Fil Fraser (1932-2017)

Fil Fraser
Fil Fraser

Year Born: 1932

Year Died: 2017

Year of Induction: 2000


Fraser, Fil (1932-2017 )

Born Felix Fraser in Montreal in August 1932, Fil Fraser was a life-long broadcaster, journalist, television program director and administrator, and a radio, television and film producer. While he had had a brief stint as a teen guest on Bob Harvey’s CJAD-AM Club 800 while he was at Montreal High, Fil’s career in broadcasting really took off when he walked into Foster Hewitt’s office at CKFH radio in Toronto in 1951, at the age of nineteen, and asked for a job. Foster threw him a script, and said “Read that” – and five minutes later Fil was hired as an operator and later to do the night shift.

From Toronto, Fil moved to CKGB Timmins in 1952, but only six months later he was hired by Ralph Snelgrove as assistant news editor at CKBB radio in Barrie. There, he later took over from Dave Wright as Sports Director, as well as becoming play-by-play announcer for the station, replacing Bill Hewitt, who had moved over to his father’s CKFH-AM. The two used to share the gondola at Maple Leaf Gardens when the Barrie Flyers played the Toronto Marboroughs or St Mike’s.

In 1955, Fil moved again, this time back to his home town, Montreal, where, while attending McGill, he hosted the all night show at CKVL Verdun, a suburb of Montreal. In 1956 he went to work for the legendary Bert Cannings as a news editor at CFCF radio, eventually becoming the chief writer, putting together the nightly 6:00 o’clock news for Dean Kaye. It was a remarkable time; Gord Sinclair Jr. was doing the morning show and Steve Woodman closed the station with his show at night.

Love precipitated Fil’s move to Regina in 1958, where he first worked in public relations for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, as well as, among other things, hosting the between period “Hot Stove League” on the company’s junior hockey broadcasts, sometimes filling in for play-by-play announcer Lloyd Saunders. In 1960 he founded and published the Regina Weekly Mirror, which covered the introduction of Medicare by Tommy Douglas. Between 1963 and 1965, Fraser was a writer/editor and health educator in the field of alcoholism and addictions. He was the Director of Education at the Saskatchewan Bureau on Alcoholism, and in 1965, he moved to Edmonton to work in the same capacity with the Division of Alcoholism of the Alberta Department of Health (now AADAC).

However, the media world was always in Fil’s blood, and he kept his hand in as the broadcast face and voice of the alcoholism program. In 1969 he was approached to become the program director and senior producer for Canada’s first educational television station, the Metropolitan Edmonton Educational Television Association (MEETA), which began broadcasting in March 1970 and was the forerunner of Albert’s ACCESS Network. Alberta was the first on air provincial education television station, going to air on channel 11 in March, 1970. From there, he moved in 1971 to the CBC television station CBXT-TV in Edmonton, where he co-anchored the local supper hour news program from 1971 to 1973.

In 1974, Fil moved over to the ‘opposition’, to host a one-year run of his own eponymous talk show on Dr. Charles Allard’s newly-launched CITV private television station, and also began what would become a five-year stint as host of a talk show on CJCA-AM radio Edmonton. In 1980 he took his talk-show host talents across town to CKXM-FM Edmonton, which had just changed its call-sign from CFRN, to avoid confusion with the AM station that used the same call letters. This series ran for three years; in 1983 he became host of Alberta Morning, the daily program that ran on CKUA-AM, then operated by Access Alberta. Later, in 1987, he became Director of Development for Access Alberta, in Edmonton.

During this time, Fil had formed his own production company. Under this umbrella he wrote, produced and directed several educational films for television, and in 1976 he produced his first feature film, Why Shoot The Teacher, which did well in theatres and played on the CTV network. Two more feature films followed, Marie Anne in 1977 and The Hounds of Notre Dame in 1980. The first Alberta Film Festival, organized and chaired by Fil Fraser, took place in 1974. Fil chaired the first Commonwealth Games Film Festival in 1978, and the following year he played an active part in the foundation of the Banff International Television Festival, of which he was named a Lifetime Honorary Director in 1996.

In 1977, Fil had been a member of the Alberta Task Force on Film, and the breadth of his experience in broadcasting and film led in 1985 to his appointment by Federal Minister of Communications Marcel Masse as a member of the Federal Task Force on Broadcasting Policy. The Task Force report, known as the Caplan-Sauvageau Report, was released in September 1986, and formed the basis for a new Broadcasting Act in Canada. From 1989 to 1992, Fil served as Chief Commissioner of the Alberta Human Rights Commission. In 1991 he was inducted as a Member of the Order of Canada for his services to broadcasting. The citation said that he was the first Black broadcaster in Canada.

In 1992, Fil began his involvement in the academic world. He developed and taught a credit course on “The Evolution of Human Rights” for 3rd year students in the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta, for three years. In January 1995, he was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Vision TV, a multi-faith and multi-cultural specialty cable channel, with which he stayed for six years, to December 2000.

In 2001, The Canadian Association of Black Journalists created The Fil Fraser Lecture Series, to focus on cultural and social diversity in Canada, and Fil gave the inaugural lecture on September 16th 2001. After writing many columns and essays on business ethics, human rights, multiculturalism, and many other subjects, for magazines and newspapers, Fil had his first book , Alberta’s Camelot: Culture and the Arts in the Lougheed Years published in 2003. He was later the author of a biography of sprinter Harry Jerome, which was acquired by the NFB for the production of a feature documentary, Mighty Jerome, based on his book, Running Uphill, the Fast, Short Life of Canadian Champion Harry Jerome. The film was entered in competition at the 2011 Hot Docs Festival in Toronto. In 2003 he joined the Board of Telefilm Canada, acting as Interim Chairman in 2007, and in 2005 he was inducted into the Edmonton Cultural Hall of Fame, and was awarded the Alberta Centennial Medal.

After having earlier taught extension courses on various subjects like Great Religions, Great Civilizations and Man and Chemical Comforts at the Regina campus of the University of Saskatchewan, in 2007 Fil became an Adjunct Professor of Communications Studies at Athabasca University. In 2008, he was awarded an Honorary D. Litt. degree by the University of Alberta.

Fil Fraser  served on the Boards of Radio Nord Communications, CBC Newsworld, Videotron West, the Canadian Broadcast Museum Foundation and Milestone Radio, and of the Canadian Communications Foundation. In November 2011, Fil was elected President of the Foundation. He resigned in 2012, and moved to the Vice-Presidency.

Following problems consequent on back surgery, Fil resigned from the Board of CCF on November 27th 2013, but remained available to the Foundation as a consultant.

Fil Fraser died from heart failure on Sunday December 3rd 2017.  He was 85.

Written by Pip Wedge – November, 2011