By Lana Hall
Ryerson has appointed a former Canadian minister of national defence as a distinguished visiting fellow. David Collenette will join the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science (FEAS) and the Chang School of Continuing Education.
Collenette was a member in the House of Commons for the Liberal Party for over 20 years. During his tenure he was minister of state for multiculturalism, veterans’ affairs, transport and Crown corporations.
He has worked under the leadership of prime ministers Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Jean Chrétien
“His background in transportation and as national defence minister makes him ideal for advising us,” said Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, interim dean for the Chang School. “We have programs, particularly a disaster and emergency relief management certificate, that would benefit from his experience.”
However, Collenette is not without controversy. As minister of national defence, he came under fire regarding the Somalia Affair, a military controversy in 1993 involving two Canadian soldiers and the murder of a Somali teenager.
Following this, he resigned from the position in 1996 but was reinstated to cabinet the following year as minister of transportation, a position he would hold until 2003.
During his time as minister of transportation, Collenette led Canada’s response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., redirecting all air traffic over the Canadian controlled portion of the Atlantic Ocean. Following that, he worked closely with the U.S. government to update transportation security policies.
Collenette retired from politics in 2004. He currently works as senior counsel for Hill+Knowlton Strategies, a public relations consulting firm, and is a senior advisor for Intergraph Corporation, which provides engineering and geospatial software.
Mohamed Lachemi, Ryerson’s provost and vice-president academic, was not available for comment but said in a press release Collenette’s diverse occupational and political background “will bring valuable real-world insight to teaching and learning at Ryerson.” Bountrogianni said Collenette will be available to advise students through the Chang School and FEAS but will hold lectures open to the entire Ryerson community.
“He is a very prestigious man,” she said. “I’m not surprised, but I’m happy he was chosen.”