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Saturday August 8, 2009

Canada's first multiculturalism minister dies

Stanley Haidasz, a trailblazing Polish-Canadian politician who helped to usher in the country's multiculturalism policy, has died. He was 86.

Toronto's Dr. Haidasz spent 17 years in the House of Commons and 20 in the Senate.

When he was first elected in 1957, the trained physician became the first MP of Polish-Canadian background in recent history. He was appointed to the Senate by Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1978, where he served until 1998.

"Stanley Haidasz was a trail blazing politician and leader whose contributions to Canada, Polish Canadians and Toronto will be long remembered," MP Gerard Kennedy said in a statement.

During his tenure in the Commons, Dr. Haidasz witnessed the ushering in of medicare and the Canada Assistance Plan. He also held posts as Canada's first Minister of State for Multiculturalism and was a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.

His wife of 59 years, Natalia, described her husband as a dedicated doctor who kept his practice running even as he served.

He graduated in medicine from the University of Toronto in 1951. From then on, she said, he worked seven days a week, travelling home from Ottawa each weekend to return to his practice.

Though he was born in Toronto in 1923, Mrs. Haidasz said that one of her husband's proudest accomplishments was helping the city's immigrants in their new home.

"He felt proud to serve the older generation of immigrants that didn't speak English very well," she said yesterday.

He leaves his wife and children, Marie, 55, Walter, 53, Barbara, 50, and Joanne, 47, and will be buried Monday. A full obituary is forthcoming.

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