This Sept. 24, 2014 photo shows World War II veteran and political activist Harry Leslie Smith speaking during the Labour Party annual conference, in Manchester. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)

Famed anti-poverty activist Harry Leslie Smith dies in Ontario hospital at 95

Smith lived through the Great Depression and fought in the British air force during the Second World War

A prominent anti-poverty activist, who authored several books on the Great Depression, the Second World War and postwar austerity, has died in an eastern Ontario hospital.

Harry Leslie Smith’s son, who has been issuing regular medical updates to his father’s 250,000 Twitter followers, said the 95-year-old died early this morning.

Smith, who lived through the Great Depression and fought in the British air force during the Second World War, has been a lifelong advocate for the poor.

Online tributes have been pouring in for him as he received treatment in an intensive care unit in Belleville, Ont., after his family said he suffered a fall.

Notables, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, actress Mia Farrow and British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, are among the supporters who have extended their well wishes to the famed activist.

His son John has said on Twitter that his father expressed his appreciation for the support he’s received.

“I told Harry before he fell into a deep sleep about the concern rippling across Twitter for him and he said to me, ‘Tell them, I love each of them so much,’” John wrote on Twitter.

In response, Trudeau tweeted: “Harry’s journey and courage have inspired so much love and kindness on this site, and in the real world too. Thank you for taking us along — we’re pulling for you.”

Smith, who splits his time living between England and Canada, rose to online prominence as a nonagenarian for his progressive polemics rooted in personal strife.

Born in Yorkshire, England, Smith’s four-year-old sister died of tuberculosis in 1926, his family too poor to afford proper medical care before the formation of the National Health Service.

In several books and essays, Smith draws parallels between his own brushes with global crises of the past and current turmoil that affects the marginalized. He was particularly critical of the dismantling of social-welfare systems, the inequities of unchecked capitalism and the rising threat of nationalism.

“I am the world’s oldest rebel,” Smith told UNHCR Magazine in October. “I think there are many things we can do if we put our minds to it, and we shouldn’t be leaving anyone out.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This image from Linda Brown of the Chilliwack Plowing Match won a photography contest for Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl’s annual calendar. Her photo was featured for April 2020 in the Chilliwack—Hope constituency calendar. (Linda Brown photograph)
Annual call out for Chilliwack-Hope constituency calender photo contest

Photos will be featured in MP Mark Strahl’s calendar for 2021

Pixabay photo
‘Horrific’ abuse of volunteers and COVID-19 contact tracers must stop, Chilliwack soccer club says

Parents have become abusive after being told COVID-19 rules, email says

Mark Strahl, MP for Chilliwack-Hope in the virtual House of Commons Oct. 26, 2020 going to bat for Fraser Valley Speciality Poultry. (Mark Strahl/Facebook)
MP Strahl goes to bat for Chilliwack farmer in the virtual House of Commons

‘Why are the Liberals running roughshod over this hard-working Canadian farmer?’ MP asked

Since she returned to Hope after a 50-year absence, Holly Smith has been taking in the beauty of the waters surrounding her. 'Water Music' is her ode to this beauty, a backroom show at the Hope Arts Gallery that runs November long. (Submitted/Holly Smith photo)
Painting the music of Hope’s rivers, lakes, marshes and creeks

Watercolour and acrylic artist Holly Smith presents ‘Water Music’, gallery’s November backroom show

We don’t know, and really don’t want to know, what these guys on Ryder Street are boiling in their homemade cauldron. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Ghoulishly good news: Trick-or-treating can go ahead this Halloween in Hope

Public health officials say don’t gather or party inside

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

A group of Abbotsford secondary principals’s and vice-principals are at a retreat in Whistler this weekend. (Whistler.com photo)
Abbotsford principals attend retreat in Whistler despite COVID-19 gathering restrictions

Reported group of 20 did follow COVID-19 protocols during Whistler Pro-D event, says school district

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

FILE – The Queen of Alberni ferry leaves the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal in Delta bound for Vancouver Island, Sunday, July 29, 2007. (CP PHOTO/Richard Lam) CANADA
Mechanical failure leaves nearly 200 passengers stranded on BC Ferries ship for hours

A tug arrived after dark to safely nudge the vessel into a berth so travellers could finally disembark

Ridge Meadows RCMP (Black Press)
Maple Ridge X-ray tech convicted of sexual assault dating back 30 years

Allen James Brooks is expected to be sentenced in January 2021

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson leaves the stage after announcing he is stepping down as party leader, during a news conference in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Too rural, not enough diversity, soul searching needed, say BC Liberals

Elections BC says there are about 600,000 mail-in and absentee ballots across the province still to count

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to provide an update on the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Canada has reached a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, surpassing 10,000 novel coronavirus deaths. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Alberta COVID deaths pushes Canada past milestone of 10,000 deaths

Canada crossed the threshold of 5,000 deaths on May 12, a little over two months after the first was reported

An elderly woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past an advertisement for a television series in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. has been under a COVID-19 state of emergency for more than half the year

Province has been under a state of emergency for 32 weeks – and counting

Most Read