Monday, Apr. 18, 2005

Stephen Lewis

"I will plunge into it with a full heart." With these words, Stephen Lewis accepted U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's offer in 2001 to become his special envoy for hiv/aids in Africa. For those who know him, a full heart defines Lewis and everything he does.

Lewis, 67, has never done anything halfheartedly. He was a politician by birth, upbringing and profession, and a relentless campaigner for social justice, equality and human dignity by conviction. With his pugnacious jaw and eyes blazing behind his glasses, Lewis speaks forthrightly, honestly and passionately about human rights and the obligations we have to one another as human beings.

He faces a daunting task as U.N. special envoy. Yet there are few witnesses as eloquent and powerful as Lewis in pleading for international help to save his beloved Africa, a continent he first visited 45 years ago and has remained close to ever since. An indefatigable and passionate communicator, Lewis offers a straightforward message: without health, poverty cannot be beaten and economic development cannot succeed.

Canadians are proud of Lewis. Proud of the way he stood up for the rights and needs of children when he was at UNICEF. Proud of the uncompromising honesty he displayed as a member of the Panel of Eminent Personalities Investigating Genocide in Rwanda. Proud of his stubbornness and readiness to fight on behalf of the needy in society.

Until there is a future in which the vulnerable are protected and new life and new hope can blossom again, Stephen Lewis will never consider his work to be done.

Martin is Canada's Prime Minister

From the Archive
Death Stalks a Continent: In the dry timber of African societies, AIDS was a spark. The conflagration it set off continues to kill millions. Here's why