Ottawa

Paul Dewar's non-profit determined to carry out his legacy

Ottawa activists are vowing to carry on Paul Dewar's legacy by expanding the non-profit he founded.

Dewar, who died earlier this week, founded Youth Action Now in the summer of 2018

Paul Dewar and his wife Julia Sneyd at their home in Ottawa in 2018. Dewar died on Feb. 6, 2019. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

Activists in Ottawa are vowing to carry on Paul Dewar's legacy by expanding the non-profit he founded.

The former NDP MP for Ottawa Centre launched Youth Action Now in the summer of 2018, to give young activists the resources and platform needed to drive change.

Since then, the group has held networking events, workshops and talks, and wrapped up a year-end fundraising campaign after raising more than $250,000.

Dewar died on Feb. 6, about a year after being diagnosed with brain cancer. He was 56 years old.

The loss of their founder has been difficult, but Youth Action Now staff have a clear vision of the legacy Dewar wanted to leave behind, according to Holly Price, the group's digital communications co-ordinator.

Paul Dewar spent his last days building a grassroots movement for young people 10:39

"It's still devastating, it's still a heartache, but it's also the beginning of the legacy that we're dedicated to," she told CBC Radio's All In A Day.

"He taught me and thousands of other young people that our voices do matter."

Inspiration from Parkland kids

Price said the goal of Youth Action Now is best understood by considering where Dewar got the inspiration for the organization in the first place.

Dewar had surgery on Feb. 14, 2018, the same day a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people.

Watching several of the school's students launch a passionate campaign for gun control prompted him to imagine what Ottawa youth could do if given the same resources and support.

"There are many issues here in Ottawa that need a young person's perspective, and what I believe in strongly is that they actually have the answers but often aren't given the support and the platform to do it," Dewar said in a June 2018 interview with CBC News.

New events to launch in 2019

The organization's year-end fundraising push is expected to help establish new initiatives, Price said, including a micro-grant program for youth who need help starting campaigns.

"We're also looking at launching a mentorship program and a series of workshops and tools and education in order to give kids the campaign skills they need for these initiatives they'd like to launch," she said.

Dewar, right, with his wife and two sons. (Facebook)

The range of issues youth might choose to focus their efforts on are wide, Price said, from climate change and pollution to political activism.

Despite the difficulty of losing Dewar, Price said the organization hopes to follow his example of empowering youth.

"You didn't have to be an MP to have your voice heard," she said. "Whoever wanted to make a difference, Paul would help you make that difference."