Matthew Fisher was Canada’s most experienced, well-traveled foreign correspondent.
Fisher was born in Port Arthur and was raised in northwestern Ontario and Ottawa by parents who served overseas with Canadian Forces during the Second World War and always encouraged interest in politics and international affairs.
Never married, Fisher has four brothers who all live in Canada.
He did two long stints abroad and lived overseas for 34 years. During this time he resided in Belgium, Germany, Russia, Hong Kong, Britain, the Middle East and Afghanistan. He travelled to 153 countries, all 50 U.S. states and all the Canadian provinces and territories. He spoke French and German and could make a fair fist of Spanish and Russian.
Over the years Fisher observed 14 wars and conflicts from Central America and eastern and central Africa to the Caucasus, the Balkans, Iraq, Timor, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Gaza and was aboard warships many times in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. Since the mid-70s he travelled to every major Canadian overseas military mission and visited most military bases in Canada. As well as embedding with the Canadian army, he went to war with British, American and Australian forces and was one of the very few foreign eyewitnesses to the Rwandan genocide.
Fisher was also a sports reporter for eight years overseas, covering six Olympic Games, almost all of the downhill victories of the Crazy Canucks as well as scores of international basketball games coached by his great friend and mentor, Jack Donohue.
Among Fisher’s greatest personal moments reporting from overseas were Nelson Mandela’s historic victory as the first black president of South Africa and a 1,000-kilometre journey by skiff on a remote northern tributary of the Amazon.
He was at the Kremlin Walls when the Soviet hammer and sickle flag was pulled down for the last time, attended the funerals of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, Lady Diana, Mother Teresa, Yasser Arafat and King Hussein, covered the first democratic elections in Russia, Ukraine, Iraq and Afghanistan and reported from six Olympic Games.
As well as winning the Ross Munro Award in 2007 for his coverage of security and military issues, he received two national award nominations and wrote books on alpine skiing (White Circus) with racer Ken Read and A Matter of Principal about the spectacular $467-million failure of the Alberta-based Principal Group.
Fisher’s hobbies were hockey, fishing and any kind of travel, especially train travel. He had been on every sleeper train that has run in Canada and the U.S. since the sixties as well as South Africa’s Blue Train, Australia’s Ghan and Indian Pacific and Russia’s Trans-Siberian. He went supersonic in a Concorde and an F-18 fighter jet, did aircraft carrier landings and takeoffs during combat operations in the Middle East, crossed the Atlantic on the QE2, by private jet and by prop plane, flown to the North Pole and Magnetic North Pole, traveled the length of the Mackenzie River by barge, driven the Alaska and Dempster highways and was a witness to intense combat in Chechnya, Nagorno-Karabakh and Croatia and while embedded with U.S. Marines from a crack reconnaissance battalion during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
After winning the Montreal Expos’ junior announcing contest as a sixteen-year-old in 1970, he became a regular contributor to CBC Radio, United Press Canada, Maclean’s and the Toronto Star, among others. His first full-time job was as a news reporter for CJOH-CTV News and Max Keeping in Ottawa, where he began filing reports to CTV News when he was 19 years old. During his 20s he was a freelancer, mostly reporting from sports events overseas.
As well as working for the Globe and Mail for seven years as bureau chief for Alberta and the Far North he also covered the first Gulf War and traced the fall of communism in Russia and across eastern Europe for that newspaper. After that he was an international affairs columnist for nine years for the Sun Media newspapers.
Fisher joined the National Post as a columnist and reporter in Moscow in 2002 and moved to Postmedia News one year later. He went to Iraq five times and Afghanistan 20 times since 9/11, spending more time in both countries than any other Canadian journalist.