Among Canadian New Democrats, it's hard to imagine anyone who's more admired than Stephen Lewis.
After serving as Ontario NDP leader, he later became Canada's ambassador to the United Nations and deputy executive director of UNICEF. He's a spellbinding public speaker and has 37 honorary degrees from Canadian universities.
Lewis's greatest legacy may have been as former UN secretary general Kofi Annan's special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa from 2001 to 2006.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Jenny Kwan was thrilled to learn that Lewis has endorsed her candidacy for the NDP nomination in Vancouver East.
Kwan revealed the news to the Straight at a March 14 rally opposing the Conservatives' antiterrorism bill, C-51, which has been widely condemned by civil libertarians, First Nations activists, and Amnesty International.
"I'm ecstatic to be receiving the endorsement of such a significant national and international voice on social justice—from women's rights, economic inequality, international development, aboriginal justice, and human rights, Stephen Lewis has always been there at the forefront of social change," Kwan said. "This endorsement means so much to me because of the amazing work he has done throughout his career for the most marginalized people, both here in Canada and internationally."
Lewis issued the following statement: "At this pivotal time, the NDP needs strong, uncompromising, principled voices. Jenny Kwan gives us that voice. Whether it's calling for a Commission of Inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women, or demanding federal attention to poverty, harm reduction and HIV in the Downtown Eastside, or confronting the crude anti-terrorism agenda of the Harper government, you can count on Jenny Kwan."
He added this: "She'll be a marvellous addition to the NDP caucus; she'll maintain the stature of Libby Davies; she'll make all of us proud."
On Sunday (March 22), NDP members will nominate their candidate in Vancouver East at a meeting at Vancouver Technical secondary school.
Kwan, the MLA for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant, is running against Vancouver-Kensington NDP MLA Mable Elmore and SFU Vancouver public-relations director Scott McLean.
Meanwhile, Lewis continues advocating on behalf of Africans coping with the HIV/AIDS crisis.
The Stephen Lewis Foundation, which he founded, has helped more than 300 organizations battling HIV/AIDS in 15 African countries.
His uncompromising book, Race Against Time, showed how the pandemic was magnified by "structural-adjustment programs" forced on African countries by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.