Phyllis Clarke Memorial Lecture


The Phyllis Clarke Memorial Lecture is held annually to honour the memory of Phyllis Clarke, a member of the Department from 1977 until her death in 1988.

CUPE logoIn 2009, CUPE Ontario – and the CUPE Locals on the Ryerson campus (233, 1281, and 3904) – provided generous support for the Lecture for a three-year period.

Click here for a list of the Phyllis Clarke Memorial Lectures.


1924 – 1988

Phyllis Esphere Clarke died on March 21, 1988, having lived a life devoted to socialism, trade unionism, feminism, community activism and teaching.

A longtime member of the Communist Party she ran (unsuccessfully) for elected office on several occasions. While living in Saskatchewan, she ran in the 1953 federal election in Prince Albert, where she lost to John Diefenbaker, who later became Canada’s 13th Prime Minister. In Toronto in 1962, she ran in the federal constituency of Davenport, losing to Walter Gordon who went on to be Minister of Finance and President of the Privy Council in the Liberal government of Lester Pearson. Also in 1962, she ran for a seat on Toronto's Board of Control. Her obituary in The Toronto Star reports that the Toronto media "expressed surprise" that she received 16,555 votes.

Phyllis served on the Toronto Public Library Board from 1977 until 1984, and as its Chair in 1979-1980. She played an important role in making public libraries more committed to Canadian literature and multicultural/lingual literature. The Toronto Reference Library now holds her papers (The Nelson and Phyllis Clarke fonds) in its Baldwin Room.

Phyllis was active in labour struggles from the 1940s onwards. She was a founding member of the Graduate Assistants’ Association (GAA), which became the Canadian Union of Educational Workers (CUEW) in 1980, and then amalgamated with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in 1995. For the CUEW, she undertook one of the first studies in Canada of the unequal place of women faculty members in Canadian universities. An interest in labour matters apparently ran in her family, for her father was J.L. Cohen, whose 1950 obituary in The Globe and Mail described him as a “dynamic, sharp-witted man who rose from humble beginnings to become the most influential labour lawyer in Canada.”

Phyllis was also active in tenant rights issues, and served for many years on the Board of Parkdale Community Legal Services.

In addition to a Ph.D. – earned in 1977 with a dissertation entitled Application of Marxist Thought to Canada – Phyllis also held a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Toronto. She co-edited (with William Beeching) Yours in Struggle: Reminiscences of Tim Buck (1977) and (with Carla Cassidy and Wayne Petrozzi) Authority & Influence: Institutions, Issues and Concepts in Canadian Politics (1986). She also authored “West Toronto Citizens Organize” in Citizen Participation in Library Decision-Making: The Toronto Experience, ed. John Marshall (1984).

Phyllis joined the Department of Politics at Ryerson in 1977, and helped define its commitment to intellectual inquiry and social justice. One colleague wrote shortly after her death, "For as long as I have known her, the work that Phyllis did was inseparable from the obsession with a just order, 'Where the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.'

Another colleague wrote in a memorial tribute in the Socialist Studies Bulletin, that with Phyllis' passing: "Socialism has lost a champion."

Phyllis was predeceased by her husband, Nelson, in 1982. She is survived by her step-daughter Lesley Towers.

(Photos provided by Lesley Towers and used with permission)


The Phyllis Clarke Memorial Lectures


03 March 2014 Financialization
Dr. Costas Lapavitsas
SOAS, University of London
  • Associate Dean (Research), Faculty of Law and Social Sciences
  • Professor in Economics
  • Academic Staff, Japan Research Centre
  • Asia-Pacific Centre for Social Science Coordinating Committee Member
SYRIZA (Greece)
  • Economic Policy Advisor
18 Mar 2013 Québec and Québec Solidaire: Linking Sovereignty, Equality and anti-Neoliberalism
Amir Khadir
Click the links to see the introduction, the lecture, and the Q & A session
  • Member of the Québec National Assembly
  • former co-leader of Québec Solidaire
13 Mar 2012 “Canada: Ideology in the Ascendant
The culture of inequality, the politics of division, the attack on democracy ”
Stephen Lewis
Click here to see the lecture

Joint Sponsors: CUPE Locals 223, 1281, 3904

10 Mar 2011 Global Crisis, Fiscal Restraint, and Public-Private Partnerships
John Loxley

Joint Sponsors: CUPE Locals 223, 1281, 3904; Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE

10 Mar 2010 Operating in the Obama Moment: Challenges for Progressives
Bill Fletcher Jr.

Joint Sponsors: CUPE Locals 223, 1281, 3904

10 Mar 2009 Still a Marxist After All: Lessons and Insights for our Time
held in cooperation with TVO and the Big Ideas series
Leo V. Panitch
  • Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy
    York University
  • co-editor of Socialist Register

Introduction by Sam Gindin

Joint Sponsors: CUPE-Ontario and CUPE Locals 233, 1281, and 3904

Click here for a podcast of the entire event.

