Montrealers of a certain age will remember the late Canadian politician Warren Allmand a torch-bearer for human rights, social justice, and civic participation. His career in public life spanned 50 years beginning in 1965 when he was first elected as the MP for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. One of only a few Anglophone politicians in Quebec Allmand served in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau from 1972 to 1979. Along the way, he championed many causes from Indigenous rights to gun control to consumer protection.
”Warren Allmand was a great Canadian,” says Marvin Rotrand, the Dean of Montreal City Council. ”As a member of Parliament for thirty-two years, he served his constituents in Notre Dame-de -Grâce riding here in Montreal with both devotion and passion.” Montreal Council recently adopted Rotrand’s motion calling for the City to name a place to honor Allmand who passed away on December 7, 2016. It was seconded by Councillor Lionel Perez while Councillors Alan De Sousa, Emilie Thuillier, Peter McQueen and Christian Arseneault later added their names as seconders. The motion calls for a significant gesture by December 7, 2021, the fifth anniversary of Allmand’s passing.
”His work as a Cabinet minister with various important portfolios helped shape the tolerant welcoming country that is modern Canada,” Rotrand says. As Solicitor General, Allmand introduced legislation that successfully abolished the death penalty in Canada in 1976. After leaving politics he headed up the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development based in Montreal. He would later return to his old roost in NDG, this time as the City Councillor for the Loyola district from 2005-2009, eventually landing the second most important job on Montreal Council as Vice-President.
Rotrand is not alone in singing Warren Allmand’s praise. ”Mr. Allmand was a passionate human rights activist who continued to serve his community after his days in office,” said Kevin Tracey of The United Irish Societies of Montreal. ”Not afraid to vote against his government on matters of importance despite the knowledge of possible consequences, Mr. Allmand was a true man of principle,” he said. ”In 1974 he agreed to serve as Chief Reviewing Officer of the annual St. Patrick’s Parade despite his demanding schedule as the country’s Solicitor General. He wore his sash with pride thereafter in each parade that he participated in.”
Allmand was active in many civil society organizations over the course of his prolific career. A true Renaissance man, his interests ran the gamut from law and politics to education and culture. Heather Stephens, the former Registrar of Thomas More Institute (TMI) worked with Allmand during his tenure as President of TMI, a Montreal-based institute of higher learning affiliated with Bishops University. She was thrilled to hear of plans to name a place after the man who was both a friend and comrade-in-arms. ”Yes, I approve and support such a wonderful initiative,” she said. ”Warren was one of the most joyful and energetic Presidents that Thomas More Institute ever had.”
Stephens recalled the time when they visited inmates during Easter week. ”A memory I cherished was just chatting with him as we traveled to an Institute course at a Laval correction facility, seeing the sights in Montreal North. When we engaged with the inmates in the chapel on Maudi Thursday after the washing of the feet, Warren had a very intense conversation with one man. His conviction and humanity shone brilliantly.” Despite his accomplishments and the serious nature of his work, he never lost his sense of humor. Stephens said he would often joke with her and say, ”When are we going back to prison, Heather?”
”Many of Warren’s achievements as a Federal Minister and later as President of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development would arguably have made him a very credible nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize,” Rotrand says. ”Warren Allmand’s work to promote human rights, redefine the relationship between the Government of Canada and First Nations, improve race relations and promote democracy and peace was exemplary and thus we believe he merits significant recognition in the place names of the City of Montreal.”
Feature image: Warren Allmand with Mayor Gérald Tremblay, Saint Patrick’s Parade Queen at Montreal City Hall