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Harry Smith Remembered

November 30, 2018 Poverty Reduction

(This story was originally published on our website July 2015.)


Sometimes we write about books relevant to our mandate. 

Today we’d like to recommend one such book.  It is called Harry’s Last Stand, How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save It.

The author, Harry Leslie Smith, is a 92-year-old who grew up in Yorkshire, England.  As he writes, he is not an historian but he is history.

At 85 Smith was about to live out a quiet retirement in Algarve, Portugal when the banking crisis hit.  This crisis forced him to begin “a spiritual odyssey of sorts.”  He began to explore and “unravel the anguish that my generation endured before the (post-war) creation of the welfare state.”

The author looks back at the Depression and the brutal poverty he experienced in his youth, and sees how history is repeating itself.

The same remedies are being applied today as were used eighty years ago. Decision makers are cutting money for services, housing and job creation.

Smith’s cites many examples.  There is workfare, a serious housing crisis and food shortages (for the first time since WWII, the Red Cross is now delivering food parcels to destitute families).

Even funerals.  Harry’s own father, who died during the Depression, was buried in a mass grave for paupers.  Now estimates are that 100,000 people in Britain “will not have the dosh for dying this year.”  

As one who has benefitted from the creation of the welfare state, Smith’s book reminds us that we sometimes fail to appreciate how his generation made it happen.

On an earlier book tour he told a Toronto audience that Canadians are too apathetic.

Citizens need to demand more from elected officials and put today’s politicians “out to pasture,” he said, as reported by Katrina Clarke in the Toronto Star.

Smith on Canadian Tour

Harry Smith is in the midst of a tour in Canada right now.  The last stop is Tuesday July 21 in London. It is at Museum London in the Lecture Theatre. The Broadbent Institute is running the tour.  You can find out more at

Visit Smith's website at

A National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada

Is Smith correct?  Are we too apathetic in this country? 

Like Harry Smith, we believe that similar issues to the ones he has written about are at play in the upcoming Canadian federal election.  The clinic plans to speak out in a non-partisan way about the need for strategies to combat poverty. It seems that such issues are usually low on the agenda at election time. 

In that regard, Clinic staff recently attended a workshop facilitated by staff from the Dignity for All campaign. Dignity for All is a multi-year, multi-partner, non-partisan campaign with a vision to create a poverty-free and more socially secure and cohesive Canada.

After extensive consultation they have developed a National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada.  Check out more details on this plan at

We’ve written about it before – see and plan to do more as the election gets closer.

We are interested in your thoughts on the need for an anti-poverty plan.

 Read more on Harry's passing at




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