Passings: Critical disability studies scholar Peter Mackey was known for his kind heart

Peter Mackey
Peter Mackey
Peter Mackey

Peter Mackey, 33, born in Twillingate, NL, was passionate about skateboarding, music, karate, and loved a good joke. A gifted teacher, musician and scholar, Peter was in the final years of completing his doctorate in the Graduate Program in Critical Disability Studies at York University when he died suddenly on Jan. 28.

An erudite and sophisticated thinker, Peter was researching the problems that disabled people face and what might a society look like were these problems solved. His most recent paper viewed this question through the eyes of Utopian scholars. Peter’s research was informed by his own experience with quadriplegia and his sudden death leaves a void in the critical disability studies community in Canada.

An only child, Peter leaves his parents Barb and Jim Mackey, friends in his home province of Newfoundland, and his close childhood friend, Dr. Colin Perrier of Barrie, ON, in addition to his extended York University family.

At 17, a devastating car accident left Peter a quadriplegic. Prior to the accident, Peter had earned his black belt in karate. He was also an avid skateboarder, student flautist and loved cross-country skiing.

“Peter found a new way to pursue his interest in music. He taught himself to play the harmonica and furthered his mastery of the instrument until he reached an advanced level,” said his father.

Peter’s father said his son transferred that energy, drive and passion into his studies and, wanting to find a purpose in life, Peter entered a Bachelor of Arts Program at Memorial University of St. John’s, NL, when he was 18 and completed his degree in 2005. Following several years of surgeries to correct issues related to his injury, Peter completed a masters of philosophy degree in the Humanities at Memorial.

“Peter was interested in pure research until he became a teaching assistant at York University,” said his father, “and he found that he loved working with students last year while assisting first-year classes.  He was very proud when he was accepted into the graduate program at York University and he was well loved by his students and professors.”

In keeping with Peter’s wishes, there will be no formal memorial ceremony. Peter’s parents will host a visitation from 2 to 3pm on Sunday, Feb. 2 at the DeMarco Funeral Home, 3725 Keele St., Toronto, ON., telephone (416) 636-7027.

As a tribute to Peter Mackey, the University flags will be lowered to half mast on Sunday at 1pm. The flag will remain at half mast until Monday evening at 5pm.