People and Places

Youth Action Now — Paul Dewar’s legacy enables young people for a better future

Even as he was facing the end of his life, Paul Dewar didn’t seem to have lost any of his cheerful idealism or optimism.

“It’s why I get up every day,” he said in an interview this past summer. Dewar, 55, was an NDP MP for Ottawa Centre. He won the riding twice with convincing margins and was well respected across party lines. He passed away on February 6, 2019.

Last year, Dewar revealed he had stage 4 glioblastoma, the same form of brain cancer that claimed the life of Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie.

“It’s a matter, for me, of survival. Well, you know, Downie it’s 14 months. And I’m doing the [medical] trial. That, hopefully, will benefit those who come after me, but there is no cure.”

It’s that kind of thinking — placing importance on those who come after him — that are behind Dewar’s final project. In light of being diagnosed with cancer, he had considered devoting his time solely to family and friends. He changed his mind after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, and the outspoken nature of the survivors’ response. He said those students are giving him hope for the future.

Paul Dewar at the June 2018 launch of Youth Action Now

“While that sounds very saccharine, I connected very deeply and strongly with what they were doing, these young people.”

Dewar used his local star power and political insights to create Youth Action Now; at the launch in June 2018, an event that drew hundreds of supporters, Dewar described his conviction that inspiring youth will lead to a better future.

“There is a huge appetite for young people to not just get framed up to do something but actually do something,” he said. 

In the emotional address, Dewar described his conviction that enabling youth will lead to a better future for Ottawa and beyond.

Paul Dewar at the June 2018 launch of Youth Action Now

“We want to be nimble and help people immediately,” he said, noting meaningful employment for youth and the opioid crisis are the two social issues young people seem most concerned about.

He also wanted Youth Action Now to have political clout.

Does that mean it will operate as a lobby group?

“Yes, absolutely to influence decision makers, absolutely and unapologetically,” he said. But Dewar was adamant that the group will not be is a grooming ground for future politicians.

“It’s not a talent search for who will become the next big leader…it’s to get people involved in their communities and peer groups.”

He said his guiding life principle has always been, “What can I do to make a difference?”

Enough said, thanks Paul.