June Harrison is remembered for her feisty defence of education in Nanaimo. She died May 4 at the age of 79.

June Harrison is remembered for her feisty defence of education in Nanaimo. She died May 4 at the age of 79.

Former school trustee remembered for feisty defence of education

NANAIMO – June Harrison's accomplishments include helping to establish equal pay in Nanaimo school district.

Friends are remembering a “feisty” former school trustee, newspaper publisher and Gabriola Island community member with great fondness.

June Harrison, who served as a Nanaimo school district trustee for 23 years, died May 4. She was 79.

According to Jamie Brennan, current school trustee and friend, Harrison was a character.

“She was a lot of fun,” said Brennan. “She was outspoken, she didn’t suffer fools gladly. She was always willing to express her point of view and she always took the welfare of the children as paramount in any decision that the board was facing.”

Brennan said she helped establish equal pay for education support workers as a member of the bargaining committee in 1988. He said Nanaimo was one of the first districts to ratify an agreement with pay equity

“I was surprised when I came back on the board in 2005 that some districts were getting an allowance for pay equity because they hadn’t negotiated that … we were way ahead of the rest of the province in terms of equal pay for work of equal value,” Brennan said.

Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP, said Harrison a mentor and a great advocate for women in elected office.

Malcolmson said among the lessons learned from Harrison, the responsibility to present and future constituents. Decisions have a long-lasting impact and the rationale for those need to be clearly communicated.

“You always have to explain your thinking and to give people full access to the decision-making process and if people feel left out of the process, that they won’t find the end decision to be legitimate,” said Malcolmson.

Howard Houle, Regional District of Nanaimo Gabriola Island-area director, said Harrison was involved in the community and his favourite memory was the establishment of the outhouse races.

“It was outhouses on wheels and the idea was to raise money for various charities and I do recall one of them I saw her enter, she had a roll of toilet paper on her head, all ready to be pulled off square by square,” said Houle with a laugh.

Harrison also started The Flying Shingle in 1972, a community newspaper on Gabriola Island.