Stephen Lewis: The interview 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY GILLIAN MATHURIN - Stephen Lewis with Patricia and Nonhlanhla at Blue Roof in South Africa
  • Photo by Gillian Mathurin
  • Stephen Lewis with Patricia and Nonhlanhla at Blue Roof in South Africa

Canadian social justice icon Stephen Lewis is speaking at the 30th Anniversary Gala for the Howe Sound Women's Centre taking place at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish on Saturday, April 14.

Lewis, a politician, broadcaster, author, educator and diplomat, is perhaps best known for his work in recent years as United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and for the work of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which supports dozens of projects in Africa. He is the former leader of the Ontario New Democrats and gave the eloquent eulogy at the funeral of federal NDP leader Jack Layton in August 2011. He is currently the Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Lewis granted Pique an interview which runs this week and in our next issue, out on April 5.

Tickets for the gala, which also includes Katrina Pacey of the Pivot Legal Society, may be purchased at www.womeninfluenceourworld.eventbrite.ca

Pique: You spoke in Whistler a few years ago and now Squamish. What brings you to back?

Stephen Lewis: It's an anniversary do, and I would speak at any women's cause because I believe very deeply in the struggle for gender equality, and particularly the struggle against sexual violence, which has preoccupied me in the last couple of years in my work internationally.

To speak on an evening which is discussing issues relevant to women's rights strikes me as important. There are other speakers (too) so I will be fascinated to see what they have to say and get a chance to sound off.

Pique: How important has it been in your career as a speaker to speak to relatively smaller audiences and communities?

SL: Oh, I'm a socialist so I'm used to speaking to mass audiences of two and four! I'm not at all beknighted by a small audience, that doesn't worry me. If they're interested in the subject matter and it can be ultimately more conversational than rhetorical then that's fine with me!

I've spent a lifetime tramping around Canada and, my God, I once managed a campaign in Salmon Arm, so I'm not unfamiliar with small communities in B.C.

Pique: What do you want the audience to take away from your talk?

SL: For me, April 14 feels like an eternity away, but I suspect I'll take a look at the (United Nations) Millennium Development Goal on Gender Equality and discuss some of the issues that have emerged, and what I have learned from observing the forces at work and hope people will come away from the evening with a strong sensibility that this is an important struggle for women's rights and gender equality.

I salute the (Howe Sound) Women's Centre for what it's doing, for its plans, and I want to be associated with it.

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