Warren Allmand, R.I.P.

Written by  //  December 8, 2016  //  Absent Friends  //  No comments

Obituary: Longtime Liberal MP Warren Allmand has died

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In 2005, Warren Allmand was a newly elected city councillor when he was photographed in front of Montreal city hall. Vincenzo D’Alto / Photo by Vincenzo D’Alto

Warren Allmand, the longtime Liberal MP and cabinet minister who oversaw the abolition of Canada’s death penalty, passed away Wednesday at the age of 84. In March he had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour.

A native Montrealer, Allmand retired from federal politics after three decades before returning to public life as a councillor at Montreal city hall.

Allmand grew up during the Great Depression, an experience that saw him develop a sense of social justice early in life, a sense that would more than once compel him to buck the party line in Ottawa and at city hall.

He was always a strong voice for fairness,” recalled veteran Montreal city councillor Marvin Rotrand, who along with Allmand and seven other Union Montreal councillors ignored party lines to vote against a proposal by then-mayor Gérald Tremblay in 2005 to rename Parc Ave. “As a city councillor, I found a kindred soul. … Often we were the only ones in the council who voted against stuff.”
Rotrand also said that Allmand never perceived municipal politics as a step down from his time as a federal cabinet minister.
“Warren’s a modest guy. … He took on a lot of the unglamorous jobs on borough council. The itinerant commission of traffic, questions about parking space, traffic flow. He did it all and he did it very well.”
Former Quebec Liberal MNA Russell Copeman, now borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, recalled working as a volunteer for Allmand the MP “probably before I was old enough to vote.”
“I had great admiration for Warren … for the abolition of the death penalty and the work he’d done with our northern communities.
“Many of us felt privileged to work with him. He didn’t send us out to do things; he did those things with us. He’d set up a sandwich board outside, and sit and talk with his constituents.”

Allmand first sought to be MP for the riding of N.D.G. in 1965 and would go on to serve the riding for nine consecutive terms, retiring before the 1997 federal election.
In the 1970s, Allmand would serve as solicitor-general, Indian affairs minister and consumer affairs minister in governments led by Pierre Trudeau.
It was as solicitor-general that Allmand tabled a bill in 1976 to abolish Canada’s death penalty, a law he felt was hypocritical because Parliament had been commuting death sentences since 1962.
However, Allmand’s decision to vote against the Liberal government’s 1995 budget on the grounds it violated election promises saw him removed as a chairman of the Commons justice committee.
Allmand decided to retire from federal politics in 1997 and became head of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development.

“Warren was a very tough act to follow,” recalled Marlene Jennings, the former Liberal MP who succeeded Allmand in his riding. “He was a great example to me on how to be a member of Parliament who actually represents his constituents and is present and active in his riding.
“If people think I was a good MP, it’s because I had a great example to follow.”
Allmand returned to politics — as a city councillor under the banner of Tremblay in 2005 — to see the city’s charter of rights (a document he helped prepare) put into action.
In an interview with the Gazette in 2009, Allmand, who was preparing once again to leave politics, assessed his years in Ottawa and at Montreal city hall.
“Sometimes you hear people saying, ‘Aw, what’s the use of getting involved in politics? You can’t get anything done. I can say that in my 40 years, a lot got done. I’ve got a long list somewhere, but just for example, when I started out there was no Medicare, no Canada Pension Plan. To get a divorce, you had to get a bill passed in the Senate, hanging was still on the books, you couldn’t buy contraceptives over the counter. Gays faced criminal charges for consensual acts. I could go on and on. Sure, there’s been backsliding now and then, but on the whole we’re pretty far ahead.”

Allmand is survived by his wife, Rose, his son Patrick and his daughters Julie and Robin. Visitation will be held on Dec. 17 and Dec. 18 from 1:30 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Collins Clarke MacGillivray White — 5610 Sherbrooke St. W. Church service will be held on Dec. 19, 2016 at 10 a.m. at St. Patrick’s Basilica – 460 René Lévesque St. W. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations in Warren’s memory to the N.D.G. Food Bank.

