Saul Cherniack

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The Honourable
Saul Cherniack
Manitoba Minister of Finance
In office
May 2, 1973 – January 8, 1975
PremierEdward Schreyer
Preceded byEdward Schreyer
Succeeded byEdward Schreyer
In office
July 17, 1969 – November 13, 1972
PremierEdward Schreyer
Preceded byGurney Evans
Succeeded byEdward Schreyer
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba
In office
December 14, 1962 – November 17, 1981
Preceded byDavid Orlikow
Succeeded byDonald Malinowski
ConstituencySt. Johns
Metro Winnipeg Councillor
In office
Member of the Winnipeg City Council
In office
Personal details
Born(1917-01-10)January 10, 1917
Winnipeg, Manitoba
DiedMarch 30, 2018(2018-03-30) (aged 101)
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Political partyNew Democratic Party
Other political
Co-operative Commonwealth Federation
Spouse(s)Sybil Claire Zeal (1938-1997, her death)
Domestic partnerMyra Wolch (ca. 2007-present)
RelationsDavid Orlikow (cousin)
Children2 sons
ParentsJoseph and Fanya
Alma materUniversity of Manitoba
Military service
Service/branchCanadian Army
Years of service1943–1946

Saul Mark Cherniack, PC CM OM QC (January 10, 1917 – March 30, 2018) was a Canadian lawyer and politician. He was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1962 to 1981, and served as a cabinet minister in the government of Edward Schreyer. He was also a member of the Privy Council, the Order of Canada and the Order of Manitoba.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Cherniack's grandfather emigrated to Canada from Russia and then brought over Cherniack's grandmother, father, and aunt in 1905; Cherniack was politician David Orlikow's first cousin.[2] Cherniack's grandfather was a dealer of Judaica.[2]

Cherniack was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba.[3] His parents, Joseph Alter Cherniack[3] and Fanya Golden,[3] had been revolutionaries in Russia and had been briefly imprisoned before coming to Canada in 1905.[2] Alter Cherniack became a prominent member of Winnipeg's Jewish community and leading supporter of the Independent Labour Party and Co-operative Commonwealth Federation in the city's north end.[4] Alter Cherniack was a watchmaker by training but eventually earned his BA and law degree in Canada and became law partners with Malick Spivak whose son, Sidney Spivak, would go on to be Leader of the Opposition as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba in the 1970s while Cherniack was in government.[2]

Cherniack's parents helped found the I.L. Peretz School, the first Yiddish day school in North America and were also involved with Yiddish theatre.[2]

Cherniack himself was involved with a left-wing theatre group in the 1930s.[2] He was educated at the University of Manitoba (receiving a law degree in 1939), and was active in the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation and in the Jewish community of Winnipeg. He began practising law in 1940. From 1943 to 1946, he served in the Royal Canadian Artillery and then in the Intelligence Corps of the Canadian Army[3] as a Japanese language specialist, reaching the rank of captain.[1]

After World War II, Cherniack resumed his law practice and was one of three lawyers in Canada who worked on behalf of Japanese Canadians who had been interned during the war years in an attempt to have them paid compensation for property seized from them by the government.[2]

He was elected as a trustee on the Winnipeg School Board in 1950, serving until 1954, and then served as a councillor in the town of Winnipeg Beach in 1958-59, a Winnipeg alderman in 1959-60, and a councillor on the Metropolitan Corporation of Greater Winnipeg from 1960 to 1962. In 1938, he married Sybil Claire Zeal.[3]

In the late 1950s, he served as president of both the Jewish Welfare Fund of Winnipeg and the western branch of the Canadian Jewish Congress.[2]

Provincial politics[edit]

He was first elected to the Manitoba legislature in the 1962 provincial election, in the north-end Winnipeg riding of St. Johns. He was re-elected in the elections of 1966, 1969, 1973 and 1977, each time by a significant margin.[5]

In 1968-69, Cherniack was a key figure in the provincial NDP calling for Edward Schreyer to replace Russell Paulley as party leader. He initially considered challenging Paulley himself, but declined, reportedly on the advice of NDP research adviser Doug Rowland. Those who supported Sidney Green contended that Cherniack did not run because of concerns that a Jewish party leader would not have been acceptable to the general public in the late 1960s; they later attributed his lack of support for Green to the same reason. (Russell Doern once quoted Cherniack as saying "I do not believe that Manitoba is ready for a Jewish Premier" in announcing his decision to others in the party.) Cherniack denied that, saying that his decision not to run himself was based on his lack of ambition for power, and his support of Schreyer was based on Schreyer's leadership qualities.

