David J. Weston, April 15, 1935–August 10, 2014, Nanaimo, BC
by Kim Goldberg
August 22, 2014
Longtime social activist and political philosopher David J. Weston passed away earlier this month, on August 10, 2014, at the age of 79.
His memorial service will be held on Saturday, September 6 at 2:00 pm at the Unitarian Fellowship, 595 Townsite Road in Nanaimo.
David’s involvement in worthy causes for social justice, community building, and economic reform will be missed by many, along with his unmistakable laughter. I had known David ever since he moved to Nanaimo in 1979. And I find it hard to believe he is gone.
In the early 1980s, David hosted shows on Nanaimo’s community TV channel, while I was the Program Coordinator for the channel (back when the cable operation was still owned by Cable West, and then later Shaw Cable). In the 1990s, David and I each penned a weekly column in the Nanaimo Times newspaper. David frequently used his column to expound on the value of community-building projects such as cohousing as well as co-ops and alternate economic systems, which were his areas of special interest and expertise.
Among his many accomplishments and community involvements, David was the first full-time coordinator of NIDEA (Nanaimo International Development Education Association) beginning in 1979. Under his steerage, the organization, which later became known as Global Village Nanaimo, began to sponsor lectures and film series on issues such as energy, human rights, and women in the Third World.
In 1996, David began proposing the idea of a cohousing project for Nanaimo, modeled after similar projects in Denmark, which he had visited in the 1980s. He floated this idea repeatedly to a group of like-minded people gathering at his home for potlucks. After many years of hard work, that dream and vision that was initially advanced by David blossomed into Pacific Gardens Cohousing on Seventh Street. David lived there from 2008 until shortly before his death.
In 1997, David was hired to be the BC organizer for the Canadian Action Party. The party was founded by Paul Hellyer, former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, to give Canadians an alternative to what some saw as a US-influenced Liberal Party.
“It is important to understand that the reason politicians and political parties are beholden to the military-industrial-financial complex, is because their parties are funded by that complex, which often hedges its bets by funding all the large parties,” David said in a 2003 interview published in the UK in Prospect. “I suggest non-corporate funding is a prerequisite to us being able to bring about money and banking reform changes,” David added. And for that reason, David said he was glad to work for Hellyer’s new Canadian Action Party “because of its commitment to money and banking reform.”
More recently, David was one of four founding directors of the Island Roots Market Co-Operative, which seeks to establish a year-round indoor farmers market in Nanaimo. On March 30 of this year, David was honored with the designation of Director Emeritus for Island Roots Market Co-operative.
“Workers’ co-operatives are a fraternal link to co-ops,” David remarked. “To this end I made a special trip in 1983 to the Mondragon co-ops in the Basques Country in Spain. The visit confirmed my conclusion that a co-operative society is possible.”
Throughout his life, David was a champion of co-ops and of the co-op model for organizing workers, artists, goods, and services. In 1963 David was the founder of Carleton University Students’ Housing Co-op. In 1964, he was a cofounder of Ottawa Direct Charge Co-op. From 1969-1972 he was the cofounder and vice president Co-operative Habitat Association of Toronto, which designed and built 175 extant townhouses and medium-rise human-scale dwellings in Mississauga.
In November 2011, during the height of the Occupy movement, David proposed that the Nanaimo Occupy encampment in Diana Krall Plaza could become a co-op of workers and artists that could be permanently housed in a large city-owned building downtown. He outlined his vision in a letter to the editor published in the Nanaimo News Bulletin.
David was also a poet, a musician, an educator, and an active Unitarian since the early 1960s.
David was born in Plymouth, Devon, and brought up and schooled in various parts of Britain, including Scotland. He was raised in a musical family where his maternal grandmother was a violinist in the Plymouth Symphony, and his father was a church organist.
David held a Masters of Philosophy in Urban Design (from Oxon). And he was working toward his PhD with his thesis on the feasibility of cohousing in a modern consumer society.
For more information on David’s history and philosophy as a money-reform activist, read this 2003 interview with him in Prosperity.
David’s insights and laughter will be missed by many. But he has, through his decades of activism, left a living legacy that will endure long into the future.