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Former BCA president, labour activist Gordie Larkin dies of COVID

Larkin, a former Canadian Labour Congress activist and Burnaby Citizens Association president, died last night after a 2-month battle against COVID-19
gordie larkin
Canadian Labour Congress rep Gordie Larkin performs onstage as IWA Canada members rally outside Canadian Window Coverings after learning the firm was leaving B.C. The company had a history of union busting; its 120 mainly women workers had certified with the union the previous February.
A stalwart in the labour movement and former Burnaby Citizens Association president, Gordie Larkin, is being mourned by friends and colleagues after dying of COVID-19 at age 78.

In an interview, Coun. Colleen Jordan said she knew Larkin for about 40 years, and he would be remembered fondly throughout Canada for his political work with various provincial and federal NDP candidates.

“It wasn’t just his job. It was his total life,” Jordan said, adding that Larkin, raised in East Vancouver, was a Burnaby resident “for as long as I can remember.”

Larkin got his start in the labour movement through his work in the fishing industry, getting involved in the fisherman’s union, which ultimately became part of Unifor. He then went on to work with the Canadian Labour Congress and was active with the United Way through the CLC.

“(There are) people all across the country that are going to be in shock today because, from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, there’s hundreds and hundreds of people who knew him. It’s a pretty sad day for a lot of folks,” Jordan said.

Jordan said Larkin died of COVID two months to the day after he started feeling the effects. He had been at home for the first month or so before winding up in the hospital. He ended up in intensive care for the last two weeks. He appeared to have “turned the corner” and improved before “taking a bad turn” Wednesday night and dying.

“What a devastating bloody disease,” Jordan said. “He put up a good fight, but he didn’t win the battle.”

Larkin was also well-known for his music, as NDP Surrey-Panorama MLA Jinny Sims noted on Twitter.

“An amazing activist. Brought his music to the labour movement. Gordie Larkin leaves a legacy,” Sims said.

Jordan called Larkin a “troubadour” for the labour movement, even though he was teased for only playing a couple of chords on the guitar.

“He wrote songs for people when they retired or there was a special celebration for them, and he would write songs for them, and people treasured those,” Jordan said. “Now I don’t know who’s going to play for him because we lost our main … troubadour.”

In a statement to the NOW, Mayor Mike Hurley said he knew Larkin through the labour movement, and he “certainly was very well-known in Burnaby” and “a well-liked character within labour.”

“It’s very sad news, and certainly I pass along my deepest condolences to Gordie’s wife, Barb, and to his family and many friends,” Hurley said.

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