RANKIN, HARRY


RANKIN, HARRY (1920–2002), Canadian lawyer and politician. Rankin was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, and became one of the city's most beloved and controversial public figures. During World War II, Rankin served in the Canadian Army Seaforth Highlanders and was twice wounded. Returning to civilian life, he completed a B.A. and law degree in just five years at the University of British Columbia. Staunchly left-wing, Rankin was nearly prevented from taking the bar because he had belonged to the Communist University Club. He went on to become treasurer and a life member of the BC Law Society and was appointed Queen's Counsel. In addition to helping establish the province's first system of legal aid, much of Rankin's work as a lawyer was performed without charge. He was a tireless advocate for tenant rights, the working class, Aboriginals, Vancouver's downtown east side, and many disadvantaged groups and individuals. He and his first wife, Jonnie (Ottwell) Rankin, were early members of the city's People's Cooperative Bookstore, and their Vancouver home was a well-known meeting place for leftist political and labor activists. In 1966 Rankin was elected as a City Council alderman, a position that he held for 24 years. In 1968 he co-founded the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), a socialist municipal political party that eventually broke the conservative domination of city government. Rankin retired from the City Council in 1993, but he continued to pursue high-profile progressive causes and cases until his death. His second wife and widow, Connie Fogal-Rankin, is also a prominent Vancouver lawyer and politician. Following Rankin's death, the BC chapter of the Canadian Bar Association established an annual award in his memory as recognition of Rankin's outstanding contributions in pro bono work.

[Barbara Schober (2nd ed.)]


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