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"MEG" 2008 Obituary


MEGARRY  MEGGISON 

MEGARRY o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2008-07-10 published
Member of Legislative Assembly and mayor of Yellowknife built consensus and unity in Northwest Territories
With a personality as big as Northwest Territories, he used persuasion to find a seat for Northerners at the constitutional table and to include native people in diamond-mining projects
By Sandra MARTIN, Page S10
If ever a man meshed with a time and a place, it was Michael BALLANTYNE, a traveller who roamed the world's troubled spots and then made his mark in Yellowknife as mayor, territorial politician and executive at the Diavik Diamond Mine during a dynamic political and human-rights era. He was an active participant in the evolution of responsible government in the Northwest Territories, the settling of land claims, and the creation of Nunavut as a separate territory with its own political administration.
He was a Paul Bunyanesque figure, complete with black beard and booming voice. A towering 6 feet 6 inches in his socks, with an equally impressive girth, he weighed in at about 250 pounds and had a personality as big as Northwest Territories. Instead of wielding an axe, he used his persuasive tongue and expansive empathy to build consensus among disparate stakeholders. "He loved what he did," said his wife, Penny BALLANTYNE. " The more complex the problem, the more excited he got. He liked nothing better than something that seemed to have no solution and then he would figure it out."
"He was a politician who reached out to everyone," said Dennis Patterson, premier of Northwest Territories from 1987 to 1991, mentioning Mr. BALLANTYNE's "pivotal" role in settling land claims and in building a society in which aboriginal and non-natives could participate fully in public affairs. "He believed in inclusive politics and he was a friend to all, even in a climate of mistrust of the capital and a climate of fear that Yellowknife residents would do everything they could to undermine the self-determination aspirations of the Inuit [in what is now Nunavut]."
Along the way, as mayor of Yellowknife, Mr. BALLANTYNE convinced The Globe and Mail to act as chief fundraiser for the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre, the only fully equipped live performance theatre in Northwest Territories, and to spend a bundle air freighting in copies of the newspaper long before on-line editions made it possible to read the paper anywhere. "It cost us, but it made them all feel good," said former Globe publisher Roy MEGARRY.
"He was a take-charge guy, very vocal, incredibly friendly, bursting with life and enthused about everything," said Mr. MEGARRY. "He was a great, great Canadian, and a warm human being with great concern for the rest of humanity. He exhibited that not just in Vietnam and in Cambodia, but also in the territories, where there is a lot of poverty, especially among the native population.
"He devoted his life to doing the things that really counted and had meaning in this world and not enough people are aware of him."
Michael Alan BALLANTYNE, who was born in Toronto in the last year of the Second World War, was the eldest of five sons in a military family. His father, Ernest Alan BALLANTYNE, was a military engineer and his mother, Barbara Joyce (née STEVENS,) was a nurse. He grew up living the itinerant life of a military brat, attending many schools - three in one year was the record - throughout Canada, and on postings to the United States and Germany. He graduated from Laurentian High School in Ottawa and enrolled in political science at Carleton University. In 1963, he was tired of political theory and eager for realpolitik. As he told an interviewer 20 years later, "I was convinced I was at a university full of wimps in a nation of turkeys who never looked beyond their noses at the world around them."
At 18, he headed to the southern United States to join the civil-rights movement and help register black voters in rural Alabama. As a "white" sympathizer, he was badly beaten and had his nose broken by police, was thrown in jail, and told "you aren't in Canada now, boy." That was his "big awakening," according to his wife, Penny BALLANTYNE, about "how lucky we have it in Canada and how little we know about the reality of other people's struggle." Later that summer, he went north to join Martin Luther King's march on Washington and was in the throng at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, when the Baptist minister let his voice ring out with the words "I have a dream."
For much of the next decade, Mr. BALLANTYNE travelled and worked around the world in Africa, South America, Europe and Asia. He took a break in 1969 and went to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories to visit his parents, who had settled there after his father had retired as a colonel from the army and taken on the job as inaugural director of industry in the territorial government. He found a job building houses in the boom that followed Yellowknife's designation as the capital of Northwest Territories in 1967.
By the end of a year, Mr. BALLANTYNE had enough money to head off again. Wherever he went, political upheaval seemed to find him. As the Vietnam War ground on, he worked for Save the Children in Cambodia and Vietnam, and travelled up the mighty Mekong River, arriving in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, as it fell to Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in April, 1975.
He brought searing images of poverty, child soldiers and war zones back to Yellowknife in 1976 where he found a job driving a front loader in The Giant Mine and soon became active in the Canadian Aluminum Smelter and Allied Workers, the union representing the workers at the mine. Working on the executive of Canadian Aluminum Smelter and Allied Workers whetted his appetite for politics and he ran successfully for Yellowknife city council in 1978.
