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ROLAND PENNER, C.M., O.M., Q.C.
Born: Jul 30, 1924
Date of Passing: May 31, 2018Offer Condolences or Memory
ROLAND PENNER, C.M., O.M., Q.C. It is with great sadness that the family of Roland Penner announces that on May 31, 2018 he died from complications following a broken ankle. His loving family was by his side. Roland was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on July 30, 1924 to Jacob Penner and Rose Shapack, and was raised in Winnipeg's vibrant North End. At 19, he joined the army and served in Europe during the Second World War in the Canadian artillery. After the war, Roland enrolled at the University of Manitoba, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree and an LL.B. Following in the footsteps of his parents, Roland was actively involved in left-wing politics, initially with the communist Labor-Progressive Party and later in life with the New Democratic Party. He spent his undergraduate days immersed in campus political and cultural activities, including being a prominent member of the Debating Society, organizing numerous political meetings on and off-campus, writing prodigiously for the student newspaper and several communist publications, and pursuing his first love, progressive theatre. Roland graduated from the University of Manitoba Law School and was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1961. He soon took up an offer from Joe Zuken, a prominent city councillor and communist, to practice with him and his partners, primarily in the field of criminal law. Also in the 1950s, Roland and his first wife Addie helped manage the Co-op Bookstore on Winnipeg's Main Street and promoted numerous concerts by some of the era's prominent folk and political musicians, including Peter Seeger, Miriam Makeba, and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. While still practicing law, Roland began his teaching career at the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Law in 1967. He was a Professor of Law from 1972 to 2009, teaching courses in constitutional law, criminal law, labour law, evidence, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. From 1972 to 1978, he acted as the Founding Chair and President of Manitoba's new Legal Aid system, during which time he helped lay the groundwork for a legal aid system that is still considered one of the best in Canada. From 1979 to 1980, Roland was president of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. He served as Dean of the University of Manitoba Faculty of Law between 1989 and 1994 and was a Senior Scholar with the faculty right up until his death. Taking yet another adventurous career trajectory, Roland was elected as a NDP member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly in 1981. He served in the government of Howard Pawley until 1987 as Attorney General, Chair of the Treasury Board, Government House Leader, Minister of Education, Minister responsible for the administration of The Liquor Control Act, Minister responsible for Constitutional Affairs and Minster of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. As Attorney General, Roland introduced human rights legislation in Manitoba, championing the inclusion of sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination. The Human Rights Code came into force in 1987, a ground-breaking achievement of which he was always justifiably proud. Author of three books, Roland recently completed a biography of Hugh Amos Robson, founder of the Manitoba Law School in 1914, which will be published next Fall. Roland's lifetime of fighting for social justice and human rights earned him numerous awards and accolades, including being appointed Queen's Council (1972), the Order of Canada (2000), the Order of Manitoba (2014), and the Canadian Bar Association's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Community Ally Award (2016). Roland is survived and lovingly remembered by his twin sister Ruth; wife Janet; first wife Addie; daughters, Kathy (Rollin), Anna (Meredith) and Pen; sons, Dan (Marnie) and Paul; grandchildren, Cassidy (Gillian), Claire (Vic), David (Pam), Emily (Michael), Micah and Asher; step-grandchildren, James (Jasmine), Brett, Vic (Brendan) and Sam (Chris); great-grandchildren, Jude and Araiyah, and an extended family of nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brothers, Walter, Norman and Alfred, and sister Norma. Roland was a brilliant raconteur and debater, known for his wit, fierce intelligence, and gregarious nature. Ever the optimist, he was resilient and determined to live his life to the fullest. The day he broke his ankle, he was trying very hard to make it to his bridge game in spite of the mountains of snow left from the previous day's blizzard. Roland was deeply loved and will be greatly missed by his family, and many friends and colleagues. A private cremation will be held with a Celebration of Life to be announced at a later date. Roland's family extends thanks to the medical staff at Concordia and Seven Oaks Hospitals who attended him. In lieu of flowers, donations in Roland's memory can be made to the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra or the Council of Canadians. NEIL BARDAL FUNERAL CENTRE 204-949-2200 neilbardalinc.com