When Sidney Green challenged Paulley for the party leadership in late 1968, Cherniack and seven other MLAs supported Paulley on condition that he stand down the following year in favour of Schreyer. Paulley was confirmed as leader and resigned the following year, at which time Schreyer defeated Green for the party leadership. The NDP under Schreyer formed a minority government following the 1969 election.

Cabinet minister[edit]

On July 17, 1969, Cherniack was appointed provincial Minister of Finance.[5] He was also given the Urban Affairs portfolio for a brief period in 1970, and was responsible for amalgamating the suburbs and inner city of Winnipeg into one large municipality, the first such unification in North America. He remained one of Schreyer's most trusted confidantes throughout the 1970s.

During his time in office, Cherniack was respected for his intellectual rigour and integrity, and was known as one of the most dignified members of the Manitoba Assembly. He resigned the finance portfolio on November 13, 1972, returned to office on May 2, 1973, and resigned a second time in January 1975.[5]

When Edward Schreyer resigned as party leader in 1979, Cherniack offered to serve as interim leader until a party convention could be held. He set a number of conditions to this offer, however; those who supported Green contended that he was trying to secure the leadership for either himself or Wilson Parasiuk. At a caucus vote Green and Howard Pawley contested Cherniack's interim leadership, and he received only three votes for the position of interim leader. Howard Pawley, the successful candidate, subsequently named him as the party's deputy leader.

Cherniack announced his retirement from political life in October 1980, saying "I am selfish enough to want a little more private life and have for some time [...] There comes a time in a person's life when he has a right to say I want to be relieved of the burden". Cherniack criticized the Manitoba New Democratic Party's recent leadership divisions in making his announcement, arguing that personality questions were obscuring substantive issues.[6] He remained a member of the legislature until the 1981 election.

Post-political career[edit]

After his retirement from politics, Cherniack became chair of Manitoba Hydro, and served as a member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee overseeing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service from 1984 to 1992. Accordingly, he was sworn into the Queen's Privy Council for Canada on November 30, 1984 to enable him access to information restricted under the Official Secrets Act.[1]

Cherniack has also served as national vice-president of the Canadian Jewish Congress.[1] He retired from his legal practice in 2000.

In the 1999 provincial election, his son Lawrie Cherniack ran for the NDP in Fort Garry against Joy Smith, and lost by only 30 votes.

In 2003, he supported Bill Blaikie's campaign to lead the federal New Democratic Party.

Cherniack was a member of both the Order of Canada and the Order of Manitoba.[2]

He turned 100 in January 2017[2] and died on 30 March 2018 at the age of 101.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d "Saul Mark Cherniack fonds". Archives Canada. Archived from the original on 2014-02-23. Retrieved 2014-02-16.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Saul Cherniack, former Manitoba cabinet minister, turns 100". January 6, 2017. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Normandin, Pierre G (1968). Canadian Parliamentary Guide.
  4. ^ "Joseph Alter Cherniack (1885-1972)". Manitoba Historical Society. Retrieved 2014-02-16.
  5. ^ a b c "MLA Biographies - Living". Legislative Assembly of Manitoba. Retrieved 2014-02-16.
  6. ^ Mary Ann Fitzgerald, "Cherniack decides to retire", Winnipeg Free Press, 25 October 1980, p. 3.
  7. ^ "Socialist, lawyer and long-time politician, Saul Cherniack, dies at 101". March 30, 2018. Retrieved March 30, 2018.

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