CCLA’s Borovoy to step down after 40 years

The man who has been dubbed “Mr. Civil Liberties” by Canadian author, June Callwood, is stepping down after more than 40 years at the helm of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).

Alan Borovoy, the organization’s long-time general counsel, will be honoured at a gala dinner in Toronto on April 28.

“No other individual has contributed more to ensuring that the civil liberties that we all hold so dear in this country – and often take for granted – remain a world standard for our way of life,” said respected lawyer, Edward Greenspan, who will be the event’s M.C. “He has given so much to this country that we wanted to honour his important achievements and to see him off in style.”

In a June, 2000 profile, Haroon Siddiqui, The Toronto Star’s editorial page editor emeritus, wrote of Borovoy: “One is hard-pressed to find a more dedicated Canadian soldier crusading against injustice.

“In standing up for the underdog, he has battled police, the security establishment, right-wing politicians and religious fundamentalists. But over the last decade, he has been skewering liberals, social democrats and feminists – people found in his own constituency.

“He thinks too many of them have strayed too far from the three bedrock principles classical liberals must work from: freedom of expression (and its two corollaries, freedom of the press and freedom of association); equality; and procedural fairness.”

The tribute to Borovoy will take place at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. Speakers will include Professor Susan Herman, President of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Borovoy will be succeeded by Nathalie Des Rosiers, who is currently Acting Secretary of the University of Ottawa. She was Dean of the Civil Law section of the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law until November 2008 and president of the Law Commission of Canada from 2000 to 2004.

The CCLA’s mission is to protect the rights and freedoms of Canadians. The organization was formed in 1964 by a group of citizens, primarily based in Toronto, who were alarmed over a proposal by the Ontario government to drastically increase the powers of the police. Since then, the CCLA has spoken out forcefully on hundreds of issues, from film censorship to the rights of welfare recipients; from forced religious teaching in the schools to the rights of political groups to demonstrate in the streets.

Borovoy joined the CCLA in 1968. Previously, he worked with other human rights and civil liberties organizations such as the National Committee for Human Rights of the Canadian Labour Congress, the Ontario Labour Committee for Human Rights and the Toronto & District Labour Committee for Human Rights to promote and expand the civil liberties of Canadians.

From a small office in downtown Toronto, Borovoy and the rest of the CCLA’s staff and volunteers have organized court interventions, presented briefs to legislative committees, staged rallies and conducted a program to educate students and teachers on the value of civil liberties.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the work of the Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust, a charitable organization that performs research and public education on civil liberties.

To purchase tickets, contact Caitlin Smith at or 416-363-0321, x 225.

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