Celebration of Life
Friday, March 23, 2:00 – 5:00 PM
Formal Program begins at 2:30 PM
Faculty Club, University of Alberta
Fil Fraser 1932-2017
Dr. Felix (Fil) Blache-Fraser passed away peacefully on December 3, 2017, with his wife Gladys at his bedside. Born August 19, 1932 in Montreal, he was 85.
In life, Fil was a pioneering broadcaster, film and television producer, writer, educator and human rights advocate who contributed immeasurably to the city of Edmonton and to Canadian society.
From age 19, Fil set off on a broadcast career that spanned more than five decades. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1990 as Canada’s first black broadcaster.
Edmonton became his beloved hometown in 1965. His ideas and energy helped to shape city and provincial cultural life. His warm voice could be heard for many years as host of several radio and television programs. He produced four films, founded film festivals and taught cinema.
Writing was also a passion and Fil tackled important subjects in countless columns, articles and in three books. Alberta’s Camelot, his book about Peter and Jeanne Lougheed’s support for the arts in Alberta, was an Edmonton best-seller.
In 2015, Fil was thrilled to receive the Alberta Order of Excellence for his contributions to the arts.
Fil also shaped public policy through his service to many boards and commissions, including as Chief Commissioner of Alberta’s Human Rights Commission from 1989 to 1992.
Fil and Gladys, his wife of 35 years, loved Edmonton, and spent many evenings at the symphony and theatre. Fil also adored Edmonton’s festivals, the ever-thriving arts scene around Sir Winston Churchill Square and walks in the city’s parks.
Fil Fraser is survived by his wife, Gladys Odegard; his children and their families Randall (wife Margaret Field), Tanice and her children Alex and Julien, Kathryn (companion Anthony Pavlic) and her son Tané, and his son David Dutton-Fraser; his brothers Stan (wife Louise), Ron (husband Nairton Falçao); sister Shirleen; his brothers’ children and grandchildren; his step-children and their partners: Leah Jarvis (husband Jon) and their children Emma and Dylan; and Christine McNab (partner Julia Cabassi). Fil is pre-deceased by his parents Felix and Marguerite Blache-Fraser; his sister, Roslynn; his brother Frank (wife Donna), and his brother Russell (wife Susan). The family would also like to acknowledge and send love to Randall’s sisters Kim Howell-Costion, Bonnie Sorenson and Judy Sorenson.
The family are grateful for the messages of condolence and memories shared. The family are also thankful for the care Fil received from Anita D’Mello and staff at the Devonshire Care Centre and to Merlyn Agpoon, a longstanding care-giver for Fil at his home.
Fil’s life will be celebrated with a public memorial in Edmonton in the spring of 2018.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to AMPIA: firstname.lastname@example.org or tel 1 (780) 944-0707 ext 3.
Published in The Edmonton Journal on Dec. 9, 2017
Born Felix Fraser, Fil’s lively career has had many facets, including those of broadcaster, journalist, TV Director and Administrator, as well as Radio, TV and Film Producer. Based in Edmonton, he is the author of the best selling memoir Alberta’s Camelot — Culture and the Arts in the Lougheed Years.
Fil began broadcasting as a radio operator at CKFH, Toronto, in 1951. He has since been associated with twelve different radio and TV stations across Canada, from Alberta to Quebec.
Turning to journalism in 1960, he founded and published the Regina Weekly Mirror, which chronicled the introduction of Medicare by the Tommy Douglas government. Between 1963 and ’69, Fil was a writer/editor and health educator concerning alcohol and addictions in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
In 1969 he joined MEETA, forerunner of Alberta?s Access TV Network, as Program Manager. In 1976 he produced the feature film Why Shoot the Teacher, followed in 1997 by Marie Anne, and in 1980 The Hounds of Notre Dame. All were award winners. In 1974, he organized and chaired the first Alberta Film Festival (Ampia Awards) in which his films later won several prizes. He chaired the first Commonwealth Games Festival in 1978, and in 1979 was a founder of the Banff International Television Festival.
Fil has taught extension courses on a wide range of subjects at universities in Regina and Edmonton. He has also published many articles and stories in newspapers, magazines and journals Fraser has received many awards and honours in the fields of film, television and public service. In 1991, he was inducted into the Order of Canada.
Fil is a member of the Boards of a number of national and regional non-profit organizations. In September, 2001, he delivered the inaugural lecture of the Fil Fraser Lecture Series, presented annually by the Canadian Association of Black Journalists.
