After completing his undergraduate studies in government, history and economics, Mr. Wajsman went on to receive his B.C.L and LL.B. degrees from McGill Law School. During those years he helped found the Project Genesis anti-poverty group, was an active member of the Montreal Committee for Soviet Jewry, served as legislative director and chief investigator for the Commission on Economic Coercion and Discrimination and chaired the first McGill Symposium on the Holocaust. Following a year of post-graduate work in philosophy and theology and a stint as editor of the Canadian cultural quarterly "Viewpoints", he embarked on a career that has encompassed public policy and public advocacy.
Starting as an organizer and Liberal executive member under Prime Minister Trudeau, Mr. Wajsman's involvements in Ottawa have included directing a Privy Council sponsored future studies report on "Access to Justice in Canada"; membership on the Canadian Consultative Commission on Multiculturalism; service in the Ministry of Justice on regulatory policy related to finance and labor; and advisory work with the Law Reform Commission. He has also acted as Special Counsel to several Federal Ministers; participated in both Quebec Referendums on Sovereignty as a member of the Federalist legal advisory team and assisted in several projects of the Millennium Initiative under the Rt. Hon. Herbert Eser Gray.
He gained international experience in urban development, social housing and public finance by consulting on important infrastructure projects in the United States, France, Venezuela and Brazil. These included the revitalization of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York which saw the creation of 15,000 new jobs in a joint venture between 40 private employers, major unions and the City administration; the refinancing of Les Industries Blancomme of Paris, which secured the positions of 1500 workers in its rural plants; the completion of Desarollo Urbanistico Caroni which built housing for 11,000 workers near Caracas; and the structuring of Finimpex, an innovative bond initiative that allowed the administration of the Sao Paulo district in Brazil to begin the rehabilitation of some of its worst slum areas.
Bringing his experience to bear here at home, he has built his Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal into Canada's largest public interest advocacy alliance. Counting over 2000 national political, labor, corporate, and communal leaders as members or associates, it pursues the pragmatic advancement of progressive action on the broad range of issues that make up the agenda of social justice in this country. Through the membership of its representative organizations it reaches some four million Canadians every week.
Mr. Wajsman considers that one of the Institute's proudest boasts, and most unique achievements, is it's success in bringing together big business and big labor in common cause with activists representing the most unempowered and disenfranchised in society. As founder and President, he began by guiding it into providing institutional assistance and advice on the critical 3-H's of social ills-health, hunger and homelessness.
He developed plans for one of the first large scale social housing programs in Montreal. The multi-stage project, known as Habitations Louis-Laberge, will provide up to 2,000 units. Forming a unique corporate-labor partnership, he has attacked the problem of hunger by strengthening the Quebec Food Bank Network by increasing its capacity by 50 tons per month and insuring the flow of resources to the "Lawyers Feed the Homeless" program in Toronto which serves 1500 people a week. He helped develop and broaden the MedExtra Healthcare Plan that, through special relationships with 1400 medical centres in North America, reduces the cost of medical procedures by up to 70% for patients requiring immediate treatment who cannot afford the wait time in the public system.
As demands have grown, the Institute has responded to many requests for help from social action groups such as Dans La Rue, the Committee for Justice for the Duplessis Orphans, Sister Andrée Menard's PROMIS Refugee Organization, Share the Warmth, Femmes du monde contre la paûvreté, le Carrefour des communautés du Québec and the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre. Following his work on the Montreal Task Force on Municipal Mergers, Mr. Wajsman moved the Institute to form the Council on Community Conciliation with cultural and ethnic leaders such as the Rev. Darryl Gray, to combat the urban blight of racism and alienation. Working with support groups for seniors, Mr. Wajsman helped organize the first major Conference that shed light on the issue of financial abuse of the elderly. His legislative initiatives have included authoring several Private Members Bills aimed at Public Curator reform, credit collection agency oversight and combating the exploitation of vulnerable workers. Two important areas of current concern are protection of privacy issues and aiding citizens facing abusive behaviour by federal and provincial revenue departments. The Institute is also conducting a major report advocating the institution of a guaranteed annual income for all Canadians.
In the conviction that the struggle for social justice does not stop at our borders, he created the Institute's Centre for Democratic Development to combat the smug complacency of so many Canadians. The Centre has pressed the Federal government to take a more active engagement with our traditional allies and put aside Canada's bankrupt doctrines of moral relativism and political equivalency. Addressing the urgency of protecting civil liberties while maintaining heightened national security, it organized a major Conference on this subject with former CIA Director James Woolsey. Working with elements of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Conference of Defense Associations, the Institute has also advocated for increased military capacity and budgets believing that as an industrialized nation benefiting greatly from the resources and labour of the underdeveloped world where so many live under tyrannical regimes the least Canada owes the millions of oppressed is to be an active player in the possibility of redemptive change.
In addition to leading demonstrations condemning the Sudanese genocide of its African population, the Institute has formed the Canadian Rescue Committee for the Children of Darfur. Working with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the Committee has brought together some dozen national organizations whose members are offering Canadian homes for orphaned refugee children. The Institute has also assisted the Kinderbaum Foundation of Switzerland, directed by Dr. Michael Schmitz of Rome, in its work of building orphanages and training schools for abandoned South African orphans whose parents have died of aids. One of its most recent successes was the first partnership between the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a Canadian NGO which saw the Institute organize dozens of para-medics to help in the SCLC’s Delta Relief Project in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina devastation.
Mr. Wajsman's views and writings have appeared in many publications ranging from Time Magazine to the National Post and he is a frequent commentator on radio and television. He is currently working on his first book entitled "Toward a Culture of Conviction: A National Agenda of Character and Conscience". In August of 2003 the Institute launched its own journal called Barricades.
Mr. Wajsman is a member of the University Club of Montreal; the McGill Faculty Club and the National Press Club of Ottawa. Among his recent citations from charitable, communal and volunteer organizations are the Community Service Award from the International Academy of Law and Mental Health and the Medal of Merit from the Association for the Welfare of the Soldiers of Israel. He was recently named one of the Présidents d'honneur of UNICEF Canada's 50th anniversary celebration.