Marty Dolin saw the world in black and white, both metaphorically and through his camera lens.
He loved to shoot black-and-white photography and when it came to advocating on behalf of refugees, there was no grey area, said his friend and former colleague Marta Kalita. He was all in.
The outspoken activist and former executive director of Welcome Place, now the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (MIIC), died on Wednesday. He was 78 years old.
Dolin helped thousands of refugees settle in the province.
"In the world of refugees and refugee rights, Marty Dolin was an Olympic champion." -Tom Denton
"When I was thinking about Marty, I can picture him sort of in a black and white picture. Not only because black was his favourite colour — he was often wearing black and he was a very good photographer... but also because of his character. Everything about Marty from my perspective was black or white," said Kalita, who is now the program director at MIIC and began at the organization two weeks after Dolin in 1990.
"If he was passionate about something, he was passionate to the bone. So his passion was the well-being of the refugees and the whole movement of the newcomers and Canada as a multicultural country. He was a fearless speaker. He could challenge the government. He could challenge everybody with his conquest.
"And if he didn't like something, then he was also very vocal about it," she added.
Dolin was a native New Yorker with a booming voice and a thick accent from the South Bronx (which he was very proud of, Kalita noted).
He moved to Winnipeg after a visit to Canada, which he told the Free Press about prior to his retirement in 2011.
"A Czech airliner crashed in Newfoundland and there was a thing on the CBC where they were looking for blood donors," Dolin said. He and his wife went to donate at a Halifax hospital and the hardened New Yorker was struck by what he saw.
"There was a line five blocks long with people standing in the rain... willing to give their blood to people they didn't know," said Dolin, whose late wife Mary Beth was the NDP MLA for Kildonan between 1981 and 1985.
"I can't imagine any other country doing this. That kind of empathy and that kind of support's why Canada has done well. Canadian people want to help, and they want to help refugees."
Dolin was elected for one term to the seat Mary Beth left after she died of cancer. He served as an MLA for nearly two years in the Manitoba Legislature before leaving to focus on work with refugees.
Kalita said Dolin also came to Canada because he didn't want to be recruited to fight in the Vietnam War. He objected to the war and was much more interested in pursuing social-justice issues.
Rita Chahal, the current director of MIIC, said Dolin left a legacy at Welcome Place, which included helping many new Canadians land jobs.
"He was always outspoken and he was never afraid to speak his mind or challenge people, but it was always with the most well-intentioned way, always on behalf of the clients that he was taking care of and serving," Chahal said.
Funeral plans are still being determined and MIIC will take part in some way, she said.
Tom Denton, executive director of administration and sponsorship at Hospitality House Refugee Ministry in Winnipeg, was a longtime friend and former co-worker of Dolin's.
"Both here at home and across Canada in the refugee resettlement sector, Marty Dolin was a legend. He will remain one," Denton said, calling him "a truly great man" and "a rough diamond."
"In the world of refugees and refugee rights, Marty Dolin was an Olympic champion."
— with files from Carol Sanders
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Thursday, February 15, 2018 at 3:04 PM CST: adds quotes, info