One of the city’s biggest advocates passed away in his Brandon home this weekend after a lengthy battle with ALS.
Errol Black, known for his dedication to advancing social issues in the city, province and country, is dead at the age of 73.
"Errol taught me how to be a man," Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell said on Sunday.
"He was a man of deep and profound integrity," an emotional Caldwell added while fighting through tears. "Errol was a man of uncompromising principle. A man who loved his community and worked everyday to make this community a better place. He cared deeply for those who were disenfranchised and powerless, and he sought to make a place for them in Brandon and give a voice to their needs."
Black had a long and distinguished career as an economics professor at Brandon University before turning his attention to municipal politics. Elected in 1998, he served three terms as councillor of the Riverview Ward in Brandon’s east end.
In 2000, Black ran as the New Democratic Party’s candidate in the federal election for Brandon-Souris but was defeated by Progressive Conservative Rick Borotsik.
During his time in politics, Black became well known as an advocate for social reform and in 2001, he introduced a motion in Brandon to adopt one of the toughest anti-smoking laws in the country.
"He came by it honestly," Caldwell said. "His father was a very strong and determined man and someone that believed in the brotherhood of man and working toward social justice — Errol didn’t fall too far from that tree."
An avid writer, Black has co-edited several books including, "Hard Bargains: The Manitoba Labour Movement Confronts the 1990s," "A Square Deal for All and No Railroading: Historical Essays on Labour in Brandon" and "Building a Better World: An Introduction to Trade Unionism in Canada."
He was also a prolific writer to local publications, including the Brandon Sun, where he frequently submitted letters to the editor.
Following the dedication of a new park in his name in the city’s east end in February, Black wrote a letter to the editor thanking "the people past and present who have devoted time and energy to making the east end a robust, civil and engaged community based on mutual respect and sharing."
He concluded the letter, one of his last to the Brandon Sun, by saying, "All the people we’ve come in contact with over these many years have shared with us an abiding interest in the city of Brandon, and a recognition that we are indeed blessed to live in this ‘city of promise.’"
On Saturday, friends and family gathered in Brandon with Black after doctors informed him that he didn’t have much time after a lengthy battle with ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Caldwell said Black was in good spirits as he presented him with the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal.
"He had a great sense of humour and thanked everyone for being such great friends," Caldwell said. "He felt blessed to be surrounded by his family and friends."
Jim Silver, who has co-authored several publications and was a close friend to Black, was at the gathering in Brandon.
"Errol was a wonderful human being," Silver said. "He cared about people. He was a good friend. He was loyal. He had so many friends."
Silver said it’s impossible to put into words the impact that Black’s lifelong contribution to social justice has had in Brandon.
"He was involved in trying to build a better world," Silver said. "He was a supporter of the trade-union movement and it’s really a theme that runs right through everything he had done."
Black’s accolades are lengthy, a representation of the type of life he lived, Silver said.
In the last several years, Black has been inducted into the Order of the Buffalo Hunt in Manitoba, awarded the Joe Zuken Citizen Award, and the Brandon University Faculty Association has contributed money toward the Errol Black Chair in Labour Studies, which is a full-time research position established by the Manitoba Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
The CCPA is an organization Black, Silver and Wayne Antony helped co-found in 1980. The organization is concerned with issues of social and economic justice and is considered one of the country’s leading progressive voices in public policy debates.
At a recent brunch at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg, Black was honoured by his friends and colleagues at the CCPA.
"We’re raising the money to be able to employ somebody at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives to carry on the work that Errol did in research and writing in issues regarding the labour movement," Silver said.
It was important for Silver to have Black at the brunch so that high profile members of the community, including Premier Greg Selinger, could honour the work he has done.
"(Errol’s wife) Margaret said how happy she is that Errol was able to be there personally and hear all of the wonderful things that were said about him," Silver said.
Royal Honour For Brandonite
A tireless champion for the city of Brandon was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal at his home on Saturday.
Errol Black was awarded the medal in recognition of a life devoted to advancing social justice in Manitoba and Canada.
"Errol Black has distinguished himself as a man of absolute integrity in all of his work to advance social justice issues in our country," Brandon East MLA Drew Caldwell said yesterday while presenting the medal to Black. "His work in Brandon, in Manitoba, and throughout Canada is widely recognized as uncompromising in taking principled, thoughtful and consistent stands to advance the cause of social justice."
Prior to being elected to city council, Black had a long and distinguished career as an Economics professor at Brandon University. He's a widely published author of books, articles, commentaries and collected essays.
Black also served a number of terms on the provincial executive of the Manitoba New Democratic Party over a span covering several decades.
Black was a lifelong resident of Brandon and a community steward of East End Community Centre.
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