The Parti Québécois win in the Nov. 15, 1976 provincial election sent shockwaves through Quebec society, and a new generation of Anglophone leaders began to emerge.
A day after the election, Eric Maldoff was sworn in as a lawyer and began meeting other young Anglos committed to Quebec who saw the need for dialogue in the new reality.
There was a feeling that the existing Anglo elite, often unilingual, not reflecting the community’s varied makeup, was not up to the task.
“This allowed a lot of stereotypical caricatures to be created which were damaging relations,” he said.
“We were very concerned about the lack of communication between Francophone and Anglophone communities,” Maldoff recalled in a recent interview at the law offices of Lapointe, Rosenstein, where he is a partner.
A few days later, Maldoff and others gathered in a friend’s living room that led to creating new groups, emphasizing dialogue and protection of rights, and unity groups preparing for referendum battles.
Maldoff’s skill as a communicator, his understanding of the political dynamics, and ability to draft coherent consensus positions were quickly recognized, and he became external Vice President for Participation Quebec, one of the most important groups.
It was the beginning of a long, multi-faceted and busy life as a community leader. Maldoff is among three winners of this year’s Sheila and Victor Goldbloom Distinguished Service Award, selected by the Quebec Community Groups Network.
In 1978, he was the founding president of the Council of Quebec Minorities, which led to the formation of Alliance Quebec in 1982, when he was elected president.
In the next decades, he took a leading role in just about every sphere affecting Quebec Anglophones, including major hospitals, schools, McGill University, aboriginal groups, Centraide, and the homeless. Simultaneously, he has been a successful lawyer, working with major law firms and mandates from federal and Quebec governments.
Geoffrey Chambers says Maldoff has been “a key leader, voice, advocate, organizer, and source of strategic and practical wisdom.”
His moderate voice and the groups he helped establish succeeded in defining positions for a community that felt threatened, especially when the PQ won again in 1981.
Maldoff played a major role behind the scenes mediating between governments and aboriginal communities. He was an advisor to the federal government and former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, a leader in Canadian Jewish Congress and Canada-Israel Committee, and member of the McGill Board of Governors.
Born in Montreal to Charles Maldoff, a manufacturer of elasticized yarn, and his wife Betty, Eric was brought up in Côte des Neiges and TMR, and after Herzliah High School, graduated with a B.A. and law degrees from McGill.
When the PQ won a second term in 1981, Maldoff and friends concluded the Anglo community needed a representative vehicle.
“We didn’t have an effective voice,” he recalled, and served as founding president of Alliance Quebec. It was remarkably effective.
“We got Bill 101 amended to recognize the English institutional network and create exceptions for bilingual institutions.”
Working full time as a lawyer and “40 hours a week as a volunteer,” he and his wife, architect Andrea Wolff, raised a family of three: Daniel studying engineering at UBC, Gabriel studying law at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, and Anna, a recent history graduate from McGill, who works in digital marketing.
Maldoff is particularly proud of his work with the Montreal Children’s Hospital, where he chairs the board.
Commenting on Maldoff’s work in getting the MUHC project off the ground, Nicholas Steinmetz, former executive director at the Children’s, said, “It was Eric’s detailed and persevering strategy that led to the success in creating the MUHC.”