Jack Ebbels Scholarship in Public Administration

Jack Ebbels

Jack Ebbels 1948-2010

Jack Ebbels, the chief counsel and chief negotiator for the historic Nisga'a land claim settlement, died Thursday after suffering a heart attack while skiing at the Nakiska resort, west of Calgary last weekend.

John David (Jack) Ebbels was born April 15, 1948, in Regina, one of six children who included an identical twin brother, Jim. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Regina in 1974 and a doctorate of laws in 1977 from the University of Saskatchewan. Ebbels loved English but followed an ancestral calling to the legal profession.

"His only uncle was a lawyer, his grandfather was a lawyer, he's a lawyer and his cousin is a lawyer -- there's a chain of them," said Jim, an architect. He came to Victoria and was called to the bar here in 1978. After a brief period in private practice, Ebbels joined the Attorney General's Ministry in 1981.  He worked his way up the B.C. civil service and in 1990 became chief counsel for the Nisga'a land claim negotiations.

From 1992 to 1996, Ebbels was the province's chief negotiator for the treaty.
The Nisga'a executive had such great admiration for Ebbels that upon hearing of his death, they suspended their meeting for a minute of silence and prayers for Ebbels's family.

From 1996 to 2006, when he retired from the public service, Ebbels served as deputy for various ministers, both NDP and Liberal. His resumé included stints as deputy in aboriginal affairs, energy and mines and offshore oil and gas.  In 2002 he was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for his service to British Columbia, the highest honour for a public servant.

Most recently, Ebbels, who had moved to Calgary, sat on the board of the Energy Resources Conservation Board, a quasi-judicial entity in Alberta that oversees the oil and gas industry.  Ebbels was principled and always honest, said those who knew him. "He believed in doing what you say, being a man of your word, respecting the opposition and being honest to a fault," said Jim.  "I think he was charismatic and very, very charming. He was intelligent, funny and decisive and had kind of an infectious spirit about him."

Former B.C. cabinet minister and premier, Dan Miller remembers Ebbels as "an extremely good deputy minister. Someone described him as the best deal-maker in government."  His outgoing nature and appeal helped to get things done, Miller said.

"Jack deserves a staggering amount of credit because he was the lead negotiator that put together the Nisga'a land claim agreement. He was at it for about five years and just worked like a dog to get that deal."  Later Ebbels worked under Miller in the Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources portfolio.   Ebbels spearheaded a huge initiative in the northeast that led to a massive increase in investment and new wells.

"I don't think the vast majority of the public have an understanding of the civil service, but he exemplified all that was good about it," Miller said.  Former colleague Ross Curtis called Ebbels "one of those guys who never took the credit himself.  It was always his employees that got the credit. He was the ultimate public servant. I've never worked for anyone better in my life."

Ebbels had previously undergone a quadruple bypass stemming from family-related heart problems,” said Jim: "We've all got bad plumbing.  He was probably unconscious when he hit the ground. Like my wife says, it's good for Jack but so, so sad for us.  What a fantastic way to go -- he died with his ski boots on."

Ebbels is survived by his son, Calen, and ex-wife Patricia of Victoria.

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