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

Salmo RCMP report drug bust

Fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine were seized along with Canadian cash

Nelson Leafs lose to Beaver Valley, will face Spokane in playoffs

Reid Wilson also finished the regular season third overall in scoring

Adapting to love along the Columbia River

One man starts a GoFundme to help his partner with health costs caused on the trip where they met

West Kootenay SPCA hopes you’ll have a heart for Cupid

Cat who tangled with a bobcat seeking a permanent home

Leafs, Nitehawks to decide division title Saturday

The regular season ends in Nelson with both teams tied on points

VIDEO: 2020 BC Winter Games wrap up in Fort St. John as torch passes to Maple Ridge

More than 1,000 athletes competed in the 2020 BC Winter Games

Still six cases of COVID-19 in B.C. despite reports of Air Canada passenger: ministry

Health ministry wouldn’t comment on specific flight routes

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

B.C. money laundering inquiry to begin amid hopes for answers, accountability

Eby argued that most B.C. residents already know the previous government, at best, turned a blind eye

Blockades remain in place as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs returning to B.C.

Hereditary Chief Woos said they are ready to engage in nation-to-nation talks with the B.C.

Tyler Toffoli scores twice, Canucks crush Bruins 9-3

Stecher, Miller each add three points for Vancouver

Most Read