Profile: Paul Dewar

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of personal profiles of political candidates in the federal riding of Ottawa Centre.

By Nicole Bayes-Fleming

Paul and Nathaniel play hockey on a lake. Photo courtesy of Paul Dewar.
Paul and Nathaniel play hockey on a lake. Photo courtesy of Paul Dewar.
Paul Dewar has always called Ottawa home. He was raised near Maitland and Carling, the youngest of four and son of Mayor Marion Dewar. Throughout his childhood he was a competitive swimmer, while also, like many Ottawans, an avid skier and cyclist.

“Growing up in Ottawa, it’s part of the culture,” he says, “We kind of recognize Gatineau Park as our backyard.”
Dewar received his undergraduate degree in political science and economics from Carleton University. He spent six months following his graduation from Carleton travelling and working in South America, a time he views as transformative.

“That really was a profound experience for me and really changed my life in the way of what I wanted to do, and that was always to be involved in international affairs,” Dewar says, “But I always saw education as a way to make real change happen.”

Dewar received his teaching degree from Queen’s University. He was a teacher for 10 years before turning to politics, working at the intermediate level in schools such as Hopewell Avenue. While teaching, Dewar was often involved in community campaigns. He helped to introduce teachers in Ottawa to the Stephen Lewis Foundation, an organization benefiting those with HIV/AIDS in Africa. This initiative gave Ottawa teachers the option to donate a portion of their paycheque to the foundation, and was later extended to teachers across the province. Dewar also worked with CODE, a project connecting students in Canada with children in developing countries, and served as an elected representative for the teachers’ federation.

According to Dewar, it is essential to listen to one another and learn from each other’s experiences.
“We have to understand, and we see this with First Nations here, that the relationship we have with others needs to be two way,” he says. “Too often, it’s always been, ‘we know better, we’re going to help you by telling you what to do,’ as opposed to learning … wherever you are, no matter what your circumstances are, you can learn from people.”

Dewar and his wife, Julia, live in Old Ottawa East. They have two sons, Jordan and Nathaniel. Dewar says his experience as a stay-at-home dad when his children were young has been one of the most significant learning experiences he’s had. “I think it’s important … for men to understand that there’s a real benefit,” Dewar says, “and I hope it underscores the importance of nurturing and caregiving, and that it’s possible for men to do that.”

Dewar is a fan of live music, a love he shares with his family. They enjoy going to Ottawa’s many music festivals together when the time permits. “There’s a vibrant local music scene here, and very independent,” he said. “Ottawa’s always had an understated but very vibrant and rich music scene, art scene as well.”

His own experience growing up with a parent in politics taught Dewar it’s not impossible to have a family while also being a politician, so long as you make the time. “It was important for me to get the kids up in the morning, getting the lunches made, doing the regular day-to-day things,” he explains. “And it’s not only important in being part of the family, but also to keep you grounded.”

Dewar has been in politics for 10 years. He was asked to run federally just before the 2004 election, but after losing the nomination he ran again in 2005 and was successful. He says while people tell him they aren’t surprised to find him in politics given his mother’s role as mayor, he never had a plan to become an MP when he was younger.

Dewar says there are a number of strong Canadian role models he looks to for an example of the kind of politician he strives to be. These include Tommy Douglas, Jean Vanier and his own mother, who showed him that power is most useful when shared. However, he explains everyday people have just as much to teach us.

“I’m also inspired by people I meet in my job. I met this human rights defender from Guatemala, a woman who was fighting impunity there, and when I was in the Congo I met these people on the ground fighting against gender violence,” Dewar says. “You meet these people and think you have problems, and then you see what they’re doing and you go ‘wow.’”

Nicole Bayes-Fleming is a Carleton journalism student and regular contributor to the Glebe Report.

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