Michael McDonell: Obituary

Michael at the CWI summer school, July 2012

Michael at the CWI summer school, July 2012

On July 21 Michael McDonell, aged 24, tragically drowned. His death is a huge shock and loss to his family, friends and the struggle for a better world. Socialist Alternative extends our deepest sympathy to his family and his many friends.

Michael had just graduated from Simon Fraser University (SFU) with flying colours and was planning to do his Masters at the University of Victoria, studying labour issues in Canada. He hoped to work with unions on his research so that it would have a practical purpose.

Michael joined Socialist Alternative – Canada at the start of 2012, after a year of being involved with the Left Alternative club at SFU. In July 2012 he attended the CWI Summer school. He was a super activist and deeply interested in understanding the world and political struggle. Before he died, he was preparing to give a talk at the Vancouver Socialist Alternative branch on the struggles of the Spanish workers in the 1930s.

Michael was active both at the university and in the wider community. He was chair of his department’s (Sociology and Anthropology) Student Union, a director of Simon Fraser Public Interest and Research Group, a key member of the Labour Studies union and a leading light in Left Alternative. He applied the ideas of solidarity; he was there when the university’s Student Society locked out their staff, when the university was in dispute with the teaching support staff and worked hard to win a living wage for all Simon Fraser workers. He wrote several articles for SFU’s student paper, The Peak, on Idle No More, why low pay and labour disputes at Simon Fraser matter to students, and the 99% (http://www.the-peak.ca/tag/michael-mcdonell/). At the time of his death he was working on an article on Precarious Work, which Socialist Alternative has completed and publishes here.

He was active in solidarity with the Quebec student movement, working to build support for possible student action in BC; supported Occupy Vancouver; build solidarity for the BC Teachers’ Federation in their dispute with the government; and attended many more demos and rallies.

Michael was full of energy and always busy – sometimes trying to cram in too much and thus running late, which at times was annoying for friends. He constantly discussed both practical and theoretical issues. He would be seen regularly discussing and persuading fellow students to be involved. He devoured books, asked questions and thought a great deal. He also had many friends, was widely respected and touched many people with his passion for social justice.

Michael was a stalwart of the Vancouver Socialist Alternative branch and was making plans to build in Victoria while he studied there. Michael had enormous energy and commitment, both of which he used to build a better world. Over the last 2 years his determination to work for a socialist society had grown immensely and he had the promise to make a real impact. His death is a huge loss to the struggle for a better world in Canada and beyond.

Michael will be deeply missed; he leaves a huge gap in the Vancouver branch. We will continue to work for the vision he had of a socialist society.

Thank you Michael for all you did and for knowing you for a time.


Posted in: Canada