WATCH: Archive footage of Peter Desbarats during his time at Global News
TORONTO – Former Global News Ottawa Bureau Chief and co-anchor, Peter Desbarats, died Tuesday at the age of 80.
Desbarats was a celebrated print and television journalist for more than 30 years, working as a national affairs columnist for The Toronto Star and a political reporter for the Montreal Star. In 1977 he won the ACTRA Award for best news broadcaster for his work at Global.
His Global co-anchor, Peter Trueman, described him as a “wonderful partner” to share the newscast with.
“We were the first two anchors that Global hired,” said Trueman from his Kingston, Ont. home. “He was anchoring from Ottawa and I was anchoring from Toronto” in the 1970s.
Trueman said the men had a lot in common—both started off as “copy boys” in Montreal and both went on to work at Montreal papers. They also spent time together outside of work.
“In the very early days of our relationship, I remember Peter driving his motorcycle to Prince Edward Island where we had a summer cottage, and visiting us at the cottage,” said Trueman.
He described Desbarats as a “first-class journalist” who knew Canadian politics inside and out.
“He was a very interesting guy—kind of debonair,” said Trueman.
“A dashing, debonair figure. I think the ladies had an eye for Peter.”
After leaving Global, Desbarats became the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Western University (then named University of Western Ontario) and held that post from 1981 to 1997.
“Peter brought instant credibility to Global News and left a lasting stamp on our organization, as he did on all those whose careers he helped shape as Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Western,” Global News’ Senior VP, Troy Reeb said in an email.
“He was curious, compassionate, always thoughtful, and a great defender of our craft.”
Desbarats was also an active author and wrote many books and plays, including a children’s book and a biography of René Lévesque in 1976.
Trueman called that book a “landmark” accomplishment.
“That was the accepted standard work on Levesque for a long time,” he said.
Desbarats also authored the journalism text Guide to Canadian News Media in 1996.
The news of his loss Tuesday was mourned on Twitter by many people he influenced and worked with.
— Western University (@westernu) February 11, 2014
RIP former colleague Peter Desbarats: from print to TV, govt service + academia, Peter was a pro and gentleman
— Peter Kent, MP (@KentThornhillMP) February 11, 2014
Peter Desbarats, my colleague at Mtl Star and, briefly, Global, has died at 80. Great pundit, good reporter
— Ray Heard (@RayHeard) February 11, 2014
Sorry to learn of the death of Peter Desbarats. I was honoured to know him and serve under his leadership at Western University.
— Gary Ennett (@GaryEnnett) February 12, 2014
During the 1990s Desbarats served as one of three commissioners of the Commission of Inquiry into the Deployment of Canadian Forces to Somalia. This was an investigation by the Canadian government into the misconduct by Canadian soldiers in Somalia between 1992 and 1993.
Desbarats wrote the book Somalia Cover Up: A Commissioner’s Journal in 1997 about his experience on the Commission.
In 2006, Desbarats was named an officer of the Order of Canada.
Trueman praised Desbarats’ professional accomplishments, and said he felt deeply sorry to hear of his death and the last few years he spent suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
“His books and his work—he was a prolific writer. I think I would like to remember him for that body of work that he contributed to this country.
“It was always a great comfort to me to know that he was in Ottawa holding things down.”
-With files from The Canadian Press.
© Shaw Media, 2014