By Kole McRae –
Leslieville resident and community leader Brian Mcinnis died peacefully on March 20, the first day of spring, at age 55.
Professionally, McInnis is best known for leaking a document that connected CSIS with the white supremacist Heritage Front. This document led to his being charged under the Official Secrets Act but also brought concerns about the role of the press in Canada and the freedom of information into the national spotlight.
Despite the bad press, McInnis refocused his passion to community work.
He served as co-chair of the Toronto Energy Coalition, the group tasked with organizing the community to stop the Portlands gas-burning power plant. Though the plant was eventually built, his time with the coalition laid the groundwork for later efforts to stop plans to build a Walmart-based big box mall in Leslieville.
McInnis was also instrumental in rallying the community to stop the construction of power lines on Pape Avenue.
His dedication extended past the boundaries of Leslieville into the city at large, where he fought funding cuts to the non-profit sector. His work helped save many agencies serving youth at risk, people with disabilities and immigrant women. As a result of his efforts, the entire procurement process used by federal Human Resources and Skills Development was changed to provide more equal opportunity.
“Whether you stood with Brian or against him on these initiatives you knew that he was someone to be reckoned with,” one mourner commented.
After facing down tough opponents in his community life, he was faced with the toughest of all: cancer. After a long struggle with illness, McInnis died at home surrounded by family.
To read more about McInnis or to leave memories or condolences, visit www.facebook.com/pages/Brian-McInnis-RIP. Donations may be made in his memory to the Church of the Holy Trinity or to the Princess Margaret Hospital foundation.