A Message From The Asper Foundation
Israel Asper, O.C., O.M., Q.C., L.L.D., passed away at the age of 71 on October 7, 2003. He was one of Canada’s most colourful personalities and celebrated entrepreneurs. He also wore many different hats: media mogul, successful business person, politician, lawyer, musician, a devoted supporter of Israel and one of the greatest philanthropists in Winnipeg, Canada’s history. Beyond that, he was brilliant and charming, a loving husband, father and grandfather, and was a rare visionary.
“Everything is doable,” Israel said in an interview just before he passed away. “If you are tenacious enough, you can do whatever you set out to do. Because all you need is more determination than the guys who are trying to stop you.” Israel Asper formed CanWest Global Communications Corporation in 1977, which then became a leading international, diversified media empire spanning three continents with interests in television, film production, radio, the internet and newspapers. It was the wealth created by CanWest that allowed him and his wife, Ruth (Babs) Asper to create The Asper Foundation.
As a philanthropist, Israel is an inspiration to all. His underlying philosophy, which he imparted to his three children from the first day The Asper Foundation was established in 1983, was for them “to do something useful with [their] lives and make a difference.” He was imbued with what in Hebrew is referred to as Tikkun Olam – taking action to repair the world. He was never content to sit back and watch while a wrong was perpetrated. As daughter Gail relates, “He created the Canadian Museum for Human Rights so that future generations could be taught that we all need to stand up for one another and be vigilant in the protection of each other’s rights.”
In Winnipeg and elsewhere, the arts, universities, hospitals, parks and disadvantaged have benefitted from his generosity. Israel did this, said son Leonard in his eulogy to his father, “because he wanted to set an example for his descendants and for others that you give back to your community. It was particularly important to him that the future trustees of The Asper Foundation understand his philosophy of giving and appreciate the legacy they must uphold.”