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Memorable Manitobans: Israel Harold “Izzy” Asper (1932-2003)

Lawyer, businessman, MLA (1969-1973), MLA (1973-1977), philanthropist.

Born at Minnedosa on 11 August 1932, son of Cecilia Asper, he spent his first 16 years there, later attending Kelvin High School, from which he graduated in 1949. In the early 1970s, Asper served as an MLA and the leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, before buying KCND, a small television station at Pembina, North Dakota. Over the next two decades, he expanded from this base to create the Canwest Global Communications Corporation, an international media empire, including Canada’s largest newspaper chain.

Asper was well-known as a philantrophist, donating over $100 million to a wide variety of Jewish and other charitable causes, through the Asper Foundation and the Canwest Global Charitable Foundation. He helped to found the Asper Jewish Community Campus, which bears his name. He worked towards the foundation of a Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg.

He was a life-long staunch Zionist, frequently and publicly defending Israel and criticizing organizations, including the CBC, for what he felt were anti-Zionist leanings. In honour of his philanthropy and public advocacy, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem gave Asper an honorary doctorate in 1999, and the University of Manitoba awarded him one in 1998. He was inducted into the Order of Canada in 1995, the Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Order of Manitoba in 2000.

With wife Babs Asper, he had three children: Leonard Asper, Gail Asper, and David Asper.

He died at Winnipeg on 7 October 2003.

Sources:

Obituary, The Jewish Post and News, 15 October 2003, pp. 1-12.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 11 October 2003.

This page was prepared by Kris Keen and Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 21 July 2015

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

A collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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