AuthorAlan Borovoy
On July 1 2009, after more than forty-one years, I retired
from my position at the helm of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association
(CCLA). In October of the same year, I received an honorary doctorate
from the University of Waterloo. From the time that my retirement was
announced (a few months before it actually occurred) until and even be-
yond the Waterloo doctorate, I was questioned many times, by the press
and public, on the same subject: To what extent, if any, has Canada
improved on its record of human rights and civil liberties? Having done
so many interviews by the time the doctorate rolled around, I decided to
make this subject the theme of my convocation speech.
While acknowledging periodic f‌luctuations (every few years and
every few months) in the country’s human rights performance, I con-
cluded early on that the overall trajectory was in the direction of improve-
ment. Consider this example: a few years ago, a friend of mine doing
research at Queen’s University came upon a revealing document the
minutes of the Queen’s Senate for October 29 1943. Under the heading
“Statistics on Jewish Registration,” the document read as follows:
At Toronto University . . . the percentage [of Jewish students] has been 6%
but in medicine 25–30% on occasion. The University is much concerned
about the situation in medicine. . . . At McGill University . . . Jewish stu-
dents in Arts . . . are admitted only on an academic standing of 75% or

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