George Springate, pillar of Montreal's English community, dies at 81

Springate, a member of the Order of Canada, a former provincial politician and former professional football player, is being remembered as a kind and generous man.

Springate, who for years lived in Pierrefonds-Roxboro, has a long and varied list of accomplishments

George Springate, far right, greets a new Canadian during a citizenship ceremony in August 2018. Springate, who was a citizenship judge as well as a politician and football player, died Wednesday. (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada)

George Springate, a member of the Order of Canada, a former provincial politician and former professional football player, has died. He was 81.

Springate was a pillar of not just the Pierrefonds-Roxboro community, where he lived many years, but of the Montreal community too, said Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough Mayor Dimitrios Beis.

"Aside from all the professional accomplishments, [he] was a generous, loving, caring man who cared for everything and everybody, and I think that's the longest lasting memory that I will have," Beis said.

Springate was a Montreal police officer before becoming a Liberal MNA for the riding of Sainte-Anne. He represented two Montreal ridings during 1970s, and did not run for re-election in 1981.

In 1974, Springate was one of two Liberals suspended from caucus after voting against Bill 22, the Official Languages Act. The law, which made French Quebec's official language, was a precursor to Bill 101.

He was brought back into Premier Robert Bourassa's Liberal caucus about a month later.

MNAs observed a moment of silence in Springate's honour before Question Period Thursday morning.

Greg Kelley, who represents the West Island riding of Jacques-Cartier, said he saw Springate as an example to follow as a politician, but also as a person.

Springate once gave Kelley a book about the future of Canada and optimism with a note inside.

"It said always remain hopeful of the future. And when I was a younger person, to get a message like that from George Springate, it was moving."

Kelley mentioned Springate's involvement with charitable causes across Montreal, and that he was proud to be a Canadian and Quebecer.

"He will be missed. He really will be missed. I think we just lost a truly good and honest person."

Fun, but demanding

Later, he became a sportscaster with CBC Montreal, a newspaper columnist, a law professor at John Abbott College and McGill University, and also served as a citizenship judge.

Paul Chablo is the chairman of John Abbott's police technology program, which Springate founded.

Chablo estimates Springate taught thousands of police tech students, many of whom became police officers — including Chablo himself.

"He used to make us laugh in class, but at the same time he was he was demanding. He wanted stellar results from you."

Springate took his students on fun, exciting field trips and paid for their lunches, Chablo said. 

They remained friends through the years — Springate even attended Chablo's wedding. 

'He was this giant'

Springate was also a kicker for the Montreal Alouettes while serving as an MNA. He won the Grey Cup with the team in 1970.

Springate does an interview with CBC about his training regimen in the lead up to the 1970 Grey Cup. (CBC Archives)

A park in Pierrefonds, on Richmond Street right beside Pierrefonds Community High School, is named after him. A second synthetic field was inaugurated at the park in September, and Springate attended the ceremony.

Beis said Springate took the time to meet with young football players who looked up to him, "like he was this giant who won the Grey Cup."

"We always ask ourselves, when we're gone, what will we be remembered for, and many of us still haven't pinpointed what it could be," Beis said.

"And then I look at his résumé, professional and personal, and I say to myself, 'My gosh, how accomplished can one be?'"

Springate died Wednesday in Ottawa. He is survived by his wife, Judy Gill, as well as other family members and friends.

Flags in Pierrefonds-Roxboro's borough hall will fly at half-mast in his memory.


Kamila Hinkson


Kamila Hinkson is a journalist at CBC Montreal. Follow her on Twitter at @kamilahinkson.

with files from Cathy Senay


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