Farewell to a Peacemonger

CANADA LOST AN extraordinary citizen in August, and PEACE Magazine lost a beloved friend, George Ignatieff. Douglas Roche, who succeeded Mr. Ignatieff as Ambassador for Disarmament, wrote this tribute.

By Douglas Roche | 1989-10-01 12:00:00

WHEN I HEARD OF GEORGE IGNATIEFF'S death, I reached for my copy of his memoirs, The Making of a Peacemonger, to savor again the life of this towering man who was, for me, a model and a mentor. I read again of his childhood as the Russian-born son of a famous aristocratic family, the escape to England, the early and difficult days in Canada, the Rhodes scholarship, the entry into Canada's foreign service, the friendship with Lester B. Pearson, his ambassadorial postings to Yugoslavia, NATO, the U.N. and Geneva, his disillusionment with External Affairs under the Trudeau government, his growing concern about the nuclear arms race and the undermining of international cooperation. The book stops too short. I longed to see one last retrospective, one final public warning of what he had often shared with me privately: the governments have got to stop going along with the arms race and end it before it consumes the world. That was what his experience taught George Ignatieff; that was what he articulated with increasing effectiveness in the years following publication of the book; that was the "peacemonger" Ignatieff.

George was wise, warm, funny, and a deeply sensitive man. At a dinner during a meeting of the Consultative Group on Disarmament and Arms Control Affairs, I deliberately sat George beside Prime Minister Mulroney, hoping that George's spirit for the subject might be contagious. When George addressed the Tme North Strong and Free conference in Edmonton, he brought down the house with the line: "No incineration without representation." When George spoke at Consultative Group meetings about why Canada wasn't doing more to get a CTB, I could see government officials squirming.

As he got older, George became a provocateur in the best sense. He challenged the old ideas about the sanctity of deterrence. At the end, he was deeply concerned that the West's response to Gorbachev's perestroika is much too weak, given the potential for ending the Cold War and installing a system of collective security. There is a sentence in Peacemonger that I believe sums up George's beliefs and vision:

"As a Pearson disciple I was a firm believer in the interdependence ofnations and the need to tackle collectively such global problems as the escalating arms race, the depletion of scarce or irreplaceable resources, the threat to our environment, the growing incidence of violence and terror, and the possible breakdown of the post-war economic order."

Like so many others who revered the man, I saw in George Ignatieff that splendid combination of intellect, conviction, and courage that lifts up those around. He deeply loved his adopted land and served it brilliantly. Yet in the sweep of his historical, cultural, and experiential background, he was a truly global citizen. He enriched humanity -- and he did it by being a "peacemonger."

- Douglas Roche

Peace Magazine Oct-Nov 1989

Peace Magazine Oct-Nov 1989, page 16. Some rights reserved.

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