Stephen Lewis is a politician, humanitarian, global activist, diplomat, and public speaker. He is a Companion of the Order of Canada, was named “Canadian of the Year” by Maclean’s in 2003 and has received countless awards and recognition for his humanitarian work in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Stephen was born in Ottawa on November 11, 1937. He is the son of Sophie and David Lewis, the former leader of the federal New Democratic Party. He is married to Michele Landsberg, author and columnist for the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star, with whom he has three children, Ilana Landsberg-Lewis, Avi Lewis, and Jenny Lewis.
Stephen received post-secondary education at the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia. Before he could finish his degree, he entered politics and was elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1963 as a member of the New Democratic Party.
Between 1970 and 1978, Stephen was the Provincial Leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party. Following his political career, he became involved in broadcasting. He received the Gordon Sinclair ACTRA Award for broadcasting in 1982 and his CBC radio documentaries were published as Art Out of Agony: The Holocaust Theme in Literature, Sculpture and Film (Toronto: CBC Enterprises, 1984).
In October 1984, Stephen was appointed as Canada's Ambassador to the United Nations by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. He chaired the committee which drafted the five-year UN Programme on African Economic Recovery and the first International Conference on Climate Change in 1988. In September 1986, the UN Secretary General appointed Stephen as his Special Advisor on Africa.
In July 1988, Lewis resigned from his ambassadorship. He continued to act in a personal capacity as Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General on Africa.
In May 1992, Stephen was appointed as Special Advisor on Race Relations to the Premier of Ontario. In 1993, Stephen joined the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Group on the Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held in Beijing in September 1995.
Between 1994 and 1996, Stephen was coordinator of a two-year study commissioned by the UN on the impact of armed conflict on children, led by Graça Machel.
On October 25, 1995, Stephen was appointed Deputy Executive Director (External Relations) of the United Nations Children’s Fund. He resigned January 6, 1999.
In 1998, Stephen was selected by the Organization of African Unity to participate on the International Panel of Eminent Personalities to Investigate the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda and the Surrounding Events. Between 1999 and 2001, Stephen acted as Consultant to UNAIDS, UNIFEM, and the Economic Commission for Africa.
Between 2001 to 2006, Stephen was appointed as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Stephen is board co-chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, a charity he co-founded in 2003 that supports community-based organizations working on the frontlines of the AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. From 2007 to 2021, he was co-director of the advocacy organization AIDS-Free World which he co-founded with Paula Donovan.
Stephen is the author of Race Against Time (Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2005), a publication of lectures delivered during his Massey Lecture Tour.
On July 1, 2006, Stephen was named McMaster University’s first Social Sciences Scholar-in-Residence.
Stephen holds 40 honorary degrees from Canadian and American universities. His first honorary doctorate was given at McMaster University in 1979.