Meyer Brownstone

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Meyer Brownstone (June 22, 1922 — April 3, 2019) [1] was a Canadian activist, civil servant, and academic, particularly notable for his longtime involvement with Oxfam Canada.

Oxfam Canada, founded in 1963, is an international development agency based in Canada, and is a registered charity. It is located in Ottawa, Canada and it works with partner organizations in Africa, Asia and the Americas. It focuses on the root causes of poverty, injustice and inequality, with the stated intent of creating self-reliant and sustainable communities. Oxfam believes that to end global poverty women's rights must be secured. Oxfam Canada is a founding member of Oxfam International, the federation of Oxfams worldwide.


Early life

Brownstone was born in Winnipeg in 1922 to a poor Jewish socialist family. [2] His parents were Olia Brownstone (née Roseman) and Charles Brownstone. His siblings were Hannah (married to Dr. Norman Hirt), Sam (married to Odette, parents of Justice Harvey Brownstone) and Shieky (married to Ellen).

Winnipeg Provincial capital city in Manitoba, Canada

Winnipeg is the capital and largest city of the province of Manitoba in Canada. Centred on the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, it is near the longitudinal centre of North America, approximately 110 kilometres (70 mi) north of the Canada–United States border.

In his youth, he worked in the gold mines of Red Lake, Ontario in order to pay for his schooling. Earlier, he had worked on his uncle's farm where he tried to organize the Ukrainian women working in the field into a trade union, to his uncle's dismay. [2]

Red Lake, Ontario Municipality in Ontario, Canada

Red Lake is a municipality with town status in the Canadian province of Ontario, located 535 kilometres (332 mi) northwest of Thunder Bay and less than 100 kilometres (62 mi) from the Manitoba border. The municipality consists of six small communities — Balmertown, Cochenour, Madsen, McKenzie Island, Red Lake and Starratt-Olsen — and had a population of 4,107 people in the Canada 2016 Census.

A trade union, also called a labour union or labor union (US), is an association of workers in a particular trade, industry, or company created for the purpose of securing improvement in pay, benefits, working conditions or social and political status through collective bargaining and working conditions through the increased bargaining power wielded by creation of a monopoly of the workers. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with employers. The most common purpose of these associations or unions is "maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment". This may include the negotiation of wages, work rules, complaint procedures, rules governing hiring, firing and promotion of workers, benefits, workplace safety and policies.

Government of Saskatchewan

From 1947 until 1964 Meyer Brownstone served as a civil servant in the government of Saskatchewan. [3]

Involvement with Oxfam

Meyer Brownstone became the chair of Oxfam Canada in 1975. [4] For his work with Oxfam Canada, he was the 1986 recipient of the Pearson Medal of Peace. [5] Meyer was Chair Emeritus for Oxfam Canada at the time of his death.

The Pearson Medal of Peace is an award given out annually by the United Nations Association in Canada to recognize an individual Canadian's "contribution to international service". Nominations are made by any Canadian for any Canadian, excluding self-nominations. The medal was first announced in 1979 and named in honour of Lester B. Pearson, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Canada's fourteenth Prime Minister. The medal was to be selected by a jury of "eminent Canadians" and awarded by the Governor-General of Canada on United Nations Day, October 24. After the 2004 medal was awarded to Roméo Dallaire, it was not awarded again until it was revived in 2011 to honour peace activist Ernie Regehr.

Central America

Faced with the numerous conflicts in Central America in the 1970s and 1980s, Meyer Brownstone was deeply involved in the region. From 1981-1985, Brownstone participated in several observer missions to the refugee camps of Colomancagua, El Tesoro, Mesa Grande, and La Virtud in Honduras, documenting the life and struggles of the refugees fleeing the Salvadoran Civil War. He was head of a 1985 mission sponsored by Oxfam Canada and the International Committee of Voluntary Agencies to investigate reports of an assault by Honduran troops on the Salvadoran refugees at Colomancagua.

Honduras republic in Central America

Honduras, officially the Republic of Honduras, is a country in Central America. In the past, it was sometimes referred to as "Spanish Honduras" to differentiate it from British Honduras, which later became modern-day Belize. The republic of Honduras is bordered to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, to the southeast by Nicaragua, to the south by the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Fonseca, and to the north by the Gulf of Honduras, a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea.

Salvadoran Civil War 1979-1992 civil war in El Salvador

The Salvadoran Civil War was a conflict between the military-led government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a coalition or "umbrella organization" of left-wing groups. A coup on October 15, 1979 was followed by killings of anti-coup protesters by the government and of anti-disorder protesters by the guerrillas, and is widely seen as the tipping point toward civil war.

In 1986 and 1987 Brownstone participated in two missions to El Salvador, working with the Salvadoran government and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front. Brownstone also participated in Oxfam Canada missions in Nicaragua during this time.

Namibia and South Africa

During the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa and the South African administered territory of Namibia (then known as South-West Africa), Meyer Brownstone played a central role in a number of international observer missions. In July 1989, Brownstone was appointed spokesperson/coordinator of the Canadian Council on International Cooperation's mission to Namibia. The primary goal of the mission was to monitor the withdrawal of South African troops following the end of the Namibian War of Independence. A few months later, Brownstone was appointed head of the Canadian mission that oversaw the first Namibian parliamentary election in November 1989.

In the lead up to the first South African election following the end of apartheid, Meyer Brownstone participated in two observer missions to South Africa. Brownstone and his team were tasked with increasing voter awareness, enlisting staff for the electoral process, determining the logistics for the election, and monitoring political violence. In 1994, Brownstone was appointed head of the Canadian mission to oversee the election itself. Among the Canadians on the mission were Ed Broadbent, former leader of the federal New Democratic Party, and Flora MacDonald, a former cabinet minister. The electoral mission was tasked with peace monitoring, election monitoring, advising and aiding the Independent Election Commission, and providing coordination with other international missions.


Meyer Brownstone died in Toronto on April 3, 2019.

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  2. 1 2 "Meyer Brownstone, former chair of Oxfam Canada, dies at 96". CBC News. April 4, 2019. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  3. "Meyer Brownstone Fonds" . Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  4. "Oxfam Canada Timeline" . Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  5. "United Nations Association in Canada". Archived from the original on 8 May 2014. Retrieved 5 May 2014.