Anti-poverty organizer appointed Packer Visitor in Social Justice at York University

Former Ontario Coalition Against Poverty organizer John Clarke has been appointed as the next Packer Visitor in Social Justice in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies for a two-year term.

John Clarke

Clarke has a lifetime of achievement in organizing the unemployed. Born and raised in a working-class background in the United Kingdom, he moved to Canada in 1976 where he became involved in his union at Westinghouse.

Laid off in 1982, Clarke helped set up the London city-wide union of the unemployed and in 1990 helped found the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), for which he was elected organizer. Since then he has helped arrange several innovative campaigns to challenge poverty policies in Ontario and Canada more broadly, at both the legislative and administrative level. OCAP’s efforts were recognized by American Political Science Association’s New Politics section with their Cloward and Piven social justice award.

Clarke has written about his experiences in popular and academic journals, including The Bullet, Upping the Anti, Labour/Le Travail and the Osgoode Law Journal.

As the Packer Visitor in Social Justice, Clarke will participate in several workshops, lectures and events where he can bring his particular experience and insights into dialogue with the university community. He will also teach the fourth-year seminar, POLS 4410: Social Justice and Political Activism, in the Department of Politics.

York University established the K.H. and W.A. Packer Endowment in Social Justice in memory of Professor William A. Packer, who, with his wife Katherine, gave the University a generous endowment for the promotion of social justice in the 21st century and beyond. The Packer family is from Toronto. Katherine worked as a librarian at Glendon College and William taught German for many years at the University of Toronto. The endowment awards scholarships to graduate and undergraduate students, while York University pays the salary of the Packer Visitor in Social Justice.

Previous Packer Visitors in Social Justice include former Canadian Auto Workers’ Research Director Sam Gindin, former Canadian Labour Congress Chief Economist Andrew Jackson, and social justice lawyer Fay Faraday (now an assistant professor at York’s Osgoode Law School).