Obituary: Winnipeg Liberal MP Jim Carr, 71, was a strong advocate for the Jewish community

Jim Carr

With the passing of Jim Carr, the member of Parliament for the riding of Winnipeg South Centre since 2015, Winnipeg’s Jewish community has lost a friend, advocate and supporter. 

Carr died Dec. 12 after battling multiple myeloma and kidney failure for the past three years. He was 71.

He served as minister of natural resources and then minister of international trade diversification between 2015 and 2019. He was diagnosed with cancer the day after he was re-elected in 2019.

“As a dedicated elected official, business and community leader in Manitoba for over 30 years, Jim was loved and respected by so many and we know he will be profoundly missed,” his family said in a statement.

In 2018, Carr led a trade mission to Israel where he discussed how Canada could translate a modernized free trade agreement between the two countries into additional sales and partnerships.

“I’m delighted as (a) Jewish member of Parliament and as a Jewish member of the cabinet to be here representing Canada,” he said during the trip.

He noted there was “good alignment” between Canada and Israel in certain fields of research and praised “the Israeli innovative brilliance and leadership.”

Tributes from the Jewish community came pouring in soon after his death was announced.

“As a committed Canadian and community member, Jim served Manitobans of all walks of life advocating for human rights, supporting families through employment and business activities,” said Gustavo Zentner, president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.

“Jim was a regular guest at our community events, bringing remarks and making connections with everyone around him as he shared his passion for the arts and music.”

Carr began his professional life as musician, playing oboe for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, before leaving for McGill University.

After university, he was an editorial writer and columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press, executive director of the Manitoba Arts Council and president of the Business Council of Manitoba. He also was a member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly for the provincial Liberal Party from 1988-92.

In 2011, Carr was awarded the Order of Manitoba for his contributions to the province.

Carr was immensely proud of his Jewish heritage, Zentner said, often reflecting on his experiences of growing up Jewish in Winnipeg.

“Throughout his career, he was a strong advocate for the Jewish community, made time to meet frequently, and often appeared at community events. His desire to build bridges was evident through his involvement with the local Arab-Jewish dialogue,” he added.

A descendant of immigrants who arrived from Russia in 1906, Carr had his bar mitzvah at Winnipeg’s Shaarey Zedek Synagogue.

When he was first elected in 2015, he reflected on his heritage in his victory speech.

“Going door to door over the past two years, I have met people from all over the world—people like my grandparents who came here from Russia over 100 years ago, seeking a better life—and I have heard all of their stories. We are a generous nation with tolerance for all,” he said.

In addition to his cabinet portfolios, Carr was also a member of the All-Party Interfaith Caucus, which he described as a group that could bring together people of different faiths “to reflect on human rights, inequality, social justice, the environment and nation building.”

Growing up Jewish in Winnipeg, “moulded” him, he said, noting it is one of the important ways he looked at issues and policies.

At the same time, being a victim of antisemitism as a teen also influenced “how I see the world,” he said, adding it led him to look for ways to promote understanding between different groups. This included being a member of the Jewish-Muslim caucus within the Liberal Party.

“We have dinner together from time to time and communicate with each other,” he said of that caucus, adding the connections have caused them to “develop a great deal of affection for each other.”

For Elaine Goldstine, CEO of the Winnipeg Jewish Federation, Carr’s passing is “a sad day for Manitobans, who have lost a dedicated leader, community member, and advocate.”

He made “a positive contribution to the lives of so many,” she added.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, noted Carr’s “abiding passion for Canada, deep pride in his home province of Manitoba and unwavering commitment to his Jewish heritage. In touching the lives of so many, the common theme that marked Jim Carr’s many contributions was his dedication to making Canada a better place for all.”

In 1998, Carr worked with a group of Winnipeggers from different faith groups to create Faith and the Media, the first national conference on how the media covers religion in Canada.

In a statement, the family said Carr died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family, and that plans for a memorial service will be announced in the coming days.