After a short but courageous battle with pancreatic cancer, OPSEU
activist and aboriginal leader Tim Brown passed away in his sleep on
Sunday April 25 at age 61, leaving to mourn his mother Leona, beloved
wife Cindy, son Andy (Cindy), granddaughter McKenzie, brothers Brian and
Dwight, and nephews Craig and Cory Dean. He was predeceased in 1998 by
his father Robert.
“OPSEU has lost one of its truly inspirational leaders,”
said president Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “We extend our sincere
condolences to his entire family knowing that they – indeed, all of us – have
lost a giant of man with a heart to match.”
President Thomas paid tribute to Brother Tim’s
pioneering role as one of the first aboriginal members of OPSEU to
demand that the voice of Canada’s First Nations be heard in the
corridors of organized labour.
“We learned an enormous lesson from Brother Tim,” said
president Thomas. “It was this: no longer will Canada’s First Nations
people be satisfied with occupying a secondary role in our society nor,
for that matter, in organized labour. In OPSEU, his was the articulate
and wise voice of our native members, their customs and traditions and
the communities they represent.”
Tim Brown, a child and youth counselor at Vanier
Children’s Services in London and a member of Local 144, was the
long-time chair of OPSEU’s Aboriginal Circle equity group, and also
served as vice president for Aboriginal Peoples with the Ontario
Federation of Labour.
“Even while dealing with the challenges of failing
health, Tim made major contributions to his community and the labour
movement. His loss is a deep blow to all of us,” said OFL president Sid
Brother Brown took tremendous pride in his aboriginal
ancestry. He was a Tradition Teacher on the Six Nations of Grand River –
the native reserve on which he was born – and Eagle Feather Carrier, a
position of leadership and respect in the First Nations community.
Born in 1949, much of Tim’s early life followed the
pattern of families in the military. His father was an officer in the
Canadian Armed Forces and the family moved frequently. As an “army
brat,” as he was fond of calling himself, he attended 27 different
schools on three continents as the family moved from posting-to-posting.
A promising football player, Tim was awarded a football
scholarship to collegiate powerhouse Ohio State University, where he
played under legendary coach Woody Hayes in his freshman year. His
university career was cut short when he severely damaged his leg in a
horrific automobile accident after his first season and he never again
returned to the gridiron.
The accident left him in hospital for nine months,
followed by a year of physiotherapy.
He returned to Canada where he enrolled in the visual
arts program at Carleton University in Ottawa, working at a steel
assembly plant to pay his way. He left Ottawa and began studies in
Eastern philosophy with the intention of eventually becoming an ordained
The turning point in his life came when he met a man who
worked with troubled youth and from that moment Tim believed he had
found his true calling in life. In 1978 he began working with children
with emotional problems, first in a group home and, three years later,
in an agency organized under OPSEU.
Tim arrived at Vanier Children’s
Services in London in September, 1981, where he worked in short-term
contracts until he was hired as a fulltime Child & Youth Counsellor –
Residential Specialization, in May, 1982. Although most of his career
was within the residential programs he also worked within the On Campus
School program. Tim also was in the Residential Float position for 2
years – a senior CYC position where he had administrative
responsibilities related to scheduling and serious occurrences.
“Tim was a gentle and calm team
member whose nurturing style was a model for his colleagues, the
children he worked with, and their parents. Kids loved Tim...and Tim
loved the kids that he worked with,” said Nancy Miller, director of
Intensive Services at Vanier.
“When he began to explore his native
heritage, he shared his learnings within Vanier – through healing
circles and through professional education events to support us in
learning about native culture, values, and beliefs. He connected with
all children, not just aboriginal children, and taught them about native
culture and beliefs. He truly tried to help us to do a better job in our
work with aboriginal children and their families. He also took his
knowledge and beliefs into the community and facilitated many
educational workshops with other professionals and also with groups of
children within community schools,” Miller said.
After a brief first marriage, which produced his son
Andy, he married the love of his life, Cindy, who forever was known by
Tim as “Cinder – his wife, partner, friend and lover,” according to a
short auto-biography Tim wrote several years ago.
Brother Tim Brown was OPSEU’s “eyes and ears” on all
matters of provincial aboriginal policy and met several times with
political leaders at Queen’s Park. At a February 2008 meeting with
Premier Dalton McGuinty and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant
to welcome the opening of the new Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs,
president Thomas and Brother Tim presented the premier and minister with
a ‘talking stick,’ a six-foot carved totem used by native councils to
encourage dialogue. The stick was provided by the Curve Lake First
taken place. Family and friends will be received at the Westview
Funeral Chapel, 709 Wonderland Road North, London, Ont., on
Thursday Apr. 29, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. A
Celebration of Life will be held on Friday Apr. 30 at 3 p.m. in
the Chapel. Donations to the London Health Sciences Cancer
Centre, would be appreciated by the family. Online condolences
may be sent to: