His Life

Roy Matthew Fisher

Pre-deceased by his parents, Douglas Mason Fisher and Barbara Lamont Fisher. Beloved brother of Mark, Tobias (Mireille), John (Huguette) and Luke (Kamla). “Favourite uncle” to Wendel (Erica), Irene (Jesse), Alexandre, Emma (Bill), Sam and Ruth. And great uncle to Felix, Leo, Conan and Charlie.

Matt Fisher was one of a kind. Bold, brave, boastful and charming, he was an unforgettable character. As a journalist for 45 years, he reported from the most dangerous datelines in the world – Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, Rwanda, Somalia, the Balkans and more – bringing the tragedy of war home to Canadians. A true war correspondent, he “ran to the sound of the guns” and told the story from the front lines. He would want you to know that he visited 174 countries and covered more than 20 wars and civil conflicts during his journalism career. He also would want you to know he learned to speak Quebecois French, Bavarian German, and a substantial smattering of Russian, Arabic, and a dozen other languages – enough to make a connection and disarm people with a joke.

Matt was born in Port Arthur (Thunder Bay), one of five sons of two WWII veterans. His parents, Barbara and Douglas, were both librarians and teachers, imparting a love of knowledge and an interest in the wider world to all their sons. His father, a former CCF/NDP MP and Chairman of Hockey Canada, went on to become the dean of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

Matt started early in journalism. At 16, he won the Montreal Expos ‘Junior Broadcaster’ contest. The prize was a trip to Hawaii, which he promptly sold to buy new hockey equipment. He parlayed that first success into a job as a high school sports reporter for CBO Radio in Ottawa, and then joined Max Keeping’s newsroom at CJOH-TV. At 19, he “stumbled” into his first war in Mozambique and ironically, could not sell the story to a single Canadian news outlet. He then spent eight years travelling the world reporting on Canada’s amateur athletes, notably the sensational successes of the ‘Crazy Canucks’, the downhill skiers, about whom he wrote a book, ‘White Circus’, with Ken Read. In total, he would report from a dozen Olympic Games.

He also covered firsthand many of the major events of our time, including the election of Nelson Mandela, the death of Princess Diana, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the Hong Kong handover to China. But it was war that intrigued him most, and that is where he made his greatest contributions to Canadian journalism – for the Globe, National Post, Sun Media and CanWest Global. His reporting often eschewed officials and experts, preferring to focus on the struggles and suffering of ordinary people.

Matt had a soft spot for the Canadian troops he frequently met in the world’s conflict zones. He spent more time with CAF soldiers, sailors and aircrew than any other Canadian reporter – from sailing the South China Sea to flying over the North Pole. And Afghanistan, especially Afghanistan. He felt it was important to tell Canadians stories about the young men and women they send into danger. Matt also formed a special bond with a small group of US Marines with whom he was “embedded” during the second invasion of Iraq in 2003. For six weeks he lived out of an armoured vehicle, which came under frequent attack from Saddam’s army. His Marine friends say his battlefield experience and sang froid helped to settle their nerves!

No matter where he was in the world, Matt kept in touch with family – not just his parents and brothers, but nephews and nieces, cousins and second cousins. From a remote hotel room in Siberia he would book family trips, using his millions of air mile points to make it possible. And whenever he came home, he would send an email advising family, “The Ego has landed”, and that we needed to organize a family dinner.

A war correspondent leads a lonely existence, but Matt made many lifelong friends around the world. There are people mourning his passing in Tokyo, Moscow, Warsaw, London, Dallas, Peshawar, Manila and more. Like his family and friends in Canada, they will remember Matt as generous, courageous, and yes, at times outrageous. We will not see his like again.