Jamaica-Born journalist Ewart Walters dead at 83

Ewart Walters

Described as a formidable civic leader, Ewart Livingstone Walters died last Thursday in Ottawa at the age of 83. Diabetes, dementia and other health issues affected him in recent years, relatives said.

Among those lauding Walters online was Carleton University journalism professor Adrian Harewood, who on social media called him “a formidable civic leader … a mentor and moral compass to generations, and a tireless advocate for Black communities.

“He was respected and beloved,” Harewood wrote. He called Walters “a critical figure in journalism history in Canada,” and said students in Carleton’s class on the history of Black Canadian journalism studied Walters’s 2011 autobiography, entitled To Follow Right.

“Ewart Walters was a teacher, a leader, an advisor and a friend,” tweeted Charles Bordeleau, the Ottawa Police Service’s chief from March 2012 until May 2019. “He helped me prior to and during my tenure. … Our community and police service is better because of his commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion and justice.”

In addition to writing several books and putting out the Spectrum community papers, Walters co-founded Black History Ottawa, the Harambee Cultural Society and the National Council of Jamaicans and Supportive Organizations in Canada. Not only was he a deacon and choir member at the Fourth Avenue Baptist Church, he also appeared on stage at the Ottawa Little Theatre and with the Third World Players. He helped launch the CKCU-FM radio program Reggae in the Fields, and was the captain and president of the Bel-Air Cricket Club Association.

Because of his activities, Walters collected a slew of awards, including an Order of Distinction, Commander Class in 2010 from Jamaica’s governor general and an Order of Ottawa in 2015.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, on May 26, 1940, Walters came to Ottawa in September 1964 thanks to a Canadian government scholarship to study journalism at Carleton University. He already had considerable newspaper experience in Jamaica. By his mid-20s, he had worked in his homeland at the Public Opinion, the Daily Gleaner and the Daily News, for which he was the founding editor.

Martin Walters, a 54-year-old who lives in Edmonton, recalled that his father spent hours each day working on the Spectrum at their home in Fisher Glen, where his office was decorated with a big photo of Bob Marley.

In advance of a December 1991 march in Ottawa protesting the shootings of Black Canadians by police in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal, Walters, then vice-president of the National Council of Jamaican and Supportive Organizations in Canada, said it was time for Ottawans to stand against police actions in all three cities.

“Why in a country of so many more whites than blacks don’t we get whites shot in a similar manner?” Walters said. “If it’s not discrimination, what else could it be?”

Martin Walters recalled his father enthusiastically watching cricket matches, and playing the sport competitively on weekends, even if it meant having to apply analgesic rubs all over his sore legs and back.

Ewart “Fats” Walters is survived by his wife Merle, three sons, Laurence, Martin and Nnamdi, grandchildren Devin, Michael, Patience and Rose; and his sister Dorrett.

Walters will be laid to rest on Friday, August 4, 2023. A Go Fund Me has been created to offset funeral expenses and to raise money for a cause close to Ewart’s heart.