Economist John Dillion, worked 44 years in ecumenical social justice movements, died unexpected June 5. Photo courtesy of Kairos

Economist John Dillion was dedicated to social justice movement

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  • June 9, 2017

Cancer has taken one of the Church’s constant, quiet, faithful and fervent servants. Canadian economist John Dillon, who worked 44 years in ecumenical social justice movements, died unexpectedly June 5. He was 68 years old.

“John was absolutely dedicated to the needs of marginalized communities. He worked with great persistence,” Kairos executive director Jennifer Henry told The Catholic Register.

Until his retirement in May, Dillon’s title was Global Economic Issues Researcher and Policy Advocate with Canada’s ecumenical social justice co-operative Kairos. But in 1973 he was working out of a broom closet in Toronto’s Anglican Church House for an organization called GATT-Fly – a Christian collective that believed something was deeply wrong with a global economy that produced so much poverty. They believed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was only codifying injustice at the level of international treaties.

In those pre-computer days, Dillon’s desk was surrounded by laundry soap boxes with their tops cut off, which he used to file hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, statistical reports and theological journals.

In the late 1960s, Dillon had studied for the priesthood at St. Peter’s Seminary in London. He went on to travel in Latin America and came away with insights into the dark forces behind the region’s dictatorships and civil wars, plus a command of Spanish. As the interfaith coalitions came together in the 1970s, he was there to argue for rigorous, detailed economic analysis of the problems they were facing.

“He was a guru in the ecumenical movement, in helping the churches understand economics,” said Dillon’s former interchurch coalition colleague, Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihevc.

There was nothing trifling about Dillon’s passion for justice.

“He worked from a place of deep faith and commitment,” said Mihevc. “It wasn’t a passing fancy. It was his life.”

“He was unstoppable,” said Citizens for Public Justice executive director and former GATT-Fly colleague Joe Gunn. “That’s the kind of people who really inspire. They call upon us to really act. John touched people that way. He worked incessantly. It was just part of his life.”

He is survived by his wife Marianne and two children, Timothy and Norah. His funeral Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, June 9 at 11 a.m. at his east Toronto parish, St. Ann’s.

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