Nova Scotia

Moses Znaimer, broadcasting pioneer, returns to where his life in Canada began

Moses Znaimer, the national president of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, is honouring another retired persons' advocate at Pier 21 tonight.

Znaimer, national president of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, to honour Bill VanGorder

Moses Znaimer is the main speaker at tonight's roast of "Halifax hero" Bill VanGorder, Nova Scotia's CARP chapter chair. The event takes place at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. (Zak Markan/CBC)

One of Canada's independent broadcasting pioneers is returning for one night to where his life in Canada began. 

Moses Znaimer, now the national president of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP), is honouring another retired persons' advocate at Pier 21 in Halifax tonight.

Bill VanGorder is being honoured at a roast tonight at Pier 21. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Znaimer's parents, Polish and Latvian Jews, fled the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union during the Second World War, ending up in Soviet Tajikistan. After the war, they found themselves in a German displaced persons camp, ultimately leaving on a small boat headed for Canada.

His family came through Halifax's Pier 21 when he was five years old.

Znaimer said he still remembers that day. 

"I remember the entry, I remember the train ride to Montreal," he told CBC's Information Morning.

Znaimer is a co-founder and former head of Citytv. The first independent television station in Toronto, the programming aimed to be local and was aimed at younger audiences. 

In 1984, he took that idea a step further, creating the 24-hour music channel MuchMusic and influencing a generation of young Canadians. 

His success has continued with ZoomerMedia, whose media outlets target "baby boomers with zip."  

Znaimer's success foretold, he jokes 

Moses Znaimer, left, is shown in The Standard Review newspaper of June 26, 1948. This photo was taken before Znaimer stepped foot on Canadian soil for the first time. (Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 Collection)

"There was a little foretelling in all of this … I had not yet set foot on Canadian soil. I was going down the gangplank, I had this cute little jacket on with a Red Cross tag and I was photographed and appeared on the front page of, what was then, the largest circulating magazine in the country," said Znaimer. 

"Big picture and then at the bottom it said 'DP [Displaced Person] with a future.' I love that." 

Znaimer is the main speaker at tonight's roast of "Halifax hero" Bill VanGorder, Nova Scotia's CARP chapter chair. The event takes place at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

"Bill is a stalwart of this community and one of the most epic volunteers I've ever met. He has been a force in the CARP movement here in Atlantic Canada," said Znaimer.

"I think in many ways he's the model Canadian."

'We're the only Znaimers' 

Znaimer's media empire grew through the 80s and 90s, launching a new style and arts channel in 1995 and the sci-fi channel Space in 1997. In 1998 he launched Canada's first 24-hour local news station, CablePulse 24, and others.

He said looking to the future was important for him, especially after what he and his parents endured. 

Znaimer said his parents "were lost" in the atrocities of the Second World War. Both his mother and father's entire families were wiped out. 

"We're the only Znaimers. It was a black hole, they didn't want to talk about it," he said.

But he didn't let his past dictate his future.

"I determined that I could wallow and get lost in all of that, it was a horrific story — and determined that I wouldn't. That I would do as Canadians who come here [do], and for those reasons I must look ahead." 

With files from Information Morning

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