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Canadian leaders share lessons from their dads

A father is shown holding his child's hand. (Pexels photo) A father is shown holding his child's hand. (Pexels photo)

Our fathers give us so much more than half of our DNA — and as many would agree, giving us their genes isn't necessary for someone to be a great dad.

Dads and father figures teach us practical skills, from how to brush our teeth and put our shoes on the right feet to the high art of haggling.

But they also help us learn the difference between right and wrong, how to keep going in the face of adversity and how to sacrifice for the people we love. They pass down family traditions, cherished jokes and timeworn tall tales.

In honour of Father’s Day, asked notable Canadians from different backgrounds about their fathers and the stories, lessons and advice that they cherish. Here’s what they said. Some of the responses have been edited for length.

Stephen Jones, chief executive officer of Flair Airlines

Stephen Jones, CEO of Flair Airlines, is shown with his father. (Stephen Jones photo)

Humility and gratitude — OK, that is two things, but my father, Frank, lived a simple life and never judged people by their appearance or assets. He spent time listening to people and connecting where he could. He was an easy and funny conversationalist but was equally happy by himself.

Dad was grateful for his friends and family and for the simple enjoyment of nature around him.

I have three daughters and they have all taken their own path through life so far. I have learned to be careful of imposing my expectations of what success looks like onto my girls and the need to balance positive pressure and guidance with providing them with the freedom to create their own story.

Maximilien Van Haaster, Team Canada Olympic athlete

Two time Olympian, Paris 2024 qualified Fencer and new dad Maximilien Van Haaster with his father and newborn daughter. (Maximilien Van Haaster photo)

My father was always there for me and supported me in my athletic career. Whether it was driving me to training or competitions, he was always happy to do it.

Later in my career, when I started to travel to national and international competitions, he became my personal travel agent, booking flights and hotels to make sure that I would not have to worry about that. He sacrificed a lot of time, money and energy to help me achieve my goals. Despite all of this, he never put any pressure on me to perform. As long as I worked hard and loved what I was doing, winning or losing was never an issue.

As a child and younger adult, I took this for granted. Now, being a father myself, I reflect on everything my father did for me. I can only hope to be as supportive and present for my daughter as my father was for me.

Liban Abokor, managing director of Reimagine LABS and co-founder of the Foundation for Black Communities

Liban Abokor, executive director of Youth Leaps and co-founder of the Foundation for Black Communities, is shown with his father, Farah Abokor. (Liban Abokor photo)


I have this oddly fragmented memory of my father. He came home every day, but I had little idea what he did for work. It wasn’t until I started my career in the social impact sector, that I even realized what he did, and that was only because people remarked on how similar we were, despite me never actually knowing what he did. How could I be like him without ever seeing him in his element?

But maybe that’s the point. You don’t necessarily need to see the details to emulate the man. Now, 20 years into my career, I’m walking a path I could never have imagined, oddly reflecting my father's own journey.

To explain this, I’ll share a story that answers your question. Words weren’t my dad’s way of sharing lessons. He was more of a "watch and learn" kind of guy. And I learned a lot from observing him and what he focused on. Growing up, I thought my dad was the smartest person in the world, so it was hard to understand why he spent so much time on issues that didn’t seem to affect him directly or seemed impossible to solve.

One day, I confronted him about it, and he said, "Never assume someone else is solving the problem you’re ignoring. That kind of apathy permits injustice to spread." That stuck with me.

Whenever I encounter something difficult and think, "Well, I’m not the best person to handle this; let someone else figure it out," I remember his words. If we all ignore problems, they’ll never get fixed. It was that advice that drove me to tackle the underfunding of Black charities and non-profits in Canada, a problem I chose not to ignore, just like my dad taught me.

David Eby, Premier of British Columbia

B.C. Premier David Eby helps his daughter Iva, 3, as he skates with her, his wife Cailey Lynch, back left, and son Ezra, front left, 8, at the Robson Square ice rink, in Vancouver, on Saturday, December 3, 2022. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

My dad was the coach of many of the little kid baseball teams my brothers and sister played on over the years. As coach he taught a number of important lessons to us about all kinds of things.

The need for everyone to be included fairly. The importance of avoiding rotator cuff injuries by stretching arms in a windmill fashion every pre-game warmup. The ill fortune that attaches to those who pack the bats before the game is over, or worse, step on the foul ball line. The imperative to hustle out to your fielding position and back. And of course, that there should be no negative cheers about the other team.

For the lessons on the baseball diamond and the example at home, I'm still striving to meet his standards. This Father's Day is particularly special, with my two troublemaking but good hearted kids and my beautiful and amazing wife, as we wait for the arrival of our new baby girl any day now.

Chadwick Westlake, chief financial officer of EQ Bank

EQ Bank CFO Chadwick Westlake, left, is shown with his wife Kim and her parents. (Chadwick Westlake photo)

My late father-in-law, Floyd, became one of the most influential figures in my adult life. He helped me understand how to become the best husband and father I could be, and how to truly, selflessly give back to people in need.

He encouraged his daughter, my wife Kim, and I to take in the experiences the world has to offer and not get trapped in a bubble. He inspired us to have integrity, always prioritize our family and health and give back to others wherever we could. His advice that I have always used as a guidepost is, "You learn in life as you get older. If you ever have regrets, it will be about the things you don’t do, not the things you do. So, if you’re facing a choice to take a risk, or do something great personally or professionally — go for it and don’t look back or give up."

You form perspective very quickly as a father on what matters most in life. You learn where the greatest joys can come from and how to make the right choices with your time. Being a father has taught me that it’s the consistent, small little things that matter, not the big gestures. When you make it to that sports game or concert, or when you show up for a bedtime story despite the other things on your plate, that is what shapes your kid, when you care and are present — not when you show up occasionally with a new toy or iPad.

My son graduated from senior kindergarten recently and I did whatever I had to do to make sure I was there cheering him on. These are the choices I will always remember and, perhaps more importantly, will teach my son that family, health and prioritizing life’s moments is the path to happiness.

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc

Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs, left, is shown as a child with his father Romeo LeBlanc, former Governor General of Canada. (Dominic LeBlanc photo)

I learned to be proud of my Acadian heritage, and to celebrate our French language and Acadian culture. The story of the Acadians is one of enduring resilience, overcoming enormous challenges and yet remaining optimistic and engaged in building tolerant, compassionate communities. 

With files from Journalist Daniel Otis Top Stories

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