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Fil Fraser, who worked as a broadcaster, writer and radio, TV and film producer over five decades, died Sunday of unspecified causes. He was 86.
“Fil Fraser was a great Albertan whose storied career made him a national treasure and a living legend,” Michael Jorgensen, board chair of the Alberta Media Production Industries Association, said Monday in a statement.
Fraser’s son, Dave Dutton-Fraser, on his Twitter account late Sunday praised his late father: “He was a great man who taught me many things. I can not and will not even try to express my sorrow, but will leave you these links so you can understand it is not my loss alone.”
Born Felix Fraser in Montreal’s East End in August 1932, the Canadian media pioneer cut his teeth in high school radio before joining Toronto radio station CKFH in 1951, then run by Foster Hewitt, best known for his play-by-play calls for Hockey Night in Canada.
Legend has it, Hewitt handed Fraser a script and told him to read it. Five minutes later, Fraser was hired to do the night shift. He went on to work at radio stations in Timmins and Barrie, Ontario, and in Verdun and Montreal, Quebec.
Fraser launched the Regina Weekly Mirror newspaper in 1960, and in 1969 he became program director and senior producer for Canada’s first educational TV station, the Metropolitan Edmonton Educational Television Association, the forerunner of Alberta’s ACCESS Network.
From there, Fraser moved in 1971 to the CBC TV station CBXT-TV in Edmonton, where he co-anchored the local supper-hour news program from 1971-1973, before hosting ITV Television’s Fil Fraser Show. Besides doing radio and TV work in Edmonton during the ‘70s, Fraser also ran his own indie production company.
In 1976, he produced his first feature film, Why Shoot the Teacher, which starred Bud Cort (Harold and Maude), and followed up with two more films, 1977’s Marie Anne and 1980’s The Hounds of Notre Dame, which featured The Changeling star Frances Hyland.
Fraser also organized and chaired the first Alberta Film Festival in 1974. In 1991, he was inducted into the Order of Canada for his broadcasting work, with the citation indicating Fraser, who was of Caribbean parentage, was Canada’s first black broadcaster. In 1979, Fraser founded the Banff International Television Festival, which continues today as the Banff World Media Festival.
As a human rights campaigner, Fraser served as chief commissioner of the Alberta Human Rights Commission from 1989-1992, and was president and CEO of the Vision TV network from 1995-2000.
As a writer, Fraser also penned Running Uphill – The Fast, Short Life of Canadian Champion Harry Jerome, a biography of the Olympic sprinter that was filmed by the National Film Board, and How the Blacks Created Canada.
Fraser was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame in 2000.
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