Joseph J. Wilder Q.C.

My Story...

Joe Wilder was born on November 3, 1935 in Winnipeg's renowned North End - Isabel and Alexander to Jack and Rose (Garfinkel) Wilder. Arriving in Winnipeg in the 1920's Jack was from Bessarabia Romania, the only boy in a family of five daughters. Rose also arrived in that same era from Mezirich Poland, one of three children. After marrying, Jack and Rose eventually moved to the west- end of the city to operate a small grocery store.

Being raised in a predominantly non-Jewish neighbourhood was to have a profound life-long effect on Joe. His parents ensured that he was very aware of his ethnicity and faith, and encouraged him always to defend it. They promoted a strong sense of connection with the Jewish community, and instilled a love for all things Jewish. From a young age, and particularly once he started at Laura Secord School, he was very conscious of being Jewish and learned to confront anti-semitism.

In his youth, community participation centered primarily around the old "Y" on Albert Street, but his involvement took on a life of it's own when he was elected a youth delegate to the Canadian Jewish Congress Plenary in Montreal in 1953. He has now been involved with the CJC for almost 50 years, including several terms on the National Executive, a term as Vice-President, and one term as honourary legal counsel. Much of his energy at CJC has been devoted to the defense of the Jewish people. His activity over the years both at the local and national level led to the position of Chairman for Canada of the CJC's Community Relations Committee (1989-1992). Under his leadership, for the first time a network of regional offices of the Community Relations Committee was established in every major city in Canada, to identify and combat anti-Semitism. This committee, among its many activities also monitored and assisted in the prosecution of James Keegstra, Ernst Zundel, Malcolm Ross and other known protagonists. It continues to this day and is one of the few national committees in the Jewish community with venues in every region of the country.

Joe has the record as the longest serving board member of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and its predecessors (Jewish Welfare Fund, Winnipeg Jewish Community Council). He has been a board member of the Canada Israel Committee, the Jewish community's National Advocacy Committee and now serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors for Canada. He has served on the Board of the Canadian Council of Christians & Jews, Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University, UIA Federations Canada, and in June 2001 was elected as a Board member of The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba.

In 1956, Joe graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and in 1960 with his L.L.B. from the University of Manitoba. He was an honours student in each year. During university days he held such positions as President of Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity, President of B'Nai Brith Hillel Foundation and Vice-President of the University of Manitoba Students' Union. In 1960 he was awarded the UMSU gold ring as one of two outstanding graduates of the University of Manitoba. After graduating, he practiced with Walsh Micay for seven years and then commenced his own practice. He was joined by his brother Sam a year later and they continue in practice under the name Wilder, Wilder & Langtry.

The general community has also been the benefactor of Joe's community volunteerism. He has served as President of the Winnipeg Football Club (Blue Bombers) Governor of the Canadian Football League, President and long-time member of the Board of Directors of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Member of the Board of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, Member of the Board of Victoria General Hospital, and he was on the board of directors of the 1999 Pan Am Games. In addition, he has served as Honourary Counsel for such organizations as the 1990 Western Canada Summer Games, the 1991 Grey Cup Festival Committee, the 1999 Pan American Games Bid Committee, Folk Arts Council of Winnipeg, and the Winnipeg Football Club.

In August, 1959 Joe married Belva Cham, the daughter of Leon and Clara Cham. Together they had four children ... Sheri (1960), Kenny (1963), David (1965) and Joshua (1973). Joe suffered a grievous loss when Belva, who had always supported him in all his endeavours passed away in 1996. Joe speaks of Belva as a gentle soul who was "loved by all". Belva distinguished herself as a selfless volunteer with the Canadian Mental Health organization for which she was duly recognized on several occasions.

Joe remembers 1967 as "a tremendous time to be a Jew". The Six-Day War renewed feelings of pride in being a Jew, and the Winnipeg Jewish community stood together in solidarity for Israel. "Through the years this community has distinguished itself," he says, "and all that we have accomplished must be maintained". Joe feels that the Winnipeg Jewish community has much to be proud of and feels that our community must constantly educate our younger members so that they have a sense of their roots and traditions. We have something here of great value."