As published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Jun 02, 2018
Condolences & Memories (8 entries)
While a (phantom-like) law student at UofM, I elevated skipping classes to an art form - but only once missed Professor Penner's classes. I know he'd like that. He was the first professor whose intellect almost startled me, whose knowledge and thoughtfulness so totally engaged me, and whose wit and sense of humour so entertained me. It seemed quite incongruous that someone could be that smart and also that funny. But, thinking back, he looked every bit the part. I was too young and self-absorbed to have bothered taking the time to learn about him and his story - a story that's rich and impressive, but one that I'm only learning now with his passing. I would have felt even more fortunate having known more about him, and for having been on one of his paths such a short but memorable time. I will remember him, and remember him fondly -- as I know so many others will as well -- and do hope those thoughts and feelings are of some comfort to those closest to him. - Posted by: Bruce Fulcher (Former student) on: Jun 26, 2018
It was my privilege and good fortune to have served with Roland in the Cabinet of Howard Pawley between 1986 and 1988. His leadership on many fronts especially the inclusion of sexual orientation in the MB Human Rights Act was groundbreaking and transformative. Roland continued to be an inspiration in recent times at regular meetings of the Association of Former MB MLAs and on Saturday mornings at the downtown YM/YWCA. Roland was my friend and mentor and I will never forget his many contributions to our province. My deepest condolences to Janet and all members of his family. I anxiously await news of a public event in celebration of Roland's life. - Posted by: Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Friend, former collegue) on: Jun 11, 2018
I will always be grateful to Roland Penner for the support he gave when we were forming a group to protest the number of lives lost to drivers under the influence of alcohol or another drug back in the 1980s - Citizens Against Impaired Driving, which eventually became MADD Canada in 1996. The changes he made were significant, increased public awareness of the issue and most importantly helped save lives. May he be long remembered. Margaret Taylor, Founder CAID. - Posted by: Margaret Taylor (Friend) on: Jun 04, 2018
Roland Penner was a great man and he will be missed. - Posted by: Ricki Segal (friend) on: Jun 03, 2018
I am so sorry to hear about your dad’s passing. He lived such a full and robust life. He was very kind to me, writing a letter of recommendation when I applied to law school back in 1983. May your memories of him comfort you through this time. Thinking of you. Cyd - Posted by: Cyd Israel (Neighbor and friend of Paul) on: Jun 03, 2018
Being the niece of Mr. Penner's late brother Walter, and cousins to his children Mark and Lori, I would just like to express my sincere condolences on the passing of this man whose death leaves a large, empty void in the hearts and minds of so many. He was so well respected, revered, and believed - in his philosophies as they ranged from law, religion, and society in general. We will never see Mr. Penner's kind again in this lifetime, and I am proud to be distantly related to him, his parents, Jake and Rose, and again, being a niece and cousin to his family on Walter and Gladys' side. I truly believe that his philosophies and wisdom will stand the test of time, and I am so sorry to hear of his passing. - Posted by: Janice Allary (nee: PAWLOWSKI) (Niece to Roland's brother Walter from Toronto, deceased.) on: Jun 02, 2018
My condolences to Roland's family. He will be missed by many. Roland was one of my favourite people. Fiercely partisan, intellectually demanding with an underlying sense of humour that made him charming. His influence and accomplishments have left an indelibly positive mark on our past and future. I am glad I knew him. Jerry Storie - Posted by: Jerry Storie (Former Cabinet Colleague and Friend) on: Jun 02, 2018
I was able to see Pete Seeger perform in grade eleven thanks to the efforts of Roland Penner. Later as a law school student I had the privilege of having him as my professor for all three years, the most memorable being the year he taught criminal law. Always interested in debating, he never told the same story or anecdote more than once. I remember him with great respect. He had a second family with Professor Janet Baldwin. Used to encounter him with his young daughters while my son was a kindergarten student at Balmoral Hall, his daughters with second wife Janet Baldwin were students there as well. Shelley G. Mitchell - Posted by: Shelley G.Mitchell (former student at Robson Hall ) on: Jun 02, 2018
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