Obituary: Remembering Canadian activist David Vasey

Photo: Courtesy Cameron Funeral Homes

Environmental activist and anti-fascist David Vasey passed away on January 27. He was 40 years old.

Vasey was a committed fighter against injustice. He was first thrown into the public spotlight in 2010, when he was arrested and detained under the Public Works Protection Act during protests against the G20 summit in Toronto.

Vasey was the first person to be charged under this bylaw. Following his arrest, he was held in a wire cage that served as a temporary detention area during the summit protests.

However, when Vasey later appeared in court, he found his charge had mysteriously vanished from the court's computer system.

"We were all excited to go to trial," Vasey said at the time. "That it was lost was pretty convenient for the powers that be."

This run-in with heavy-handed policing didn't hinder Vasey's commitments to social and environmental activism. He stepped back into the public eye in 2011, when he played a leading role in organizing the Occupy Toronto demonstration.

"Don't underestimate the power of the 1,000-plus cities that are doing this," Vasey told a reporter at the time.

When former mayor Rob Ford issued an eviction order against the protest, Vasey was among the few activists who stayed put and filed an injunction application against the city's order. The camp was eventually forcibly dismantled by police.

"The encampment is an expression of the permanency of our convictions and a movement and symbolic of the commitment that we have to addressing these systemic issues within our society," he told the Toronto Star.

Vasey was a regular contributor to rabble.ca. In 2012-2013, he reported on community mobilizations against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and criticized the company's lack of proper consultation with First Nations.

"For local First Nations, Enbridge continues a pattern of ignoring, marginalizing and tokenizing community concerns," he wrote.

In 2014, Vasey penned an article slamming the National Energy Board’s approval of Enbridge's Line 9B reversal project.

"Rather than prioritizing detailed health and environmental monitoring for downstream communities affected by current oil and gas projects," he wrote, "both government and industry have increasingly shifted resources to ‘public relations.' "

"Communities in Treaties 6 and 8 have witnessed massive environmental contamination and loss of traditional lands over the course of 60 years of tar sands expansion. Health concerns, wildlife impacts and an increasingly difficult time maintaining traditional practices has compromised Treaty Rights to maintain culture and protect land-based economies," he added.

Vasey also recognized the importance of uniting the various movements of which he was a part. For example, he wrote a piece for Media Co-op last year calling for environmentalists to participate in mobilizations against the far right.

"On the streets, mobilizations by the far right represent an important fulcrum for the environmental justice movement. The far right are the manifestation of colonialism, toxic masculinity, racism and nihilistic capitalist consumption," he wrote.

Jane Finch Action Against Poverty released an obituary last week praising Vasey's work campaigning against austerity in Toronto.

"Dave has taught loving each other is intrinsically part of our revolutionary work," the statement read.

Vasey passed away at home. He will be remembered by the activist community for his dedication and tenacity in combatting environmental, social and economic injustices.

Vasey is survived by six siblings, his stepmother, Cathy Vasey, and 10 nieces and nephews.

According to Vasey's funeral notice, donations to WES For Youth Online and Canadian Mental Health Association would be appreciated by the family. A celebration of his life was held on February 2 in Walkerton, Ont.

Photo: Courtesy Cameron Funeral Homes

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