Well, today’s his birthday, so that’s a good place to start. He turns 59 today, something to genuinely celebrate given the history of one of Toronto’s perennially peripheral figures.
Originally from England, in the early 80s Clarke suddenly found himself unemployed and decided to found the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, a group both vilified and praised for standing up for, or claiming to stand up for, the city’s poor.
Clarke doesn’t mince words or shy away from controversy, often staging demonstrations, sit-ins, and occupations to drive his message. He’s had run-ins with cops, politicians, and even the media aren’t particularly fond of him. Basically, he’s not in it for the popularity.
Although he’s not homeless, Clarke somehow manages to raise a family of two kids and a wife on a budget that verges on poverty. Prior to 1986, Clarke’s biggest investment was a vehicle — a 1980 Lada.
Clarke doesn’t like the word Marxist and instead prefers to call himself a socialist. Personally, I think the title of bellicose advocate for the poor is probably more appropriate– it’s certainly been his raison d’être.
And at the end of the day, even if you disagree with Clarke or his methods, you have to admire the man’s tenacity and willingness to stand up for justice. If the world only had more men like that in it, we’d all be leading much better lives.
Happy birthday, John.