As a neophyte politician, Mr. BALLANTYNE's style resonated with young people, but he also created a bridge with older, more traditional politicians. After travelling the world, he had found his métier in the North, the place "where you come to live out all your fantasies," as he told an interviewer a decade later.
"Mike was always attracted to what he called the 'interesting edges' of life," according to John Parker, commissioner of Northwest Territories from 1979 to 1989. "He liked people and events and he saw in the territories developing government, and developing populations and developing industry. He was a great people person."
In 1980, the mayor of Yellowknife retired and Mr. BALLANTYNE easily won the election to succeed him. An ebullient booster of his adopted town, he not only persuaded The Globe to steamroller a fundraising campaign for Northern Arts and Cultural Centre, he talked the territorial government into donating the slated-for-demolition gymnasium, including heating and maintenance costs, of the Sir John Franklin Territorial High School as the foundation of the new theatre complex.
After two terms as mayor, Mr. BALLANTYNE was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly for Yellowknife North, a seat he held for the next 12 years. The political system in Northwest Territories is built on a consensus model rather than an adversarial party system. Individuals run for office in a territorial election, and then the winners vote by secret ballot to select a cabinet from among themselves. After two years in the assembly, Mr. BALLANTYNE's fellow Member of Legislative Assemblys selected him for cabinet, where he served in a number of portfolios, including finance and justice, during "a very complex geo-political" time when the territorial government was a virtual "United Nations" of diverse interests and nationalities, according to former premier Dennis Patterson. " Making our government work fell to Mike BALLANTYNE because he was government house leader. He was the guy who sniffed the air with ordinary Member of Legislative Assemblys, established links with the all powerful committees, and became the intelligence, the adviser, the catalyst and the advocate of compromise to make sure that consensus government worked."
He was justice minister during the Meech Lake era. An accord was reached in June, 1987, between Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and the premiers of the 10 provinces, but many Northerners, including Mr. BALLANTYNE, objected to clauses in the proposed treaty that gave provinces, but not territories, a veto over Senate reform and the creation of new provinces, and denied Northwest Territories residents the opportunity to sit in the Senate or on the Supreme Court. He argued that these provisions made Northerners "second-class citizens" and violated their equality rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and he mounted a legal challenge against the federal government. The case came to naught when the provincial legislatures failed to ratify the accord, but Mr. BALLANTYNE emphatically brought the interests of the North to the constitutional table. He didn't do his own networking connections any harm, either.
"He was very astute, very good at consensus-building and identifying common interests," said John Vertes, senior judge of the Supreme Court of Northwest Territories. The two men met in the late 1970s when Mr. Vertes was a young lawyer and Mr. BALLANTYNE was a member of the Yellowknife city council. Once met, never forgotten, but their biggest professional link came when Mr. BALLANTYNE was minister of justice in the 1980s.
At that time, Northwest Territories included what would become Nunavut, so it was a vast jurisdiction about one-third the size of Canada with a small, but diverse and remotely located population. Residents spoke 11 officially recognized languages. The courts were based in Yellowknife, the capital and only city, and travelled out to remote communities to hold criminal trials and to hear cases, but many elders were precluded from serving on juries in trials affecting their own communities because they did not speak either English or French. Mr. BALLANTYNE negotiated an amendment to the legislation governing juries in Northwest Territories, said Mr. Justice Vertes, to allow an aboriginal speaker (with the help of specially trained court interpreters) to serve on a jury, even if he or she didn't speak either of the two official languages. This innovation expanded the jury pool, made it possible to hold trials in isolated native communities, allowed locals to participate in the process and inevitably engendered a greater understanding of how the justice system functions. "This is unique in the Western world," said Mr. Vertes. "They don't do this in Australia, or in New Zealand, where Maori is an official language."
Also in the middle eighties, Mr. BALLANTYNE met and married Penny AUMOND. Both had been married before. Together, they reared three children, Erin, Alexandra and Nicholas. As a couple, the BALLANTYNEs were a striking physical contrast because she was more than a foot shorter. "I may be 5 feet 3, but I was the only one who could sit him down and read him the riot act," she said.
Having told his wife that he was going to choose his exit, he became Speaker in 1991 (the same year that Nellie Cournoyer became the first female premier of Northwest Territories) and left politics two years later. He never became premier, primarily because he represented the urban riding of Yellowknife (Northwest Territories's only city) and in the buildup to the creation of Nunavut, the unofficial consensus was that the premier should both be aboriginal and from a non-urban riding in the eastern part of the territory. Analysts might conclude that, for once, Mr. BALLANTYNE was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time, but a more likely explanation is that he was more interested in political evolution than in clawing at power for its own sake.
