On February 4, 2010, Toronto lost a remarkable activist and TEA lost a close friend. Julius Deustch spent most of his 56 years working for a just society. Julius understood the link between justice and a clean environment. Over the last decade he played a pivotal role in many TEA successes. His energy and enthusiasm were contagious.
Julius was a formidable organizer, willingly spending years building the needed capacity to win an important cause. He focused mostly on labour issues and cared passionately about bringing equity to Toronto’s many diverse communities. TEA first worked with Julius in his position of Executive Assistant at the Toronto York Region Labour Council when the two organizations came together to defend important city services that were threatened by Toronto’s amalgamation. Water Watch, a collaborative campaign that stopped the privatization of our municipal water system, was the highlight of these efforts. The campaign brought hundreds of Torontonians out to community meetings to demand that our water systems remain public.
Julius continued to collaborate with TEA on many other issues and campaigns including the St. Clair Street Car Right of Way, fair funding for public transit, increasing civic engagement at City Hall, and most recently building Toronto’s green economy. Just last fall, while battling cancer, he organized a Good Green Jobs for All conference that drew together hundreds of people from a broad range of sectors and communities to discuss a future where Toronto would provide good green jobs for all. Julius saw the conference as a turning point where environmental, equity and economic needs could truly come together in mutual benefit. TEA continues to work towards this goal.
Julius joined TEA’s Board of Directors in 2006 to help the organization weather a challenging transition triggered by sudden staff turnover and reduced funding. With Julius’ help and guidance, TEA rebuilt itself. TEA recently developed a new strategic plan to map our activism for the next five years. Public transit and green jobs, two issues close to Julius’ heart, are at the top of this agenda.
We will miss Julius greatly and we, among many others he inspired, will continue his work.