Then-MP Svend Robinson, second from right, at Lyell Island in Haida Gwaii in 1985, where he was arrested during an anti-logging demonstration.

Community notices

Former MP Svend Robinson to join SFU as J.S. Woodsworth Resident Scholar

July 07, 2020

By Chris Dickert

Simon Fraser University has, since its founding in 1965, set out to do things differently and to make a positive impact in the community. It has been called a “Radical Campus” for its history of social justice and protest. In a fitting continuation of this tradition, social justice activist and former MP, Svend Robinson will be joining the SFU community in the fall as the JS Woodsworth Resident Scholar in the Department of the Humanities.

Robinson represented much of Burnaby, which included SFU’s Burnaby campus, in the House of Commons from his first election in 1988 at the age of 27 until 2004. Throughout his career, he charted a number of important firsts: Robinson remains the only MP to be imprisoned for civil disobedience, at Clayoquot Sound in 1993; and was Canada’s first openly gay MP. His experiences ­– standing in solidarity with Cuba and the Palestinian people; being adopted into the Haida Nation in 1985; running for the leadership of the New Democratic Party in 1995; and tackling big pharma – bring an important perspective that will enrich ongoing discussions within and beyond the university community.

Robinson poses for a photo with the shattered window of his constituency office in 1988, the year he became the first MP to come out as gay.
Robinson was charged with contempt of court following his arrest in 1985 for defying a B.C. Supreme Court injunction against an anti-logging blockade on Lyell Island.
Robinson at a recent climate change protest outside Vancouver City Hall.

J.S. Woodsworth was a clergyman, social reformer, Member of Parliament and founder of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (a forerunner to the NDP), and a remarkable Canadian. His legacy continues today not only in the form of public entitlements and benefits such as the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) and employment insurance (EI), but more importantly, in Canadian political traditions based on equity, social obligation and civic responsibility. SFU’s J.S. Woodsworth Resident Scholar combines teaching and research with community engagement at the local, national and international levels.

“Woodsworth is one of my political heroes, who fought for peace, economic and social justice, and a better world, and laid the foundation for the NDP, the party I represented in Parliament for over a quarter of a century,” said Robinson. “I look forward to engaging with the dynamic SFU community, students, faculty, and staff, sharing my experience as an MP and learning from them in return.”

Robinson will begin his one-year term on Sept. 1, 2020. He will teach a seminar in the Department of the Humanities during the spring semester and will participate in community outreach activities throughout the academic year with the Institute for the Humanities.

At Vancouver's Pride parade in 2019 with Burnaby-Lougheed MLA Katrina Chen, B.C.'s minister of state for childcare.