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In memoriam: Jon Lien

  • Published on Jun 02 2010 |
  • This article is tagged as: cpaws people

Jon Lien, tireless campaigner for oceans and founder of CPAWS\' Newfoundland and Labrador chapter, passed away in April at the age of 71.

CPAWS Trustee Emeritus Bob Peart shares his recollections of Jon:

I first met Jon at a CPAWS Board meeting in the early 80\'s, and from the moment I was introduced to him I knew I was with someone special.  Sometimes you just know!

Over the next few years Jon regaled me with his efforts to free whales from fishermen\'s nets, the first time I heard of such a thing --- and then discovered that he was a pioneer, perhaps the first person in the world to save whales from drowning once they were caught in the nets.  I understand his hearing problems when he was older were caused by the hours he spent with his head under water with a snorkel trying to free these captive beasts.

It was Jon, along with Bob Graham, who first explained to me that Canada was a marine country - \'as we are almost surrounded by ocean and fresh water you know Bob\' - and I remember being surprised by such a comment and thought how true. Ever since that point my understanding of Canada has been different than before - it was one of those oh gosh, of course moments that has stayed with me for over 25 years.

In the mid-80\'s when I was National President Jon invited the Board to a \'retreat\' in Newfoundland.  We all felt it was time for our organization to change and really step forward as the only national organization advocating for parks and wilderness, and needed some special Board time to think it through.  While jigging for cod one afternoon we all came to the agreement that we must change our name --- and thus was borne the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (formerly the National and Provincial Parks Association of Canada).  That name change, although partially symbolic, has been critical to our success and it happened much because of Jon\'s coaxing.

One morning at the Board meeting, after a wee bit of screech, I woke up with a fresh cod on my chest and an Honorary Newfoundlander button pinned to my shirt.  When I asked Jon what I had done to deserve this --- he said that I had quite the night and \'kissed the cod\'.  He never did tell me what I did and there are 3-4 hours lost in my life.

Jon went on to form the Newfoundland Chapter, which has been a mainstay of our organization ever since.

Only a few times in your life are you privileged to know a giant and Jon was such a giant!  We met occasionally since the late 80\'s but not as often as I would\'ve liked.  However over the years I often thought of Jon and remembered his energy, his passion and his humour.  He was an important person in conservation and Canada owes him a great deal of respect.  It is hard for me to appreciate how heartfelt his loss must be to my Newfoundland colleagues.  And there are many more whales now swimming free in the ocean because of Jon\'s dedication.  Thank you Jon for everything!

Bob Peart

Read more about Jon\'s life and work at