Ed Finn, 1926-2020

Edward Horace Finn, C.M., passed away peacefully in Ottawa on December 27, 2020 at the age of 94. He is survived by his loving wife, Dena, and children, Kevin and Kerri-Anne, grandchildren Garrett and Heather, and brother, Thomas Michael, as well as numerous nephews and nieces. Predeceased by his parents, Sarah and Edward, siblings Patricia, Mary and William, and nephew Ted.  

Born in Spaniard’s Bay, Newfoundland, in 1926, Ed grew up in Corner Brook, where he later became first a printer’s apprentice, then a reporter, columnist, and editor of that city’s daily newspaper, the Western Star.

His long career as a journalist later included two years as a reporter with the Montreal Gazette and 14 years as a labour relations columnist for the Toronto Star.

Between 1959 and 1962, he served as Newfoundland’s first provincial leader of the NDP and ran as an NDP candidate in two provincial and two federal elections. He worked closely with Tommy Douglas for some years and helped defend and promote his pioneering Medicare legislation in Saskatchewan.

Throughout the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, he did communications work for labour unions, including the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and served for three years on the board of directors of the Bank of Canada.

After a 70-plus year career, he retired in 2014 after serving 20 years as editor of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ monthly magazine, The Monitor.

Throughout his lifetime, Ed never stopped speaking truth to power and advocating for social and economic justice, labour rights and equality for all. 

Ed was appointed to the Order of Canada in November 2020 for his lifelong contributions to Canada’s political discourse as a trade unionist, journalist, writer and politician.

His family wishes to thank all the staff at the Ottawa Hospital, General campus who cared for him in his last days, as well as Doctors Tobin and Bishop for the exemplary care they provided him over the years. 

A celebration of his life will be held when we are all able to gather again.

The family asks that donations be made to the Ottawa Food Bank, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, or any organization fighting for social justice. 

Since we are unable to gather at this time, we hope you will share your memories of Ed in the comments below.

20 thoughts on “Ed Finn, 1926-2020

  1. Ed, Dena and family were friends of our family since the late 1960s, early 1970s. My Dad, Jack Edward Nugent, 1923-2015 was Ed’s work friend and peer. They equally admired and mentored each other. Jack was the Editor of The Labour Gazette from the late ’60s to 1974. Ed became a regular contributor to the Gazette. Ed and Dena managed a couple of visits over the years, to our family homes both in Victoria and later, Port Alberni, BC. Ed inspired Dad during his lifetime and vice versa. They were incredibly like-minded and brilliant with the written word. They highlighted the struggles and sacrifices made by blue collar workers and ultimately showcased the necessity for strikes, toward achieving unions in the workplace.

    My heart goes out to Dena, Kerri-Anne & Kevin in your time of grief.

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  2. My very sincere condolences to Ed’s family and friends. What a life he lived, and what a difference he made in the lives of so very many. I am Ed’s 3rd cousin, once removed. My Grampa Patrick William Finn was born & raised in Spaniards Bay (before moving to Paris, Ontario where I was born & raised), as was my Gt Grampa Thomas Finn (Frances Whelan) and my Gt Gt Grampa John Finn (Margaret Keefe). My Gt Grampa Tom worked most of his life for the Nfld Railway in Spaniards Bay, and knew Ed’s parents Edward & Sarah (Prince), and his parents parents also Edward & Sarah (Franey) well. The 1921 Census shows they actually lived next to one another just off the Conception Bay Hwy on Finn Rd. and Gt Grampa Tom Finn & Edward Finn both worked for the NFLD railway at the time …they were 1st cousins of course. I have been working on our family tree on Ancestry (with the help of the wonderful notes Ed’s sister Mary Carter left) and traveled to Spaniards Bay last year. It is really wonderful that Ed received his Order of Canada before passing. And that his passing was peaceful. I wish I had been able to meet him. May he rest in peace. Dianne Finn

    >

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  3. Such an honour to have met Ed and Dena through teaching Kerri-Anne and Kevin at St. Bernard’s School-
    We offer our love and condolences to Ed’s whole family!
    Love from Peter and Linda Enright

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  4. Ed was simply remarkable. Kind, generous, gentle, funny, a brilliant wordsmith, a captivating storyteller, and so very principled. It was, and it remains, such an honour to have had him as a colleague, mentor, co-editor, co-shop steward, and adviser. Love and condolences to the Finn family for this profound loss… but what a legacy he leaves.

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  5. Ed,always a staunch supporter of justice ,did not disappoint ,when the teachers’ strike happened in the early 80’s.At that time I was teaching at St,Bernard School in Blossom Park ,where both Kevin and Kerri-Anne were pupils.Ed wrote articles to the paper defending the strike and offered us invaluable tips on how to fight our cause.
    The retired teachers at St.Bernard were thrilled to hear that Ed had been awarded the Order of Canada..so well deserved.Ed was such a beautiful man..so lucky to have known him..
    ..

