The public life of Saskatchewan suffered two big losses this past week with the passing of University of Saskatchewan Professor Emeritus Dr. C.M. (Red) Williams and former Souris-Moose Mountain MP Bernie Collins. They will both be sorely missed.
Red was a legend in Saskatchewan agriculture. His official haunt was the health of animals department at the UofS, but his knowledge and enthusiasm for all dimensions of farming and ranching, food production, soil and water conservation and development, agricultural science, farm policy and politics were boundless.
Farmers and farm organizations from across the land sought out Red Williams for his sage advice. And on virtually every topic, he had something worthwhile to say. His fundamental belief in our democratic institutions and the importance of civic engagement drove him to be an active political player, both up-front as a candidate and behind the scenes as a policy wonk, executive officer and volunteer. He also supported his community in pursuits as broad and varied as the symphony and care homes for seniors.
Red’s passion for democratic participation was no doubt shaped by his experiences in the Royal Canadian Navy – he was there in the English Channel on D-Day fighting for freedom, human rights, the rule of law and our democratic way of life. A decorated veteran, he was also awarded the Order of Canada, the Saskatchewan Order of Merit and the French Legion of Honour.
Hard work, faith in people, decency and unquenchable optimism are the legendary qualities that I will always associate with Dr. Red Williams, and I will always treasure the huge privilege of calling him my friend.
Bernie Collins of Estevan was another great friend.
A respected educator, Bernie served as the mayor of his city before tackling federal politics. In an unlikely riding in the 1993 election, he ran as a candidate for Jean Chrétien and won in a squeaker.
During his years in Ottawa, Bernie made it very clear that his sole priority was the well-being of the people of Souris-Moose Mountain. Without fear or favour, he fought for them relentlessly, and always spoke his mind. There was no mistaking where he stood. You could find no more authentic voice for the electors of southeastern Saskatchewan.
To this day, veteran rural MPs like Wayne Easter remember Bernie Collins with great admiration and affection. His courage and tenacity were well known and deeply respected.
Another of Bernie’s high qualities was his devotion to his family – and it was a big one. Until she passed away far too early, his beloved wife Delphine was a huge strength for Bernie, as were his children and grandchildren. In the most difficult moments of political life, they were his refuge and source of renewal, as was his deep religious faith.
A family man, a loyal friend, always a teacher, a principled representative for the people who elected him, a hard worker, and a devoted son of Saskatchewan, Bernie lived a life filled with service to others.
Red Williams and Bernie Collins were really wonderful people. They always gave their best to make Saskatchewan and Canada better. The political world is now the poorer without them, but their legacies are an inspiration for others to follow.