A determined new Canadian represents Cooksville in Ottawa.
Words by Mike Douglas

The Member of Parliament for Mississauga East—Cooksville, Wladyslaw Lizon, likes to visit the Art Gallery of Mississauga. Recently he was there to greet a friend from Poland, artist Marek Filipiuk, whose complex photo “portraits” on aluminum dominated the gallery walls.

“I love art,” he told me in our interview the day before. “I strongly believe that we should support the arts, because it gives people an extra layer of humanity. Someone expressing themselves through music, painting and sculpture are speaking an international language, no translation required.”

He and his wife are enthusiastic about dancing and he loves to sing in their church choir. He also emphasizes the value of being active. “I’m training for a march in Holland with the Canadian Army, carrying a 25-pound knapsack, wearing the Canadian uniform, marching 40 kilometres a day for four days, as part of a traditional celebration that dates back over 50 years,” he says. “Would you like to join me?” Ha ha.

Lizon moves gracefully, still plays tennis regularly and goes door-knocking in his riding when he can. He doesn’t want any barriers between himself and his constituents, and while their problems may not be federal, he works closely with his political counterparts to help solve any constituent’s problem.

One of the appealing things about Lizon is that he feels so lucky. Growing up in communist Poland, he marvels at the changes he has witnessed, triggered in the main by the unprecedented ascension of a Polish archbishop to become Pope John Paul II, possibly the most influential Pope in the history of Roman Catholicism.

Lizon recalls when Warsaw’s Karol Wojtyla became the Pope. “It created a shock wave in Poland,” he says. “He kept saying to us have no fear; what he meant was that if we lost our fear then the oppressive regime would lose its tool to control us.”

And young Poles knew, even though it would take another five years of repression, that the world would have to change, the Iron Curtain had to fall. In 1984 Poland was finally free once more and the young engineer with a wife and two children left them behind to search for a new home in America.

After three lonely years in Chicago, with more years to go before they could settle in the US, Lizon decided to try Canada. Six months later, the family was happily reunited in Clarkson and their new beginning was underway.

Initially, Lizon worked as an engineer before founding a marble and granite countertop business. His wife Malgorzata became a high school teacher, his son Marcin and daughter Kinga flourished and Lizon sought to honour his father by volunteering in the community. Eventually he became the President of the Canadian Polish Congress before choosing to seek a voice in national politics.

After his election as a Conservative MP in May 2011, it’s not surprising to see him move a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament to establish Pope John Paul II Day “to reflect on and celebrate the man who took a strong stand on human rights and opened the dialogue between other faiths to promote freedom of religion and speech across the globe.” The Bill has not been passed.

Another notable mention was his signature on a murder inquiry letter to the RCMP. He and a few other MPs wanted an investigation into whether any cases of late-term abortions might have resulted in children being born. “We wanted the RCMP to investigate that—they haven’t responded.”

He goes on to add: “I’m a practicing Roman Catholic. I do not impose my views on anyone, and respect all other religious views. What matters is the values of a person, not their religion or if they worship or not, it’s none of my business. What’s important really is respect for others.”

The next night he would pay his respects at a ceremony to mark the 1940 massacre of 22,000 Polish men by Soviet Secret Police, a grim reminder of the scars of oppression that some countries must bear and some new Canadians must manage.

Wladyslaw Lizon, MP, in brief:
Lizon was elected in 2011 as MP for Mississauga East—Cooksville. He is the first Polish-born, raised and educated Member of Parliament elected to the House of Commons.