Svend Robinson graduated from Burnaby North Secondary School in 1969. He studied science and law at UBC and received the highest honor, the Sherwood Lett Memorial Scholarship, in 1972. He went on to study at the London School of Economics, and was called to the BC Bar as a lawyer.
Svend was elected in 1979 as an NDP Member of Parliament, serving for over 25 years. He had a legendary reputation of service to his constituents, as well as being one of the most outstanding and effective backbench MPs. Svend was particularly active on justice, human rights, environment and international issues, and was the first openly gay MP in Canada. Svend was often far ahead on important issues:
He worked in 1982 to amend the Charter of Rights to include the right to a healthy environment.
In 2004 Svend successfully added “sexual orientation” to federal hate crimes legislation. This fight for dignity and equality for the LGBTQ+ community continues with his opposition to the discriminatory blood donation ban, and “conversion” therapy.
An outspoken advocate of indigenous people, Svend stood with the Haida first nation in 1985, and with the Nuu Chalnuth in 1993 in Clayoquot Sound, to defend old growth forest ecosystems, and was adopted into the Haida nation with David Suzuki and given the name “White Swan.” Svend continues this work in solidarity with the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish nations’ opposition to the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion.
In the 1990s, Svend was a leader in the movement for the right to physician-assisted dying, supporting his close friend ALS patient Sue Rodriguez in her advocacy for the right to die with dignity. He continues to fight for strengthening the current MAID law to allow for advance decision-making for example in cases of dementia, and full respect for the Supreme Court Carter decision.
After all these years, he’s still Svend. You know that he will work courageously for what is right.
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