Remembering Pat Kerans

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Pat Kerans (left) at the launch of the People's Food Policy on Parliament Hill.

Inter Pares remembers and celebrates the life of long-time activist and public intellectual Desmond Patrick Kerans (Pat), who passed away at the age of 89 on August 13, 2019.

Pat and his wife Marion Douglas Kerans travelled across Canada in the late 1970s to lend an ear to people from all walks of life and learn of their struggles with the food system. They spoke with farmers not earning enough to make a living, and people not being able to afford food to put on the table. The many testimonies they heard and captured eventually were published in the landmark book, The Land of Milk and Money. This book provided analysis and a critique of a food system that was fast becoming corporatized and concentrated – making it more difficult for farmers to stay on the land, and more difficult for people to afford healthy and nutritious food.

Inter Pares supported this grassroots consultation process back in the late 1970s, and helped to relaunch the process in 2008 with the People's Food Policy for Canada. Once again, we were able to count on Pat’s tremendous wisdom and experience. In collaboration with Food Secure Canada members and other allies, hundreds of kitchen table conversations were held across the country. Pat played a crucial role in helping to summarize and organise this wealth of information and analysis into the Peoples Food Policy for Canada. Many of the ideas from this process have since become key policy demands of Food Secure Canada and the ever growing food movement – demanding urgent change to make our food system more sustainable, healthy and just.

We stand on the shoulders of giants and Pat was certainly one of them.

Excerpt from obituary:

Desmond Patrick Kerans
March 10, 1930 — August 13, 2019

Peacefully in Ottawa at the age of 89. Survived by his wife of 46 years, Marion Douglas Kerans, four step-children, Karen (Brian), Joanne (Michael), Robert (Heather), and Lyn (Jamie), thirteen grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren, and by other family members, Murray Angus (Joyce), Deborah Stienstra (Greg) and Elspeth MacEwan (Grant). Also survived by his brother Roger Kerans. Predeceased by his parents, Philip and Julia Kerans, step-children Patrick and Maureen, and nephew Chris Kerans.

Born in Rosetown, Saskatchewan in 1930, Pat lived in various prairie towns during the Depression where his parents pursued their careers as teachers. At the age of 18, he joined the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and spent the next 13 years studying in Canada and abroad. He was ordained in 1961. Pat was an intellectual of great depth and breadth. He was also a natural teacher, and took great pleasure in sharing his vast knowledge with students at St. Mary’s and Dalhousie Universities in Halifax, and at UBC in his later years. He took particular satisfaction in working with adult students, particularly Mi’kmaq, while teaching at Dalhousie’s School of Social Work.

Pat was also a life-long advocate for social justice at both the community and global levels. He and (his wife) Marion were instrumental in the development of the first housing co-op in Halifax, and were both commissioners on the People’s Food Commission in the late 1970’s. His academic writings focused on poverty and inequality, and the conflict between an economic view of human worth, and the ethical views rooted Christian teachings. His groundbreaking book, Sinful Social Structures, in 1972 captured the essence of his thinking, and of the times.

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