Sol Kanee

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SOL KANEE Sol Kanee died peacefully at his home in Winnipeg on April 22, 2007 at the age of 97. Dubbed "Citizen Kanee" in a tribute article by the Winnipeg Free Press and "An Exemplary Citizen" by Ernest Sirluck, President of the University of Manitoba upon conferring an Honorary Doctorate, Sol Kanee led a remarkable life and left an extraordinary legacy that will touch generations to come. He was born Soloman, the eldest of four siblings on June 1, 1909 in Melville, Saskatchewan to Sam and Rose Kanee. Moving with his family to Winnipeg in 1914, Sol graduated from St. John's High school, received a BA from the University of Manitoba in 1929 and entered the Manitoba Law School that same year. While at university he became a passionate and skilled member of the University Honor Society and the A.ZA. debating team and won many local, national and international contests with his two closest colleagues, Max Cohen and Sam Freedman. In addition he commenced a lifelong activity in Liberal Party politics and Jewish organizations. Graduating with a Bachelor of Law from the University of Saskatchewan in 1932, he opened a practice in Melville and rejoined his family who had moved back earlier. On April 9, 1935 he married his lifelong love, Florence Barish. At the outbreak of World War II he enlisted in an officer's training program, was promoted to Captain in 1942, stationed in England, and promoted to Major in 1943. He served as Artillery Battalion Commander at Canadian Military Headquarters in London until the end of the war. Invited to continue his military service at a higher rank he decided to return to Winnipeg and resume his law practice with Shinbane, Dorfman and Kanee. With the death of his father in 1951, he left the practice to take over the Soo Line Milling Company founded by his father in 1939. In 1955 he converted the mill from conveyer belt to pneumatic drive, the first mill in the hemisphere to do so and to this day the standard for the industry. Among his innumerable public service accomplishments are 17 years on the Board of Governors of the Bank of Canada, the longest sitting member in the bank's history, and Chairman of the Federal Business Development Bank from 1975 to 1978. For the city of Winnipeg he was Chairman of the Community Welfare Planning Council, the Society for Crippled Children and Adults, the United Way, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, for which he was instrumental in gaining its international reputation, the Board of Governors of the University of Manitoba (of which he was chair) and the Sharon Home where he followed in the footsteps of his father and brother Abe. Sol Kanee's involvement with Jewish affairs spanned the local, national and international spheres. Under the mentorship of Samuel Bronfman, Sol rose through he ranks of the Canadian Jewish Congress to become president from1971 to 1974. Under the mentorship of Nahum Goldman he assumed executive positions with the World Jewish Congress. A passionate friend to and advocate for the state of Israel, in 1951 he persuaded C. D. Howe to not only sell arms but at reduced prices to Israel and later procured planes and cargo to supply relief to the young country. On the international scene, his was an important voice in securing reparations from Germany and in persuading the Russian government to ease its restriction on Russian Jews emigrating to Israel. The recipient of countless honours, Sol Kanee was awarded the Centennial of Canada Medal in 1967, an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Manitoba in 1974, Officer of the Order of Canada in 1977, Companion of the Order, 1982, Canadian Jewish Congress Samuel Bronfman Medal in 1978, the International B'nai Brith Humanitarian Award in 1979, the Nahum Goldman Medal in 1995 and the Order of Manitoba in 2000. The Winnipeg Jewish Community Council created the Sol Kanee Distinguished Service Medal in 1994, his long time friend Arthur Mauro founded the Sol Kanee Lecture on International Peace and Justice in 2002, and the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada created the Sol & Florence Kanee Distinguished Lecture Series in 2004. Sol Kanee fully embraced his father's principle that all the good that is taken from the community must be paid back in kind. Sol Kanee repaid his city, his country, and the world far in excess of his fair share. His family, his fellow citizens and Jews everywhere will always be grateful. He will be mourned by his sister Dr. Ricky Schachter of Toronto, his son Stephen and daughter in law MaryAnn Kanee, of Minneapolis, nieces Bonny Druxerman (Peter) of Toronto and Susan Reeker(Merle) of St. Louis, nephews Dr. Daniel Schachter (Anya) and Robert Kanee (Judy) of Toronto, Brian Kanee of Winnipeg, and countless friends. Sol Kanee was laid to rest at Sharrey Zedek Cemetery in Winnipeg on April 25, 2007. Pallbearers were James Carr, Sydney Halpern, Norman Humby, Robert Kanee, Hon. Richard Kroft, and Mr. Justice Guy Kroft. Honourary Pallbearers were Sheldon and Penny Bowles, Edgar Bronfman, Charles Bronfman, Harold Buchwald, Hon. Saul Cherniak, Bryan Klien, Arthur Mauro, Sister Gerarda Pura, Kathleen Richardson, Hon. Duff Roblin, Rabbi Israel Singer and W. Terry Wright.
Published in National Post on May 12, 2007
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