On Sunday September 21, 2014, Canada lost one of its strongest defenders of free expression and press freedom.
CJFE Board member Bob Carty, a journalist and activist with a tireless dedication to human rights, passed away on Sunday, September 22, in an Ottawa hospital.
Bob began his career in the 1970s, as a researcher and activist specializing in Latin America. He moved to the region with his wife, Frances Arbour, who worked with refugees while Bob reported on military conflicts, human rights, and ecological issues.
In 1981, Bob joined CBC’s Sunday Morning as an on-air producer. He rose to foreign editor and senior producer, creating work that won a Peabody, a Gabriel, and numerous other awards for Sunday Morning, Morningside, The Current, The Globe and Mail, and National Public Radio. He also received multiple awards from the Canadian Association of Journalists, recognitions from the Canadian Science Writers, and the Amnesty International Canada trophy for human rights reporting.
In 1991, Bob participated in a CJFE fact-finding mission to investigate attacks against journalists in Guatemala. Soon afterward he joined CJFE’s Board of Directors, and became one of the organization’s most active and visionary members. A leading contributor to CJFE’s work in Canada, Bob helped lead the fight for access to information reform, and founded CJFE’s annual Review of Free Expression in Canada in 2009.
Bob’s activism extended far beyond Canada’s borders, as he was a strong advocate for free expression around the world. In 1992 he chaired a meeting of 14 international free expression groups, which led to the creation of IFEX, a global network of organizations dedicated to defending and promoting free expression. Since then, the IFEX Network has grown to include 95 organizations in more than 60 countries.
“Bob’s contribution was critical to getting IFEX off the ground, and shaping it into such a strong voice internationally,” says Amber.
Bob was first stricken with cancer seven years ago, and despite the illness continued his work with CJFE. He was perhaps the most knowledgeable advocate in Canada on the subject of access to information, and wrote numerous articles about the Canadian government’s inadequacy in this important field. Most recently he was instrumental in preventing the passage of Bill C-461—which would have crippled investigative journalism at the CBC by forcing reporters to reveal their sources to the government.
Bob’s passion extended beyond just his work. A talented musician, Bob used songs to express his activist spirit. He started writing during the social upheaval of the 1960s, playing everywhere from coffee houses to protests to Toronto’s Massey Hall. He played guitar, mandolin and banjo, and often performed at a local Ottawa parish that, in his words, “supports music for the spirit, for the heart, and for a more just world.”
Few Canadians have given so much to the cause of free expression and press freedom. Bob’s passion, expertise, and heartfelt desire to help others will remain irreplaceable, and he will be deeply missed.
(This article was first published by Canadian Journalists for Free expression – cjfe.org)
“He was a brilliant documentary maker, trusted advisor for many younger journalists and a real mensch. His documentary about bananas was a typical Carty effort: well crafted, concise and revealing.
Every December for 20+ years, Bob played guitar to accompany a group of Ottawa CBCers who went to sing Xmas carols at a long-term care centre. We knew about his serious health problems but he never missed a gig. The highlight each year was the duet he sang with his son Michael. Sadly, his performance in 2013 was to be his last.”
Laurence Wall, colleague and friend
“We have loss a great friend and gentle soul. Bob was a strong Guild supporter and was always ready to help whenever and wherever he could. Even ill, he worked with the Guild and CJFE to speak against Bill C-461, a bill that called for journalists to be required to reveal their sources under the Access to Information. His testimony on Parliament Hill was instrumental to the bill being withdrawn.
Bob was a friend to all and a colleague you could count on. A genuine gentleman and a true professional. He will be sorely missed by all who have ever had the pleasure of his company. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
Marc-Philippe Laurin, CMG President at CBC
“Like many of us who become journalists, Bob wanted to make the world a better place and to stop injustice where he found it. He was a fierce defender of democracy, dignity and freedom of expression. He loved his family, his profession, his union. And we loved him.”
Carmel Smyth, National President, CMG