He considers the highlights of his career were hosting a talk-back show on CJCA, Edmonton, 1974-1979; the Fil Fraser Show on ITV in 1974 and 1975; his appointment to the Federal Task force on Broadcasting; and his term as CEO of Vision TV, 1995-2000.
Life & Times: Broadcaster Fil Fraser was humble, despite wealth of accomplishments
Edmonton human rights advocate, filmmaker and broadcaster dies at the age of 85
Published on: December 5, 2017
Broadcaster Fil Fraser, a prolific storyteller and filmmaker and a leader in the human rights movement, has died in Edmonton after a lengthy illness. He was 85.
Born in Montreal in 1932, Felix (Fil) Blache-Fraser was the eldest of six children. As a black English speaker in Montreal, he knew what it was to be discriminated against; he channelled those experiences into his work.
“He was an outstanding leader,” said Ron Scrimshaw, a member of the Alberta Human Rights Commission who worked with Fraser in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “He was a humble man. He didn’t toot his own horn, although he had lots of horns to toot.”
Fraser was Canada’s first black broadcaster, landing a job at the age of 19 at Foster Hewitt’s CKFH in Toronto, the first of many radio and television gigs he held across Canada. He founded a newspaper, the Regina Weekly Mirror, known for chronicling Tommy Douglas’s efforts to create Medicare in Saskatchewan.
In 1965, Fraser moved to Edmonton and became a senior producer at Canada’s first educational television channel, known as MEETA (Metropolitan Edmonton Educational Television Association), the forerunner of Alberta’s ACCESS television network. He became a popular public figure, known for his warm and engaging approach on his CJCA talk show, the highest-rated local program from 1974 to 1979. Later, he moved to ITV television with The Fil Fraser Show, following up a few years later with Newsmakers.
“Anybody that was interviewed by him on radio or on television over the many years, he was able to make them feel at ease so they were willing to reveal,” said Gladys Odegard, his wife of 35 years.
“He had the ability to understand every person and value them for who they were,” she said. “He was non-judgmental and had an incredibly inquisitive and curious mind. He was very sharp and could look at all sides of issues, and also had a personality that was not egotistical. It wasn’t about him at all. He was a very kind and gentle person.”
Fraser’s years as an interviewer reflected his love of storytelling, also revealed through feature films that populate Fraser’s extensive resume. He formed his own production company in the 1970s that focused on western tales, including the pioneering drama based on the book by Max Braithwaite, Why Shoot the Teacher? and Marie-Anne, about the first European woman at Fort Edmonton. The Hounds of Notre Dame, starring the Genie-winning actor Tom Peacock, was about Father Athol Murray, founder of the storied boys’ school in Wilcox, Sask.
“Fil was a wonderful go-getter,” said his colleague, Edmonton filmmaker Tom Radford. “He took on big challenges with those first feature films. Fil would not rest. He was indefatigable. He had a sense of Canada that was firmly rooted here in the West, but which was never separate from Quebec or Ontario.”
Fraser, a member of the Order of Canada, founded the Alberta Motion Picture Industries Association, and established a master’s program in Canadian film at Athabasca University. Between 1995 and 2000, he and Gladys lived in Toronto, where he was the chief executive officer of Vision TV. The author of three books, Fraser received the Alberta Award of Excellence in 2015.
Edmonton lawyer Shirish Chotalia worked with Fraser from 1989 to 1992 when he led the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
“He was wonderful. He was the first black chief commissioner and because of him, and his support, we had a very diverse commission, with three women, four men, a Métis person, a Hindu and a Muslim,” recalls Chotalia.
Under Fraser’s leadership, the commission decided to hear complaints about discrimination based on sexual orientation, including the groundbreaking complaint filed by Delwin Vriend, who lost his job because he was gay. The commission’s decision was overruled by the Alberta government, but later supported after a long battle to the Supreme Court.
Fraser is survived by four children, as well as two step-children with Odegard, and their families. Their relationship was one of “love at first sight,” says Odegard, and the two celebrated the anniversary of their first date every year, in addition to their wedding anniversary.
“It was a very romantic story, and we had that relationship to the very last day,” says Odegard. “He said ‘You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.’ And I felt the same way.”
An avid tennis player until his mid 70s, Fraser slowed down in the last years of his life. Odegard says he wasn’t the same after back surgery five years ago; recently, he battled several bouts of pneumonia.
Those who knew Fraser said that although he had many accomplishments, he didn’t talk about them. He was interested in others.
Fraser will be remembered at a public memorial to be held in early 2018.