Toronto: David Johnston, who will take over as Canada`s new Governor General next month, has witnessed the 2008 Mumbai attacks and is known among Indo-Canadians as "Friends of India”.
Since 1963, Johnston, outgoing president at the University of Waterloo, has been visiting India and has first hand information about India`s ancient culture, heritage, politics and its technological transformation.
He says: "I was present in Mumbai during the tragic events of November 26, 2008, that stood as an example of the necessity of unity over division."
"It`ll be the first real job I`ve ever had, because I never left university," he joked at a recent function organised by the Canada India Foundation (CIF) this week.
And it`s true. The Harvard graduate and lifelong educator began his career as a professor at Queen`s University in 1966 before moving on to the University of Toronto, the University of Western Ontario and McGill University, where he served as principal and vice-chancellor.
A Sudbury, Ontario, native, Johnston has spent the last 11 years in Waterloo, says the ever-strengthening Canada-India relationship is one that I have had the privilege of seeming grown, year after year.
"There`s a deep sense of pride and loyalty here and for Johnston, he loves India and believes that Indo-Canada trade relations will grow in geometric proportions in years to come," said Aditya Jha, a noted Indo-Canadian businessman who considers Johnston a close friend of India.
Johnston, he said, has been instrumental in fostering stronger bilateral relations between Canada and India and to increase the participation of Indo-Canadians in the public policy process.
Jha also credits him with leading the charge to put Waterloo on the global map and connecting the Waterloo with Indian IITs and Universities.
Jha said that University of Waterloo and the CIF have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an endowment of USD 10 million to step CIF Chanchlani Policy Consortium: public policy research centre.
Jha said that the proposed research centre would produce leading research that would strengthen understanding of India, its politics, economy and culture and help in accelerating trade and investment between the two countries.
Ramesh Chotai, Chair of Canada India Foundation, said with his strong work ethic, Johnston was able to pull in funding from all levels of government and the private sector to transform the university and the region into one of Canada`s most innovative high-tech hubs.
Johnston will be conferring former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam an honorary degree from the University of Waterloo for his contributions not only in science and technology, but humanitarian and youth outreach efforts.