Lewis Perinbam was an outstanding Canadian – he passed away last week

There are some people who grace your life fleetingly, and you wished you had known them better.  I first met Lewis Perinbam 3 years ago when I joined the Canadian Club Vancouver board of directors.  Lewis Perinbam was an incredible Canadian and an Officer of the Order of Canada. Last week, he passed away on December 12th.

Few people can have the impact he had, as through his lifetime he helped develop many of Canada's international development programs such as CIDA, CUSO, World University Service of Canada, UNESCO as well as the Commonwealth of Learning.  I am simply amazed at all the tributes I am finding in the media and on the internet.

When Lewis learned about my Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, he shared with me that he had been raised in Malaysia and studied university in Edinburgh, Scotland.  I think he got a hoot learning about my Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner that served deep-fried haggis won ton.

Lewis had first introduced himself to me as the Chair of the Commonwealth of Learning, a role he was very happy and proud of.   The COL has written a very nice tribute to Lewis Perinbam and state that  “members of
the development community throughout the world will miss Lewis' wise
and humane contribution to their work.”My friend Linda Johnston, who is now the vice-president for Canadian Club Vancouver shared this with us:

“Lewis Perinbam recruited me to the Canadian Club and was President when
joined. I had met him through my work with the Commonwealth of
Learning. He was an amazing man as you can see from his biography. He
was also charming and witty, with a passion for
Canada and for social justice.  We have lost a very special Canadian.”

The following is from the Commonwealth of Learning tribute on their web site at

Dr. Lewis Perinbam, O.C.


Lewis Perinbam, 1925 – 2007
Chair, COL Board of Governors, 2003 – 2007

Commonwealth of Learning and the international development community
are deeply saddened by the loss of Lewis Perinbam, O.C., LL.D., who
died on Wednesday, 12 December 2007, after a brief illness. He was
elected to chair COL's Board of Governors from April 2003, having
served from 1991 as a Special Advisor to COL's first two presidents,
Dr. James Maraj and Dato' Professor Gajaraj Dhanarajan.

Perinbam was born in 1925 in Johore, Bahru Malaysia, into a family with
roots in Madras (Chennai), India. He became a world citizen at the
young age of 12 when he was sent unaccompanied by ship to Scotland.
There he was a received by an uncle who had assured his father that he
would see to it that Lewis received a “proper British education.”

never saw his father again. World War II broke out and Lewis was unable
to return to Malaysia until it ended, by which time Japanese soldiers
had raided his home and killed his father; a tragedy that was not
disclosed to the young teenager until he finally returned to Malaysia.

completing his formal education in Scotland, Lewis immigrated to
Canada, where he steadily acquired a national reputation for fostering
Canada's role in international development through his involvement and
achievements with many organisations. His appointment as an Officer of
the Order of Canada and his many awards and honorary degrees express
the esteem in which he was held. As a writer and author he was best
known for his book, North and South: Towards a New Interdependence of Nations, which carried a foreword by Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

distinguished career in the Canadian Federal Public Service led him to
work also in various international organisations, notably the World
Bank and UNESCO, and in the non-governmental (NGO) and private sectors.
He was the first Secretary-General of the Canadian National Commission
for UNESCO, the founding Executive Director of Canadian University
Service Overseas and Executive Director of World University Service of
Canada. He represented the World Bank at the United Nations and at the
UN's Specialised Agencies in Europe.

Vice-President of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
for seventeen years he inspired the creation of CIDA's Non Governmental
Organization and Industrial Co-operation Programmes – the first of
their kind in the world – and launched numerous initiatives to involve
the private, non-governmental and institutional sectors in
international development. He led Canadian Government delegations to
many international meetings and served as an advisor to the United
Nations, the Commonwealth Secretariat (London, England) and the
National Academy of Sciences (Washington, D.C.). He was especially
proud of his role in chairing the 2000 Canadian Government Task Force
on the Participation of Visible Minorities in the Federal Public

also provided a lifetime of service in governance capacities to civil
society and community organisations. After retiring from CIDA he
settled in Vancouver and dedicated himself to helping the Commonwealth
of Learning through his extensive contacts and global networks. In
praising this contribution COL President Sir John Daniel said, “At an
age when most people would be enjoying a well earned retirement Lewis
came to his office at COL most days. He was an inspiring friend to
members of the staff and during his time as Chair of the Board COL's
governance practices became a model for intergovernmental
organisations. It was a privilege to serve under him.”

of the development community throughout the world will miss Lewis' wise
and humane contribution to their work. He leaves his wife, Nancy
Garrett, a sister and three brothers.

service of remembrance will be held in Vancouver on 28 December 2007 at
2:00 p.m. at St. Helen's Anglican Church (Trimble & 8th) and in
Ottawa in the New Year.

lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Lewis Perinbam Award
in International Development c/o WUSC, 1404 Scott Street, Ottawa K1Y
4M8, Telephone 613 798 7477, fax 613 798 0990 or on line at

Newspaper obituary

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