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MEMORIAM – Brockville chapter activist Jim Riesberry passes away

Barbara and Jim Riesberry

The Council of Canadians mourns the loss of Brockville chapter activist Jim Riesberry.

Jim passed away on May 3 at the age of 82.

Jim founded the chapter and served as its chairperson for eight years starting in 2004. Although he stepped down as the chairperson in 2012 for health reasons, he continued to participate in the chapter on a particular issue of concern for him. In his words, that was “fighting the root cause of so many issues that we all face: the neoliberal ideology that has led Canada and the world for the past 30 years.”

When asked about the most important thing he had done with the chapter, he replied, “Our chapter campaigned extensively to support the Romanow report on the future of public health care. We participated in one of the forums in Ottawa and gathered thousands of signatures on a petition. It was an exciting effort that 30 or 40 people took part in. Over the last 10 years we have presented to city council, participated in demonstrations in Ottawa, met annually with our MP, screened documentaries, and hosted Maude and the Unbottle It! tour, among other things. We don’t get to celebrate as many victories as we would like, but we have the joy of working with others across Canada and together being an influence.”

Jim was also a great believer in letters to the editor. He has commented, “Our local newspaper has a right-wing bias and by sending letters to the editor I hope to reach those people who might not be exposed to progressive views. It is a chance to speak to the unconverted.”

Our campaign blogs often highlighted Jim’s blogs on issues including the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, bottled water, proportional representation, the uprising in Egypt, and the Harper government’s neglect of veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In February 2013, an editorial in the Brockville Recorder and Times tried to disparage the Council of Canadians by calling it an “interest group”.

Jim responded by saying, “I like that description. It is indeed an interest group – a group of ordinary citizens interested in the wellbeing of Canada and Canadians, people who believe that there is more to democracy than just voting once every four years. Members of the Council of Canadians, like me, believe we have the obligation and right to be educated about the issues, and to then express our views to others and to those in power. We are interested in our governments hearing voices other than those of corporate lobbyists.”

He then went on to list many of the issues we are “interested” in: city councils not losing some of their decision-making powers to international agreements; keeping our health care public, free from profit-making privatization and a two-tier operation; stopping CO2 emissions that are creating global warming that threatens our civilization; keeping all our lakes and rivers protected from pollution, including The Great Lakes and their basin; proroguing, omnibus bills, and the transfer of power to international agreements, tribunals and corporations; and fracking, First Nations, Canadian sovereignty, our global reputation, fair trade, etc.

Jim’s obituary notes, “In memory of Jim donations to the Council of Canadians, Primates World Relief and Development Fund or Amnesty International would be gratefully acknowledged by the family.”

The Council of Canadians extends its condolences to Jim’s wife Barbara, their children John, Christine and Robert, and their grandchildren Nicole, Phillip, Rebecca, Victoria and Michael, as well as to the Brockville chapter.