Inter Pares mourns passing of former colleague Peter Gillespie

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Peter Gillespie

Inter Pares is deeply saddened at the passing of our former colleague and friend, Peter Gillespie, on Friday May 22, 2015. But while we mourn, we also celebrate the enormous gifts he brought to us, and the world, while he was here.

Over the twenty-five years that Peter worked for Inter Pares (1985-2010), he brought his passion, courage, talent, and deep commitment to social justice to many issues and struggles around the world. Most notable among these were his years of collaboration with civil society organizations in Bangladesh, building movements for food sovereignty, landless rights, and democracy; his challenge to population control measures and discourse, exposing their racist and anti-poor underpinnings, and supporting the dismantlement of coercive programs; his relentless promotion of human rights in Burma, including raising millions of dollars to support refugees and displaced people; his solidarity with sugarworkers in the Philippines, who succeeded in transforming a feudal system and gaining rights to their land; his work in drawing public and government attention to the consequences of massive capital flight and tax evasion from developing countries into the global financial system. Throughout, he was also a staunch ally and supporter of women’s struggles for justice and autonomy, both in Canada and abroad. 

Although Peter typically spurned the limelight, in 2010 he agreed to give the keynote address at Inter Pares’ 35th anniversary celebration. We invite you to read the notes from his speech, in which – while denying his crucial role – he shared stories from some of the many struggles in which he was intimately involved. For us, this was Peter.

I have had the privilege of working with some of the most extraordinary people in the world..... with anti-poverty workers, with women’s rights and human rights activists, with people in the anti-apartheid movement, in anti-dictatorship struggles in Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and in Burma.

All of these people had the idea that democracy, human rights and social justice were values that were worth devoting their lives to – and in some cases risking their lives for.  What is remarkable is that they didn’t back down, even in the face of danger – rather they organized, they developed farmers’ cooperatives, women’s organizations, underground media, health and education programs for the displaced, services for the victims of torture and violence.  For me it has been an honour to accompany some of these struggles, although I am still haunted by the loss of friends and colleagues along the way.

Our thoughts are with Peter’s family, particularly his life partner Lulama and their five children, and the many friends and colleagues in Canada and around the world whose lives Peter touched.

We are deeply honoured that Peter asked that donations in his memory be made to Inter Pares, and proud to be part of Peter’s legacy, continuing the social justice action that he helped build.

I have had the privilege of working with some of the most extraordinary people in the world..... with anti-poverty workers, with women’s rights and human rights activists, with people in the anti-apartheid movement, in anti-dictatorship struggles.


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Comments (9)

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  • Md.shahidul Haque.
    He was a curator and motivator to support the grass roots movement. I met him in 1995 in Bangladesh.
  • René Plaetevoet
    Such sad news. I worked together with Peter when I lived in Canada and afterwards vorm Belgium when he supported oud work for migrants rights.
  • Cathleen Kneen
    I did not know Peter well but like anyone else connected to Inter Pares, was a great admirer of his work and his integrity. He made an important contribution to the common good and will live in the memories of very many people.
  • Sharon Moon
    I met Peter when I was on the board of Inter Pares. Respect for his work was clear. His gentle strength and clarity of vision moved me, but also his self-effacing way of being with people. The courage with which he engaged in the struggle, was matched by the courage with which he faced his illness.
  • Karen Seabrooke
    I'll never find the words that best describe the close to 30 years that I knew and worked with Peter. He was simply an outstanding human being with a big heart. We made a great team, working on the IP Asia program. Peter was a master programmer and strategist. He envisioned ways to assist our superb co-conspirators in Asia in particular and well as more than pulling his weight in the political project that is Inter Pares. He knew BS when he saw it, he developed some of the most profound relationships and programs Inter Pares engaged in. Some of our overseas and Canadian partners loved him because they saw him for who he was, and all respected him. Peter made things happen. He took the long view, was persistent, and helped change policy and people's lives. I loved Peter and his authenticity. He never took credit for the crucial leadership he showed, was very humble, had a big heart, and was genuinely happy for others when they did well. He had a great sense of humour, loved learning, loved his family, loved music, and despite a sometimes stoic outer demeanour, Peter was very sensitive and kind. Those of us who knew him well knew how sensitive he was. I will forever miss him and love him because of the huge positive influence he had on my life. We always had each other's backs. Peter was just a stellar person. He changed my life. It hurts that he's gone.
  • René Plaetevoet...
    Thank you Karen for these beautiful and inspiring words. Working with Peter, you and Brian was a privilege and something I will never forget.
  • Karen Seabrooke
    Thank you, Rene. I feel the same way about working with you. Your own compassion and commitment and leadership was so inspiring.
  • Lawrence S Cumming
    We mourn the passing of a great and good soul but take much joy and comfort from his legacy to the people and causes for which he stood, Lawrence S. Cumming, Ottawa
  • Sue Cass
    For the past week I have been reflecting and coming to terms with the passing of Peter. It was a relatively short time, a couple of years, that I had the privilege of working with Peter and the team at Inter Pares - but a time that I felt incredibly honoured to have been able to accompany such extraordinary work. My memories of Peter are many. In addition to his unyielding dedication and commitment to his work and the work of his international partners, was his dedication to family and his colleagues. I also remember and so much admired and enjoyed his wonderfully dry humour and sharp wit, his gentle and unassuming way of being, and his love of music and wicked hand at the guitar. Peter - you are deeply missed.