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  6. I first encountered Ed via many exchanges of correspondence starting in 1969 when I was a graduate student in labour relations in Montreal and Ed was communications director at the Canadian Brotherhood of Railway, Transport and General Workers. His knowledge and insights were invaluable to the development of my thesis, and his generosity with his time (as a very busy guy) were something I have always greatly appreciated. Later, Ed and I both worked for many years at CUPE National, where we collaborated on a number of projects and enjoyed a great many lunches at local diners. Ed was a great pleasure to be around, and always had interesting and important things to say on an incredible range of topics. He taught me a lot, including how to properly use the words “mitigate” and “militate!” Obviously, Ed’s contributions to the labour movement over his many decades of work and activism were simply enormous. To say he was one of the greats of Canadian labour would be an understatement. My deepest condolences to Dena, Kerri, Kevin and all the family.

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  7. It’s hard to believe that our friend is gone. Our visits were always educational and thought provoking. We shared a common love for classical music and Broadway musicals of which Ed would generously lend me a DVD or two to enjoy. Ed loved everything about his life and very proud of his simple upbringing in Nfld. Dena simply adored him so will need all of our support to carry on.

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  8. I remember kidding Ed, when he finally retired from the CCPA, that he was taking ‘early retirement’ because he was only in his early eighties. And truth be told he wasn’t very good at retirement, he kept on producing wonderfully crafted articles and even books.
    The world, and especially Canada’s progressive movement, has lost a legend with Ed’s death. But he has left us an incredible legacy, through his family, and through the huge body of work that he either authored or shaped with his amazing editorial skill.

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  9. As others have said, Ed was a wonderful man. I last saw him over lunch with Stan Marshall on a visit to Ottawa in 2017. We talked about our days at CUPE, current politics, health issues, and more. I remember his gentle and principled approach to life at the union and his wonderful writing there and elsewhere. He’s left a\ mark on so many of us across the country. I love the quote in a Rabble review of his book: “Individually, most of us are powerless. Together, we’ve got a fighting chance,” he said in 1994 during a speech following his receipt of an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Memorial University in Newfoundland. Ed Finn, Presente!

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  10. Ed Finn has been my friend for over 30 years. He is the father I always wanted to have. Even with such a big age difference, I could always talk with Ed about anything. He influenced my life in such a positive way. Bryan and I send our heartfelt condolences and best wishes to Dena, Kerri and Kevin. As you know, Ed’s legacy will live on through all his published works, awards, books and articles. Ed Fin. Je t’adore (inside joke:). Xxx

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  11. I used to read and admire his writing in The Star in the 1970s. The one shocking thing in this bio is that he received the Order of Canada only in November of this year! Long overdue, and I hope he was able to understand and appreciate the honour in the last year of his life.

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  12. Kerri, I am deeply sorry for your loss. I enjoyed listening to the stories of him you shared with us at work. He lived an amazing life. My condolences to you and the family.

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  13. I loved reading Ed Finn’s stuff in The Monitor. He was also the person who took the time to reply to a somewhat obscure request that I sent to CCPA a decade or so ago, going above and beyond and being a complete gentleman in the process. My heartfelt condolences the the Finn family and to all who grieve the passing of an advocate fro sanity.

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  14. Ed inspired me and many others to carry on our work as trade unionists, writers, and social justice advocates. Farewell, Brother Ed. We will miss you. Condolences to Dena, KerriAnne and Kevin.

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  15. Ed was both a masterful wordsmith and a passionate, tireless fighter for social justice. That unique combination of attributes made such a vital contribution to our labour and social movements for decades. Thank you Ed, for all you gave in building a better Canada and a better world — we are still inspired and empowered by your words and your love. I offer deep condolences to Ed’s whole family. Our shared fight carries on!!!

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  16. An enormous loss to many. I worked a short time with Ed while at Canadian Forum magazine and later the CCPA. Despite being a prominent and prolific writer and editor against my significant inexperience, he always treated me as a colleague. A kind gesture that continues to motivate me both personally and professionally. No doubt, a great mentor, friend and inspiration to many others.

    Many thanks, Ed.

    Condolences to the Finn family.

    Erik Windfeld.

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  17. Ed was a very remarkable and wonderful person. It was a great honour for me to have been his colleague. He was an extraordinary writer, who produced an amazing and constant succession of brilliant, witty, incisive articles. While he was at the CCPA, he not only edited the Monitor, but just about every other document the organization published. He was very wise; his political analyses were trenchant and his advice highly valued. The CCPA could never have become such a success story without him.

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  18. My family and I are truly honoured to have been able to call him Uncle Ed. Such a beautiful man inside and out. Such class. We will deeply miss you Uncle Ed.

    Lyndsay, Terry, Beth, and David

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