Coincidentally, there was another issue brewing in the North that called out for his skill set: managing the competing interests surrounding the discovery of rich diamond deposits in the Northwest Territories in 1991, a discovery that has turned Canada into one of the world's top producers of quality and politically "clean" diamonds. He joined Aber (now Harry Winston Diamonds) as vice-president Northwest Territories, with a mandate to oversee the construction of the Diavik Diamond Mine, which opened in 2003, and to liaise with the federal and territorial governments and native groups over mineral and subsidiary rights. "We really needed a senior person in Yellowknife who could meet head to head with the president of the operating company and he stood out as the kind of guy who could do this," said George Parker, former Northwest Territories commissioner and now a director of Aber. "His familiarity with the territorial government and with the federal agencies based in Yellowknife were also very important factors. It was in Aber's interest that the project proceed smoothly and obeyed the rules and engaged Northern people, in particular aboriginal people, and it was necessary for us to have a really strong spokesman." From 2002 to 2005, Mr. BALLANTYNE also held an appointment as vice-president of Laurelton Diamonds (a subsidiary of Tiffany and Company) to establish a diamond-cutting and polishing plant in Yellowknife, so that the mine could support a secondary industry in the North.
Mr. BALLANTYNE turned 55 in February, 2000. After a glowing medical checkup, he took his family on their "first-ever" winter holiday in Barbados. That's where he developed flu-like symptoms. Within the month, he was in a coma in hospital in Edmonton, waiting for a liver transplant. He had probably harboured a dormant form of hepatitis since his travelling days, which had suddenly turned voracious. "Miraculously," says Penny BALLANTYNE, he was given a donor liver. The new liver kept him from dying, but it was not in perfect condition and so life became a struggle to stay healthy. They bought and renovated an old house in Victoria, where Ms. BALLANTYNE lived with their nearly grown children and found a job as city manager while Mr. BALLANTYNE commuted to Yellowknife and kept promising to retire.
He was in Victoria's Royal Jubilee Hospital for about a month this May and then he was transported by air ambulance to the University of Alberta in Edmonton. The doctors were talking encouragingly about a second liver transplant when he had a massive internal hemorrhage. Although the doctors in the Intensive Care Unit did their utmost - he'd always insisted he wanted extraordinary measures - he knew there were no more miracles. "He always told me, 'I'm not afraid to die. If I have to go, I've had a great life and I've had eight years that were a bonus,' said Ms. BALLANTYNE. "He looked at each of us, squeezed our hands and he just relaxed."
Michael Alan BALLANTYNE was born February 27, 1945, in Toronto. He died June 19, 2008, at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta. He was 63. He is survived by his wife Penny, his three children, one grandchild and his extended family.

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MEGGISON o@ca.on.grey_county.owen_sound.the_sun_times 2008-01-17 published
WEIR, Joyce (née McMILLAN)
Of Wiarton, passed away peacefully at Gateway Haven on Tuesday, January 15, 2008 in her 81st year. Joyce and Don WEIR enjoyed 50 years of marriage before Don's passing in 1999. Together they farmed in Mar and operated the Ferry View Motel in Tobermory. Family, fun and Friends - these were the three pillars of Joyce's life. She was an avid curler, euchre player, traveller and a devoted mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend. Dear mother of Brenda ROUSE of London and Shirley and Don JOHANNSON of Port Moody, British Columbia Cherished grandmother to Amy ROUSE (friend Kelly STEWARD/STEWART/STUART), Adam ROUSE, Ryan JOHANNSON and Keira JOHANNSON. Joyce will be missed by her sisters Mildred LEE and Shirley BRYAN, sisters-in-law Edith MATCHAM and Margaret McMILLAN, all of Manitoba, sisters-in-law Mildred McARTHUR of Scarborough and Edna DAY of Kingston, and sisters and brothers-in-law Hester and Tom CUNNINGHAM, Maisie and Howard HEPBURN, Betty and Harvey WEIR, Mary and Lorne WEIR and Clara and Jack WEIR, all of Wiarton, as well as many nieces and nephews. Joyce was predeceased by her husband Don, sons Paul and Ross, parents Belle and Alexander McMILLAN, sisters Hester (Bert) CHURCHILL and Glenis (Stan) MEGGISON, brothers Irvine, Jack (Edna,) George (Florence) and Don McMILLAN and sister-in-law Janet (Roy) BARNES. Visitation will be held at the George Funeral Home, Wiarton on Friday, January 18, 2008 from 2: 00 to 4:00 and 7: 00 to 9:00 p.m. A celebration of Joyce's life will be held at the funeral home on Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 1: 00 p.m. with Rev. George BELL officiating. Spring interment Colpoy's Bay Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations made to the Friends of Gateway, Wiarton Hospital, the Liver Foundation or the charity of your choice would be appreciated by the family as expressions of sympathy. Condolences may be sent to the family at www.georgefuneralhome.com

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