At the age of 13, Craig Kielburger was debating with the Prime Minister and travelling the world as a high-profile advocate against child labour.
Yesterday, at the age of 17, he was in the spotlight once again after Saturday Night magazine agreed to pay him $319,000 to settle a lawsuit.
The settlement, approved by an Ontario judge, marks the end of a long battle between Mr. Kielburger and the magazine that erupted with the 1996 publication of The Most Powerful 13-Year-Old in the World, a controversial profile of Mr. Kielburger.
"This is a great day for us," Mr. Kielburger said outside the Toronto courthouse yesterday. "I've been vindicated."
Mr. Kielburger said the Saturday Night article hurt both his family and his organization, an advocacy group called Free the Children.
"I found this a terribly difficult experience," he said. "It hurt me, it hurt my parents, and it hurt the organization. There were a lot of tears. . . . I can now close a difficult chapter in my life."
Mr. Kielburger launched his lawsuit in January, 1997, shortly after the publication of the article, which was written by Isabel Vincent, a former Globe and Mail reporter who now works for the National Post.
Ms. Vincent's article took a critical view of Mr. Kielburger, a Thornhill, Ont., teenager whose campaign against international child labour made him a household name.
In his statement of claim, Mr. Kielburger asked for $3-million in damages, and cited a long list of alleged libels. Mr. Kielburger objected both to the article's general tone and to specific allegations -- most notably, the suggestion that he and his family took part of the money given to Free the Children.
Ms. Vincent wrote that the money donated to Free the Children "goes directly to the Kielburger family," and noted that the agency was "not a legally registered charity." Mr. Kielburger said there was a clear suggestion that he and his family had taken the money.
In his statement of claim, Mr. Kielburger said Saturday Night had published these statements "knowing that they were false, or with reckless disregard and indifference to their false nature."
In his statement of claim, Mr. Kielburger also objected to the way the article had portrayed him and his family and cited passages from the story to support his case.
In one paragraph, for example, Ms. Vincent described him as a "precocious pubescent" who has "learned to speak in almost perfect sound bites." In another, she described how some "cynical journalists" had taken to calling Mr. Kielburger "Damien" -- the name of an evil child in the film The Omen and its sequels.
Mr. Kielburger's statement of claim detailed the damage wrought by the "Damien" description: "The words were intended, meant and were understood to mean or to imply that Craig is a sinister and evil person capable of acts like the character. . . ."
The lawsuit also charged that Mr. Kielburger had been compared to former prime minister Brian Mulroney, who was at the time under investigation by the RCMP for his alleged role in the Airbus affair.
As well as Ms. Vincent, Mr. Kielburger's lawsuit named a number of others connected with the article, including former Saturday Night editor Kenneth Whyte, photographer Ed Gajdel and journalist Michael Coren, who consulted on the story.
Mr. Whyte, who is now editor-in-chief of the National Post, said settling the lawsuit was "largely a commercial decision."
"It was costing us a great deal of time and money," he said. "It was time to wind things up."