June Callwood (1924 – 2007)

Born in Chatham, Ontario in 1924, June Callwood was a well-known journalist, TV personality, and author. An avowed atheist, Callwood used to drop in to churches to meditate and reflect. In the last interview she gave, to the CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos in 2007, she said she believed in neither God nor an afterlife. “I believe in kindness,” she said.

Callwood launched many charities wishing only that she “had been more generous.”

She was arrested at a anti-American draft demonstration formed by Dr. Benjamin Spock which energized her to become even more devoted to social activism. She was such a strong and dynamic social activist that she was dubbed “Canada’s Conscience as she devoted her energies to many causes: child poverty, indigenous rights, homelessness, HIV/Aids, racism, homophobia, censorship and women and children in crises.

She walked the talk founding organizations to combat problems: Digger House, for homeless youth; Nellie’s, for women in crisis; Casey House (named after her son who was killed in a highway accident), for people with HIV/AIDS.

She also co-founded the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and was a founding member of The Writers’ Union of Canada. She was a patron, chair, or member of more than eighty different organizations. For this extraordinarily high level of community service, she received all three ranks of the Order of Canada, and, when she was eighty, the June Callwood Professorship in Social Justice was created in her honour at the University of Toronto.

She was married to Globe and Mail journalist Trent Fayne, “her rock,” and they were parents to four children.

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