Clyde Sanger, who died in Ottawa on January 20 at age 93, was a journalist and author. At different points in his career, he wrote for The Guardian, The Economist, and The Globe and Mail. In the late 1950s he left his home in England to report on decolonization in eastern and southern Africa. His focus shifted in the late 1960s when he and his wife Penny moved to Canada, first as a parliamentary bureau correspondent and as the Canada correspondent for The Economist.
Canada’s role in supporting newly independent developing countries, particularly in Africa, was a central preoccupation in Clyde’s work. This led to his engagements in the 1970s with the Ottawa-based International Development Research Centre and the North-South Institute. (As President of the North-South Institute I had the pleasure and privilege of working with Clyde as our Communications Director in the late 1990s.) It led to many books, right up till his final years, when he published a memoir entitled Our Golden Years in Africa.
Clyde’s work was driven by a sense of moral justice and ethics, both in his professional and personal life. He was a signatory to the 1981 statement of the Group of 78, in which seventy-eight distinguished Canadians called on Canada to exercise international leadership on nuclear disarmament, on international equity, and on strengthening the United Nations and multilateral cooperation. Clyde helped build on the momentum of the 1981 statement to create the organization still named ‘the Group of 78.’ The motto of the G78, as it is informally known, is “peace, justice, and international survival”.
The G78 is a forum that convenes speaking events and conferences where knowledgeable speakers share their perspectives on international issues of the day. The volunteer members of the G78 distill the key messages and recommendations and advance them to decision- and policy-makers, particularly in Canada.
Clyde helped forge the identity and the viability of the G78 through his role as Chief Rapporteur, which required synthesizing what was said by speakers and participants into a persuasive, policy-relevant form accessible to a wider public. This was a challenging task, but throughout the G78’s first two decades Clyde did this with panache and good humour.
Alongside Clyde, Penny Sanger was a key player in the establishment of the G78 as a viable entity. In the initial years she was the office manager who maintained its solvency with no steady source.
Clyde was a man of letters who published many poems. At his and Penny’s parties in their home in the Glebe in Ottawa, old friends reconnected and guests were expected to bring and read a poem.
Here are some lines from one I wrote for Clyde on his 80th birthday:
While talents course through many people’s veins,
Though fortune’s blessings are more thinly spread,
And courage is but scarcer than the rains
In life’s parched desert pocked with fear and dread:
Your writings sing with gusto and with verve,
We gather here to celebrate beside
A special person, just for
Roy Culpeper is chair of the Group of 78.