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Column: Activist whose name included on some Salmon Arm signs remembered

Dan MacQuarrie worked hard in many ways for social justice for all
In a 2017 photo, Dan MacQuarrie, who did not want hearing loss to isolate people, puts his finger to the button that connected his hearing aid to his cell phone. He died on Nov. 6, 2021. (File photo)

This statement from Dan MacQuarrie summed up his time in Salmon Arm well.

“I come from a family that has always fought for social justice. It is all I know.”

Dan MacQuarrie died on Nov. 6 at the age of 95. He wrote the preceding description on his MacQuarrie Institute website, an institute he created to ‘Build Canada a 2nd Time,’ to make Canada a fair country for all.

Dan’s passion for social justice seemed to know no bounds. I met him during his trips to city council, which followed his time serving on council. The first time was when he came to council with his determination as an anti-tobacco activist. His aim was to see smoking prohibited in all municipal parks and public areas.

You may have seen no-smoking signs around town with the words, ‘Dan’s Bylaw.’ Here’s what then-mayor Nancy Cooper had to say at a 2013 meeting when his lobbying paid off.

“This smoking bylaw has been the work of one Mr. Dan MacQuarrie, and he has actually been working on smoking bylaws for 38 years, or non-smoking bylaws, and so I am just asking council if they would add Dan’s name to this so it would be kind of like…Dan’s Bylaw.”

As a church minister since 1966, Dan felt strongly about the need for truth and reconciliation. Cooper said he accompanied her to the Adams Lake conference centre when a communications agreement was signed in 2018 between Secwépemc first Nations and Shuswap municipal governments.

“Dan was so happy to be part of the signing,” she said, adding that she cherished his input and friendship.

Read more: First Nations soldiers served, but can’t vote

Read more: Anti-smoking bylaw honours Salmon Arm activist

Current Mayor Alan Harrison also speaks highly of him.

“I think Dan is a great example for us all. He contacted me (and I’m sure other elected officials), quite regularly. Always respectful, always with ideas to better our community.”

As a reporter, in addition to many phone calls and short chats, I spent a couple of amazing hours at Dan’s condominium one afternoon to interview him for an article. His home was filled with photos, books and other treasures, each with their own story. I left a little overwhelmed, thinking his interests would be better suited to a book than an article.

One of Dan’s latest quests to city council was to ask that an Auris Hearing Loop be installed in council chambers, which can eliminate background noise or low volume.

He pointed out the considerable stigma of being hard of hearing and noted Canada is the only G7 country that does not have ‘loss of hearing’ in its disability act.

He was successful in having the device installed not only in council chambers but in several other places.

I agree with current Mayor Alan Harrison’s sentiment about him. He set a great example.

To me, his example is of someone who sees a societal wrong – not necessarily a personal wrong – and works to fix it, with relentless determination, optimism and compassion.

For Dan MacQuarrie, actions really did speak louder than words.

Read more: The fight to hear

Read more: Device brings back live music for Shuswap man
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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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