but fights on and will continue to do so because that is what men like him do. Bravo!, I say.    (Namron Soar)

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Stephen Henry Lewis, C.C. (born November 11, 1937) is a Canadian politician, broadcaster and diplomat. He is currently Social Science Scholar-in-Residence at McMaster University, having recently completed his term as United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Born in Ottawa, Ontario, the son of former federal New Democratic Party leader David Lewis, he attended Harbord Collegiate Institute and the University of Toronto.

Political career

At university, he was in danger of failing after neglecting to write any exams. He left his studies in the 1960s and took up a clerical position with the Socialist International, where he received an invitation to a conference in Ghana. He attended, and instead of returning to Canada, spent more than a year working, traveling, and teaching in various places in Africa. He recalled in his 2005 Massey Lectures that the relatively brief sojourn would be a key influence on his life, especially after the turn of the new millennium.

He came back to Canada at the instigation of Tommy Douglas, and in 1963, at the age of 26, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Following the engineered 1970 resignation of Donald C. MacDonald, Lewis was elected leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party. His initial experience at the helm in the 1971 provincial election was a disappointment, with the party slipping from 20 seats to 19.

A radical left wing group nicknamed the Waffle had gained prominence, with one of its leaders, James Laxer winning one-third of the vote when he ran to be leader of the federal NDP in 1971. Lewis felt that the Waffle was threatening the credibility and stability of the party and supported a movement against the group in June 1972 on the basis that it was a party within a party.

Lewis led a strong campaign during the 1975 election with his oratory and passion bringing new supporters to the party. The NDP highlighted issues such as rent control and workplace safety. Each day, Lewis told the story of a different Ontarian in trouble, making a case that this was because of the lack of adequate legislation. Polls showed the NDP surging and the incumbent Ontario Progressive Conservative Party in freefall and in the course of the campaign Premier William Davis was forced to commit his party to bringing in rent control and other progressive reforms in order to retain power. When the ballots were counted the Tories were reduced to a minority government. Lewis’ NDP had doubled its seats from 19 to 38, surpassing the Ontario Liberal Party to become the Official Opposition. To some it appeared that it was only a matter of time before the NDP would form the government.

The next election, in 1977, proved to be a disappointment. The growth of support for the NDP stalled, and while the Tories were kept to a minority, the NDP failed to make any gains. The party was reduced to 33 seats and lost its status as Official Opposition to the Liberals. In 1978, a frustrated Lewis stepped down as party leader and as a Member of Provincial Parliament.

Diplomatic and Academic Career

Stephen Lewis, speaking at the University of Alberta, January 30, 2006 After working for several years as a labour mediator, columnist and broadcaster, in 1984 Lewis was appointed Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations by Governor General Jeanne Sauvé, on the advice of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Lewis served at the post until 1988. In the 1980s, he became a familiar voice appearing with Dalton Camp and Eric Kierans as part of a weekly political panel on Peter Gzowski’s Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio show, Morningside.

From 1995 to 1999, Lewis was Deputy Director of UNICEF. From 2001 until 2006, he worked as United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. In his role as Special Envoy, he worked to draw attention to the HIV/AIDS crisis and to convince leaders and the public that they have a responsibility to respond. He has been widely praised for his effectiveness in this role. In 2005 he adapted his Massey Lectures in a book titled "Race Against Time", where he describes the disjuncture between what the international community promises and their actions in responding to the pandemic in Africa.

In May 2006, Lewis joined the Faculty of Social Sciences at McMaster University as a Scholar-in-Residence. Also in 2006, an online petition asking the Nobel committee to recognize Lewis for his work, and consider him for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, was signed by over 12,000 people.


Stephen Lewis heads the Stephen Lewis Foundation, a charitable organization that helps people affected and infected by HIV/AIDS in Africa. He also serves as the first social sciences scholar-in-residence at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON.


Stephen is the son of former Federal NDP Leader David Lewis. Stephen is married to Canadian journalist Michele Landsberg. He is the father of Canadian broadcaster Avi Lewis, who married journalist and author Naomi Klein, and of Ilana Naomi Landsberg-Lewis and Jenny Leah Lewis. He is also the brother of Nina Lewis-Libeskind, the wife and partner of world renowned architect Daniel Libeskind. Lewis’ brother and sister, Michael Lewis and Janet Solberg, were both active and high-ranking officials within the party during the 1980s and 1990s: Michael was the Ontario Provincial Secretary, and Janet was the Ontario party’s President.

In 2002, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

In 2005, Lewis delivered the annual Massey Lectures. The lectures have also been published in book form under the title of the lecture series, ’Race Against Time’. The book consists of five lectures that depict the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa, critically examining the international community’s passivity as a contributing factor.

In 2006, he was elected a Senior Fellow of Massey College in the University of Toronto.


In January of 2006, it was announced that the planned "Churchill Meadows Secondary School" in Mississauga, Ontario, would be renamed "Stephen Lewis Secondary School". This became the first school in Canada to be named in honour of Stephen Lewis. On Thomas Street, West of Tenth Line in Mississauga, Stephen Lewis Secondary School Peel District School Board opened to Grade 9 and 10 students in the fall of 2006, subsequently adding grades 11 and 12 in the following two years. The school’s focus follows that of Stephen Lewis by educating students on issues relating to social justice and global citizenship to enhance the Ontario Curriculum.

In September of 2006, a new Secondary School in York Region was opened, named after Stephen Lewis. Stephen Lewis Secondary School is just off of Dufferin St. on Autumn Hill Blvd. Vaughan Secondary School has shifted the incoming Grade 9 students, as well as the Grade 10 students to the new school.

In 2007, Lewis received the World Citizenship Award, from the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, as well as the Health and Human Rights Leadership Award from Doctors of the World-USA.