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Margaret Morgan, activist, RIP

Margaret Morgan, life long learner, educator, active campaigner for peace and social justice, has died on July 19, 2011. Morgan’s life of service and strenuous, intelligent love will be remembered on September 18 at a 2:00 p.m. event at Vancouver’s Maritime Labour Centre, 1880 Triumph.

Margaret, who was born in Regina in 1925, will be missed by the family whom she inspired; her nieces Kathleen Galley and Janet Roocroft (Jack), great nieces Sylvia Galley Marques (Paul Hebert), Paula Galley Marques (Michael Fitzpatrick), stepdaughter Gwen Morgan and Gwen’s children, Devan and Megan Ozdogu, Janet Roocroft told the Tyee.

Morgan was in the public eye recently when she arranged to leave her home and property in Deep Cove to Simon Fraser University, designating the bequest to support the creation of a BA degree in Labour Studies.

The program will now be known as the Morgan Centre for Labour Studies, in honor of Margaret and her labour militant husband Ernest (Lefty) Morgan.

Margaret was a founding member of the BC Civil Liberties Association and the NDP and a long time member of Amnesty International. On the day she suffered the stroke that killed her, Morgan was on her way to a meeting of ADAPP, an NGO dedicated to protecting the human rights of Azerbaijani political prisoners in Iran, which she had served as president since 2007.

Morgan worked as a bicycle courier and factory worker in her youth, and later got the college degree that let her achieve her long ambition to be an educator. She served as a teacher, a principal and as the first paid president for the Coquitlam local of the BCTF. A life long learner, Morgan took flying lessons as a young woman and had Spanish language tapes and workbooks beside her bed the day of her stroke.

BC Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair first met Margaret shortly after Lefty died, when she played a key role in fund raising and hands on work on a project to build a fishing boat, The Solidarity, that went as a gift from the B.C. labour movement to a fishers’ co-operative in Nicaragua. That work, she told him, was her way of creating a memorial for the man she loved.

“She was an amazing woman with a huge sense of justice,” he said. “It was so typical of her that she left everything she had to the labour studies program. She believed in education and in working people getting the respect they deserve, and she thought a BA in Labour Studies would help.”

Jon Driver, a vice president and provost at SFU, told the Tyee:

“Margaret's gift to Labour Studies not only provided generous financial support, but also cemented a valued connection between the labour movement and the university. The history of labour in B.C. And Canada and the rapid changes that are taking place in peoples' working lives today require serious study, and our undergraduates want to explore these issues as part of their programs. Thanks to Margaret's bequest, students will now have this opportunity.”

Tom Sandborn covers labour and health policy beats for the Tyee. He welcomes feedback and story tips at [email protected]

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