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Maryon Brechin, CM (1919–2011)

Founding Director of Consumer Interest Alliance Inc.

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With sorrow we inform friends and associates of Maryon’s death at her Burlington home on Tuesday, May 10th, 2011.

A graduate of the Macdonald Institute, University of Guelph, Maryon taught rural short courses for the Ontario Department of Agriculture in food and agriculture before working at Canada Packers Ltd, and later, the T. Eaton Company.

Maryon is widely known for remarkable leadership as a consumer advocate throughout a long career, including the 1960s and 1970s when she helped Canada establish the fundamental laws of consumer protection. Early in her career as a consumer advocate, she inspired experts to develop the case for reducing or removing tariffs on children’s clothing as part of a highly successful public campaign that included presentations to governments. With others, she played an advocacy role for consumers, leading to improvements in, and public support for the 1976 Competition Act.

A volunteer and spokesperson for many years with the Consumers’ Association of Canada, Maryon served as its National President from 1971 – 1974. Maryon provided leadership in a campaign addressed at industries with special legislation, authority that was all too often misused to grant generous benefits to suppliers. She facilitated an ongoing program to design measurement devices and incentives to induce Canada’s regulated industries to operate in the public interest. She had special fondness for farmers in general, but played a controversial role opposing special restrictions imposed under supply management to keep new farmers from entering the business, and she publicly objected to each supply management board’s success in increasing prices paid by Canadian consumers.

Maryon exuded integrity, and had a special gift for inspiring volunteers with a wide range of expertise to work to improve the standing of consumers in Canada. On rare occasions, the volunteer might be one of the captains of industry providing public interest advice on the grounds that the source would not be revealed. Most volunteers were consumer activists, independent researchers, community leaders, individuals with experience in specific professions, trades or industries, motivated citizens, university or college researchers, persons from standards councils, writers, or anyone Maryon so successfully persuaded to help make a difference. Maryon was involved in the consumer movement – most recently with the Consumer Interest Alliance, Inc. working on transparency in financial services and on improved food labeling - .right up until the time of her death.

She represented consumers on a wide variety of Boards and Councils in Canada, and internationally. Indeed her volunteer work included a remarkably wide range of organizations, international, national and local. Some of these are: Canada’s National Farm Products Marketing Council, the Women’s Institute of Canada, the North-South Institute, the Macdonald Institute at the University of Guelph, the Board of Governors of University of Waterloo, several environmental organizations and groups working on long term care policy for Ontario. Maryon was astute in seeing where a policy change was a practical prospect, and her heart was big enough to encompass many causes.

In 1975 Maryon was awarded the Order of Canada for her long service to the public interest and for leadership in so many roles. She will be sorely missed by the many friends and colleagues she has worked with, encouraged and inspired over the years. Maryon was admired, respected and loved by many, and her influence for the good has been immeasurable. She brought light to so many people in the adventures she pursued throughout her life. Her generosity, humour and compassion for others were remarkable. She maintained her remarkable grace and sense of humour to the end and will be fondly remembered by all those she touched.

At Maryon’s request there will be no service. To honour her wish, Bill and Maryon’s ashes will have a private interment at a later date in Greenwood Cemetery, Burlington followed by a Celebration of Life at a gathering of friends and family. This celebration of Maryon’s life will be held at Kings Court, 1159 King Rd., Burlington, on Thursday, May 26th, 2011 from 12-3pm.

“It’s been a wonderful ride and I love you all”

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