12 Mar 2008 “Challenging the New Global Constitution”
Stephen McBride

Joint Sponsor: CUPE Local 3904

15 Mar 2007 “Rethinking Politics in the Age of Networks”
Hilary Wainwright
  • Editor, Red Pepper
  • Research Director, New Politics Programme, Transnational Institute, Amsterdam
  • Honorary Fellow, Sociology Department, Manchester University
27 Mar 2006 “Waiting for Care: Challenging the Agenda in Health Care Reform”
Pat Armstrong     
  • Canadian Health Services Research Foundation
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  • Chair in Health Services and Nursing Research

An article based on the 2006 Phyllis Clarke Memorial Lecture appeared in Relay (July/August 2006): 6-9.

21 Mar 2005 “Neoliberalism and Resistance: Creating Alternative Economic Realities in Post-Apartheid South Africa”
Robert Pollin
  • Co-Director, Political Economy Research Institute
    Dept of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) University of Massachusetts – Amherst
10 Mar 2004 “Against Global Apartheid: The Futility of International Economic Reforms”
Patrick Bond
  • former economic advisor to South African President Nelson Mandela
24 Mar 2003 “Making Politics Matter”
Jack Layton
  • National Leader, New Democratic Party
18 Mar 2002 “Globalization and Social Justice”
Sam Gindin
  • York University
  • Former Director of Research, Canadian Auto Workers
04 Apr 2000 “Paper Boom”
Jim Stanford
  • Economist, Canadian Auto Workers (CAW)
  • Author
  • Lecturer
24 Mar 1999 “Self-Determination for Aboriginal Peoples in Canada”
Beverley Jacobs, LL.B.
  • Mohawk Nation, Bear Clan, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory
27 Mar 1998 “The Future of Canada in the Global Economy”
Maude Barlow
  • Chair, Council of Canadians
30 Sep 1996 “From Apartheid to Democracy: Social Change in South Africa”
Richard Van der Ross
  • MP (Western Cape Legislature)
  • Rector and Vice-Chancellor, University of the Western Cape
23 Nov 1994 “Women, Community and Politics”
Hilary Wainwright
  • Senior Research Associate
    International Centre for Labour Studies at Manchester University, GB
10 Nov 1993 “Still Waiting for Democracy?: Canada After the Election”
Rick Salutin
  • McLean-Hunter Chair of Communications Ethics, Ryerson University
  • Award-winning Playwright and Author
06 Apr 1993 “Aboriginal Self-Government: The Way Ahead”
Kathie Jack
  • Golden Eagle Woman, Moose Clan
  • Ex-Chief Ojibways of Onegaming

Rodney Bobiwash

  • Policy Analyst, Native Canadian Centre
20 Mar 1992 “After Communism: What Future for Eastern Europe?”
Alex Callinicos
  • Professor, University of York (GB)
29 Nov 1991 “After the Elections: Toronto in the 1990s”
Jack Layton
  • former Councillor and Mayoral Candidate, City of Toronto
14 Nov 1990 “Canada’s Role in Advancing Democracy”
Ed Broadbent
  • President, International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development
  • former National Leader, New Democratic Party
06 Apr 1990 “The Struggle for Social Justice: Canada’s New Reform Movements”
Dennis Howlett
  • Ecumenical Coalition for Economic Justice
  • Pro-Canada Network
24 Nov 1989 Panel Discussion: “Reform and Repression: China After Tiananmen Square”
Tim Brook
  • Dept. of History, University of Toronto

Hu Shuang Quan

  • Beijing student

Fay Sims

  • Refugee Coordinator, Amnesty International
30 Mar 1989 “The Internationalization of Japan: Emerging Strains in the Japanese Workplace and Family”
Merry White
  • Dept. of Sociology, Boston University
08 Mar 1989 “Canada’s Immigration Policy: The Half-Open Door”
Reginald Whitaker
  • Dept. of Political Science, York University