Toronto

Alan Borovoy, Toronto lawyer and civil rights activist, dead at 83

Alan Borovoy, a longtime Toronto lawyer and civil rights activist, has died, according to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. He was 83.

Named an officer of the Order of Canada in 1982

Alan Borovoy studied law at the University of Toronto and then continued to work in the city representing several minority groups before joining the Canadian Civil Liberties Association as its general counsel in 1968. (Credit: Canadian Civil Liberties Association)

Alan Borovoy, a longtime Toronto lawyer and civil rights activist, has died, according to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).

Borovoy was 83.

He studied law at the University of Toronto and then continued to work in the city representing several minority groups before joining the CCLA as its general counsel in 1968, a role he held until 2009.

Whether you agreed with him or disagreed with him, it was impossible not to respect him.- David J. Cape, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs

In a statement, the CCLA said it was deeply saddened by the loss.

"For over 40 years, he made countless contributions to civil liberties in Canada," said Sukanya Pillay, CCLA executive director and general counsel.

"We will greatly miss him — his brilliance, his generosity, his irreverent humour, and the passion and dedication to equality and justice that was his life's work. Canada and the CCLA owe Alan Borovoy an immense debt."

Danielle McLaughlin, director of education for CCLA and the Education Trust, had worked with Borovoy for nearly 30 years.

She said his passing is a loss for her on a personal level, as well as for the country.

"It is a terrible loss for Canada. Alan was a courageous and brilliant fighter for rights and freedoms," she said Tuesday in a telephone interview with CBC News.

"When it came to standing up for freedom of expression, there were very few people who would do what Alan did and he changed things for Canada for the better in so many ways," McLaughlin added.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs also sent out a message of condolence on Tuesday. Chair David J. Cape said Borovoy's understanding of human rights issues was "unparalleled."

"Whether you agreed with him or disagreed with him, it was impossible not to respect him," Cape said.

Borovoy had numerous close connections with the organization. Len Rudner, the organization's director of community relations and outreach, said he called Borovoy on a regular basis to discuss issues.

"He was really a living book," Rudner said.

Borovoy 'belongs to society'

In addition to his legal work, Borovoy was the author of several books including Categorically Incorrect: Ethical Fallacies in Canada's War on Terror, When Freedoms Collide: The Case For Our Civil Liberties and Uncivil Obedience: The Tactics And Tales Of A Democratic Agitator.

In 1982, Borovoy was named an officer of the Order of Canada. His citation reads: "It has been said of Alan Borovoy that he belongs to society, lives for society and has society's good at heart."

Borovoy was also known for maintaining a sense of humour while doing his civil rights work, something he expanded on in a 1970 interview with the CBC's Barbara Frum.

The CCLA website says that Borovoy studied at the University of Toronto. He received his BA in 1953 and his bachelor of laws degree in 1956. In 1958, he was admitted to the Bar of Ontario.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said Borovoy was 82. In fact, he was 83 when he passed away.
    May 12, 2015 11:52 AM ET

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