Warren Allmand, Liberal MP for NDG for 32 years, has died at 84
As solicitor general, Allmand tabled the bill to end capital punishment in Canada
(CBC) Warren Allmand, the longtime Liberal MP from Montreal who legislated an end to capital punishment in Canada, died Wednesday. He was 84.
The Montreal native represented Notre-Dame-de-Grâce for 32 years, during which time he served as a cabinet minister during some of the headiest moments in Canadian history.
As the federal solicitor general he dealt with the aftermath of the October crisis and later testified before the Keable commission.
But his most significant achievement in federal politics will no doubt be his tabling, in 1976, of the bill that abolished the death penalty in Canada.
Bill C-84 passed in a free vote, 131 to 124 in favour of abolition. It was one of the closest votes in Canadian parliamentary history.
“Capital punishment, simply because it is immoral and useless, must be fought and defeated if we are to become a world society in which our descendants can live in peace and justice,” Allmand said in a speech to Amnesty International the following year.

Rights and Democracy

Allmand was a tireless fighter for social justice.
When he retired from federal politics in 1997, then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed him president of the Montreal-based International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, a post he took over from its founding president, Ed Broadbent and held until 2002.

Allmand’s ‘2nd political career’

In 2005, Allmand stepped back into politics, at the municipal level this time, winning the Loyola seat in NDG’s west end for Union Montréal. The veteran MP called it his “second political career.”
Montreal Coun. Marvin Rotrand, who worked closely with Allmand, described him as an unwavering progressive and someone who wasn’t afraid to be the dissenting voice, even in his own caucus.
“He really believed by speaking the truth — self-evident truth, he called it — that he would affect social change,” said Rotrand. “He really felt that just by exposing a situation and making an appeal to the public, that things would change.”
That boldness reflected Allmand’s independent streak, which was not always welcome by his political superiors.
As a Liberal MP he voted against the 1982 Constitution Act, bucking at the inclusion of the notwithstanding clause. He also incurred the wrath of Jean Chrétien when, in 1995, he voted against the government’s budget.
Allmand, ever the progressive, couldn’t stomach the budget’s wide-ranging cuts to social services. He lost his position as chair of the Commons justice committee as a result.
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Décès de l’ex-ministre fédéral et élu montréalais Warren Allmand

L’ex-ministre fédéral sous Pierre Trudeau et père de la loi abolissant la peine de mort au Canada Warren Allmand est décédé mercredi à l’âge de 84 ans. Pour honorer la mémoire de ce député montréalais pendant trois décennies, les drapeaux de l’Hôtel de Ville de Montréal seront mis en berne, a annoncé le maire Denis Coderre sur Twitter.
À sa retraite de la politique fédérale en 1997, Warren Allmand a présidé l’organisme fédéral Droits et Démocratie, puis a été élu en 2005 comme conseiller municipal du district de Loyola dans Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. Il a notamment été vice-président du conseil municipal de Montréal. En 2006, il s’était opposé au controversé changement de nom de l’avenue du Parc. Il a pris sa retraite de la politique en 2009, 44 ans après sa première élection.
Warren Allmand a été nommé officier de l’Ordre du Canada en 2000 en raison de son rôle de leader dans le domaine des droits de la personne. «Tout au long de sa carrière, il a fait preuve d’un attachement profond aux principes de la démocratie et de dévouement à la cause de la justice et des libertés fondamentales», peut-on lire sur le site de l’Ordre du Canada.
Des élus de tous les camps politiques ont rendu hommage à Warren Allmand ce soir sur Twitter. Le premier ministre Justin Trudeau a souligné qu’il «laissait en héritage un apport inestimable au Canada. Le maire de Montréal Denis Coderre s’est dit «très triste d’apprendre le décès de notre ami Warren Allmand. Il nous manquera. En son honneur, les drapeaux de l’hôtel de Ville seront mis en berne», dans un tweet en anglais.

Warren Allmand mourned, honoured, by friends and colleagues

(CTV) His former Executive Assistant, Patrick Zakaib, said Allmand was also known for working around the clock, never stopping until he had done all he could.
“There were so many days you know where he would leave at 4 o’clock to go to two board meetings in Montreal and then be back in Ottawa, you know he’d drive back the same night he’d be back at midnight, and you know in his office the next morning before any of the staff showed up,” she said.
Most notably, Allmand has left a sizable impact on human rights.
“The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights and in pushing Canada, in leading the charge, abolishing the death penalty, it set a tone for how Canadians thought about justice and how we thought about human rights,” said Ian Hamilton, the executive director of Equitas.
Fergus Watt, who worked with Allmand at the World Federalist Movement, said he was continually impressed by Allmand’s drive and willingness to take unpopular positions.
“He was one who just lived according to what he thought was right. You know issues like on Gaza and so on, if it wasn’t popular but he thought it was the right thing to do, he would do it,” said Watt.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Allmand’s enormous contributions are an important part of Canada’s legacy.

See also Warren Allmand — Allmand still in the game (May 2009)

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