York scholarship honours Charles Caccia, leading environmentalist

Donations are now being accepted for a scholarship fund to honour Charles Caccia, one of Canada’s leading environmental advocates, who died on May 3 at the age of 78, following a stroke.

The Charles Caccia Award in Sustainable Development will be awarded to outstanding graduate students in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) who share his passion for an environmentally sustainable future. Gifts directed to the fund are matched by the University’s Graduate Support Matching Program (GSMP) and the provincial government’s Ontario Trust for Student Support (OTSS), potentially offering five times the financial impact to students.

Right: Charles Caccia

As one of Canada’s strongest advocates for environmental policy, Caccia participated in many international initiatives such as the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the Kyoto Protocol and the Brundtland Commission. “Caccia was tenacious in his mission to achieve sustainability and environmental protection,” says Karen Kraft Sloan (MES ’90), a York consultant on sustainability to the Office of the Vice-President of Research & Innovation, and a long-time friend and colleague of Caccia’s. “He was well-known internationally for his progressive ideals, and well respected at home for his commitment to Canada.”

Caccia had a considerable background in the environment. He arrived in Canada in 1955 and taught in the Faculty of Forestry at the University of Toronto. In 1968, he became the first Italian-born member of Parliament. As a federal politician, Caccia was active in environmental issues, serving as minister of labour in 1981, minister of the environment in 1983 and Liberal environmental critic in 1984. He also served on several committees, on the World Commission for Forests & Sustainable Development and, most recently, the federal standing committee on environment & sustainable development as chair.

He left federal politics in 2004, went on to serve as senior Fellow at the University of Ottawa’s Institute of the Environment and was elected president of Green Cross Canada in 2006.

Fellow environmental advocate Jim MacNeill, chair emeritus of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, is now working with York to create the Charles Caccia Award in Sustainable Development, to honour Caccia’s contributions to the environment and sustainable development. MacNeill says Caccia was one of the world’s “most passionate advocates for an environmentally sustainable future for the peoples of this planet”.

“I’m very happy that Charles Caccia’s contributions to our understanding of sustainability will be memorialized in this very important and prestigious award,” says Barbara Rahder, dean of the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. “Charles spoke passionately about issues of sustainable development whenever he visited [York] and argued that sustainable development depends on our seeing the environment as the basis for all life, including economic life. His views were clearly a good fit with the Faculty.”

For more information or to donate to the scholarship fund, contact Sandy Tieman, chief development officer, Faculty of Environmental Studies, at ext. 58013 or e-mail tieman@yorkfoundation.yorku.ca.