OTTAWA – With great sadness, the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom mourns the death of our friend and colleague, Charles Morrow, who succumbed to cancer on Monday, January 15.
After a career in journalism and the federal civil service, Mr. Morrow became a founding member of the Canadian Committee on World Press Freedom 20 years ago and for many years was committee secretary, a post he held until his passing this week at the Elizabeth Bruyere Hospital in Ottawa.
He was passionate about the cause of press freedom, and about the role a vigilant media plays in maintaining a democratic society and holding those in power to account. He served as committee’s “corporate memory,” and played a key role in organizing its annual luncheon which marks UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
His diligent professionalism and his calm, collegial manner will be missed by his friends on the committee.
“He never sought the limelight but could always be relied upon to deliver on the jobs that needed to be done to further the committee’s work,” said Shawn McCarthy, president of the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom and national business correspondent with The Globe and Mail.
“When I took on the role of president a few years ago, Charles’s support was indispensable. He was the heart and soul of the committee,” Mr. McCarthy added.
Upon news of his hospitalization at Bruyere earlier this month, the committee unanimously agreed to award Charles with the Spencer Moore award for lifetime achievement, given annually to honor one Canadian’s efforts in pursuit of press freedom and freedom of information. The award was initiated four years ago and named for Charles’ friend Spencer Moore, who worked with him on starting and building the CCWPF. Previous winners include Canadian Press reporter Jim Bronskill and Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault.
Charles “was meticulous as secretary. Keeping track of the meetings, sending the notices and taking the minutes,” said CCWPF member Don Newman. “Then within a couple of days he would have those minutes to all of us.
“On a personal level, each and every year he provided me with the script for what had happened in the proceeding twelve months. The number of journalists killed in war zones, and other malfeasance that had befallen our colleagues. As well, he provided the rest of the continuity for the lunch, which if we think about it, has become more detailed and complicated over the years.
“At no time did I have to worry about the accuracy of the information. After all, it came from Charles,” he said.
Charles began his career in Toronto at the age of 17 or 18 as a copy boy at Broadcast News/Canadian Press on the strength of his purported 100-words-per-minute typing skill, his daughter Teresa Morrow recounted. He arrived in Ottawa as BN/CP correspondent in 1962 after passing a “voice test” to determine his on-air capabilities and covered John Diefenbaker’s last year as prime minister and the election of Lester B. Pearson.
He left the press corps in 1965, joining the civil service with the department of immigration and served for a time in Geneva as the department’s communications head for Western Europe. He later returned to Geneva for a four-year stint as director of information for the United Nations’ World Health Organization.
Charles was predeceased by his wife, Sally, and is survived by three daughters, Katherine, Teresa and Jennifer and two granddaughters, Clara and Sacha. He was 83. The committee extends its condolences to his family.