Paul Dewar kicks off youth leadership project

The former Ottawa MP, who has terminal brain cancer, and his wife are launching Youth Action Now tonight with a sizable fundraising boost.

Young people's ideas 'our best natural resource,' says former MP, who has terminal brain cancer

Paul Dewar and his wife Julia Sneyd at their home in Ottawa. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

Paul Dewar is full of hope for the future.

Not for himself, but for young people's ability to change the world.

"They have knowledge, they have passion and they have ideas well worth listening to," Dewar told Ottawa Morning host Robyn Bresnahan in an interview from his home on Wednesday.

"That inspires me, particularly as I walk this path."

Former Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar, who has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, has started a new project to support young leaders called Youth Action Now. Its first major event is Thursday night at the Adult High School. 0:45

Just a few months after being diagnosed with glioblastoma — the type of terminal brain cancer The Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie died from last year — Dewar founded Youth Action Now, an initiative to mentor young activists

"Often there is a pushback from so-called adults about what is possible. And I never believed that. In fact when I was young, I felt that kids should rule the world," Dewar said. 

"I believe that the ideas that young people have — their unleashed power — hasn't been channelled. This is our best natural resource."

Matching donations

Dewar isn't alone in his convictions about the power of youth. 

Shopify founder and CEO Tobi Lü​tke and his wife Fiona McKean have vowed to personally match any donation to Youth Action Now until the end of the year, up to $100,000.  

Lü​tke and McKean are set to make the announcement at an event Dewar is hosting Thursday evening at the Adult High School on Rochester Street.

Youth Action Now's "Change-Makers" event will include an appearance by the Toronto-based environmental activist Rachel Parent. 

Participants will be able to meet Parent and other young leaders in smaller skill-building workshops the following day.

Cancer diagnosis a 'gift'

Dewar has said that his terminal cancer diagnosis has been, in some ways, a gift.

His wife Julia Sneyd said while they did not think of it that way at first, the family now tries to look at it through that lens. 

"It's a gift because we've been able to say all the things we want to say," said Sneyd.

"We've danced, we've laughed, we cried. All the things that you do to get through every day."

On a recent trip to the grocery store, Sneyd made Dewar dance in the aisle to Bruce Hornsby's Mandolin Rain.

Former Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar is coping with terminal brain cancer with the support of family and friends. 0:48

Dewar and Sneyd celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this past June.

He said on bad days he takes comfort from Sneyd and their two sons, now 23 and 20 years old. 

"That gets you through the day. Family and friends and love," said Dewar.

Each night before bed Dewar tells his wife how incredible she and their children are. "And I say 'duerme con los angeles.'"​

Sneyd explains that translates as "sleep with the angels."

"And I do, every night," she said.

Since he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer Paul Dewar has poured his energy into a new project for youth. A conversation with Paul Dewar and his wife Julia about his legacy project. 11:40