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UVic faculty members receive highest academic honour

Three University of Victoria faculty members have been named 2018 fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, Canada’s highest academic honour.

Three University of Victoria faculty members have been named 2018 fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, Canada’s highest academic honour.

Tenor Benjamin Butterfield, ethicist and philosopher Eike-Henner Kluge and public-health policy researcher Tim Stockwell were announced Tuesday as new members of the society, chosen by their peers.

Butterfield, head of voice in UVic’s school of music, has earned a reputation as one of the country’s best operatic tenors.

He said “creative scheduling” allows him to combine his singing career with his teaching career.

“It’s crucial to keep singing and have that career in order to bring back stuff to hear that you can think about and talk about,” Butterfield said. “It’s crucial that it’s a cyclical thing for me, that’s what keeps me very, very busy.

“You can’t really give up one for the other, but they do, in fact, feed each other in a really exciting way.”

Butterfield has performed all over North America and Europe, and in Ukraine, the Middle East and Asia. He has a repertoire that extends from Renaissance to modern music, and has sung in English, French. Latin, Italian, German, Polish, Czech, Russian and Ukrainian.

His debut came in 1994 as Tamino in Mozart’s Magic Flute with the New York City Opera.

Kluge, a philosophy professor, has become known for his contributions to some of society’s most important medical debates, including access to abortion and the ethics of medically assisted dying. He is a professor in UVic’s department of philosophy, is the author of 13 books and has produced 90 journal articles.

His books include the International Medical Informatics Association’s Code of Ethics, and in 1989 he helped establish the department of ethics and legal affairs for the Canadian Medical Association.

He served as the department’s first director and was asked in 1991 to present a Senate committee with an analysis of Bill C-43, a law that would have restricted women’s access to abortion.

Bill C-43 went on to defeat due in part to Kluge’s efforts.

Two Kluge books delving into medically assisted dying, The Practice of Death and The Ethics of Deliberate Death, led North Saanich resident Sue Rodriguez to contact him about her experience with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. Kluge became an ethics adviser to Rodriguez in her Supreme Court of Canada challenge to the Criminal Code’s position against assisted death.

She lost in court but later died with help from an anonymous doctor in 1994.

“In 2016 the Supreme Court reversed itself and gave us exactly what we wanted with Sue Rodriguez,” Kluge said.

Kluge said it is vital to him for his research to find its way into use in such cases. To make his point, he quoted Albert Schweitzer: “Philosophy stopped being relevant when philosophers started talking only to each other.”

“That’s been sort of a guiding light for me,” Kluge said. “Sooner or later, whatever you do as an academician, whether it’s a philosopher, as a logician — my original PhD was in the philosophy of mathematics — sooner or later it’s got to have a relevance to society, otherwise you’re being paid for a hobby.”

Stockwell, the director of UVic’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, has contributed to substance-use policies not only in Canada but also Scotland, Ireland, Australia and other locations. Reached in Helsinki, Stockwell said he appreciates the recognition.

“I’m obviously delighted,” he said. “It’s a wonderful honour.”

One of the big things for him is seeing his work put to use in places outside of Canada.

“It’s a thrill,” he said. “It’s a very interesting part of the kind of work that I do that it’s something that gets picked up by other countries.

“That’s why I’m here in Finland this week, because they’re looking at their alcohol policy.”

Stockwell said research will be done into the possibility of privatization.

Policies that prevent illness, injuries and death are a key part of Stockwell’s work at UVic, and he has been a pioneer in such areas as using more accurate measures of alcohol consumption.

“We’re also looking at cannabis, increasingly,” he said. “We look at nicotine and opioids, try and look across the board. My particular area has been alcohol.”

About 2,000 Canadians have earned the title of fellow from the Royal Society of Canada in its 134-year history, including 75 from UVic.

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