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'Champion' of children Clyde Hertzman mourned

B.C. Premier Christy Clark and many others have extolled the work of Dr. Clyde Hertzman while expressing sadness at news of the sudden death of the renowned early child development expert.

Hertzman was a Canada research chair in Population Health and Human Development and director of the Human Early Learning Partnership of B.C.

The Tyee published many stories citing Hertzman’s work, including this and this, as well as an opinion piece by Hertzman calling for more investment in daycare to counter social inequality.

In that piece, Hertzman wrote that "there is now an impressive body of evidence showing that early childhood development affects health, wellbeing, academic achievement, and competence for the rest of a person's life. We know that a child's development is strongly influenced by the day-to-day qualities of the environments where he or she grows up, lives, and learns.

"In other words, families do not operate on their own."

Hertzman was a research associate of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Seth Klein, director of the B.C. office of the CCPA, emailed this tribute to Hertzman today:

"As many of you have likely heard, late last week we at the CCPA lost a great friend, and Canada lost one of its greatest advocates for children:

"The sudden and untimely passing of Clyde Hertzman comes as a terrible shock. Clyde was the life partner of our former Chair and prolific research associate Marcy Cohen, and was himself a long-time research associate with the CCPA-BC (you can find a wonderful CCPA paper he wrote here

"Only a few weeks ago, Clyde was named an officer of the Order of Canada. This was in recognition of a lifetime of work. But in truth, Clyde was still at the height of his career, with much more to contribute.

"Clyde was one of the greatest living champions of early childhood development and population health in Canada, and widely considered a 'guru' in the field internationally. As the founding director of the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at UBC, Clyde oversaw the production of an extraordinary body of research spanning and linking the health and social sciences. Combined, this work hugely deepened our understanding of childhood development, and equipped us with compelling evidence-based arguments for progressive policies. Whether struggling for publicly-funded universal child care or the elimination of child poverty, Clyde's work showed why we all have a stake in their realization.

"As any who had the pleasure of seeing Clyde present can attest, he was a thoroughly compelling speaker. Clyde completely captivated his audiences. His persona was so dynamic and friendly, and he exuded such tremendous enthusiasm for his work and its implications. In short, Clyde was compassionate, lovely and warm, and also so fabulously intelligent, and all this was obvious to those who encountered him, whether in private settings or an auditorium of hundreds.

"The few truly brilliant people we have the good fortune to meet in our lives are those rare people who connect the dots in deeply original ways -- who see patterns across disparate fields. It is unusual when such individuals are also possessed with a unique ability to communicate their insights, and to inspire and motivate others. Rarer still is when that brilliance comes wrapped in humility and good humour. Clyde was such a person.

"We extend our deepest sympathies to our dear friend Marcy, to Clyde's children Eric, Emily, and Amos and his mother Eileen, and to our friends at HELP.

"And we mourn the passing of a great fighter in the struggle for social justice."

David Beers is editor of The Tyee.

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