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

Nanaimo doctors asking for donations of masks and gloves during COVID-19 fight

Nanaimo Division of Family Practice co-ordinating efforts to collect supplies

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: COVID-19 symptoms must be taken seriously

Plausible pandemic scenarios could prove catastrophic for community, says letter writer

Nanaimo MLA part of historic near-empty legislative sitting that passed COVID-19 measures

A dozen MLAs alter Employment Standards Act, approve $5-billion spending package

B.C. Ferries passengers staying away, as asked, during COVID-19 pandemic

Ferry corporation says ridership down 70-80 per cent over the last week and a half

Food program available for Nanaimo youths during COVID-19 pandemic

Nanaimo Youth Services Association offering food initiative on Thursdays

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Nanaimo couple caught aboard cruise ship with four dead and COVID-19 present

Four ‘older guests’ have died on Holland America’s Zaandam, cruise line confirms two COVID-19 cases

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Nanaimo hospital staff say lives depend on stopping spread of COVID-19

President of medical staff association, chief of staff at NRGH asking for community’s best efforts

RCMP, prime minister warn of text scam related to COVID-19 relief

Text message alerts about $,1375.50 deposits should be ignored or deleted, Nanaimo RCMP say

Home-schooling about to become the rule, not the exception, in Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Suspension of in-class instruction to take effect in Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district March 30

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Most Read