British Columbia

Former Vancouver councillor Jim Green dies of cancer

Former Vancouver city councillor, mayoralty candidate and long-time housing activist Jim Green has died following a battle with cancer.

Former Vancouver councillor, mayoralty candidate and long-time housing activist Jim Green has died following a battle with cancer..

Green died peacefully at home with his family at 6:15 a.m. PT Tuesday, a statement issued by Mayor Gregor Robertson's office said.

Green was battling a recurrence of the lung cancer he had two years ago, according to a press release issued by Robertson's office earlier this month.

Former Vancouver councillor Jim Green has died, his family confirmed. (Richard Lam/CP)

"He was with his family, it was early in the morning and he died very peacefully and quite suddenly," Coun. Geoff Meggs told CBC News.

"Given he was ill with cancer, I personally feel relieved he died in such a calm way and without evident suffering, so that's a blessing for sure."

On Sunday, Green was given the Freedom of the City award by Robertson at an invitation-only celebration at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.

Advocate for the Downtown Eastside

Green was best known for the numerous housing projects he pioneered on the Downtown Eastside — including his fight to turn the Woodward's building into a low-income housing project — as a leader for the Downtown Eastside Residents' Association and as a co-founder of the Portland Hotel Society.

Robertson said Green was a tireless advocate for social justice, democracy and the arts.

"He taught communities and citizens across Vancouver how to mobilize for positive change both for their neighbourhoods and in their own lives, and devoted his life to the idea that a city is strongest when it empowers its citizens," he said.

"Many of the policies we take for granted today were championed by Jim long before they were common practice in Vancouver."

Meggs said Green was a visionary who worked passionately on behalf of a constituency most people knew little about and cared for even less.

"I think the city is much much richer because of him and because of the legacy of activism and optimism right up to the Freedom of the City Award on Sunday."

Vancouver MP Libby Davies remembered hiring Green in the early 1980's to run the Downtown Eastside Residents Association.

"He was the one that brought opera to the Downtown Eastside. Who would imagine that? People loved it, I mean they just loved it ... this idea they could hear opera. It's one small thing but it had a big impact and is something people will always remember."

Friends say Green was a study in contradiction, a man of the people who loved opera, a left-wing advocate who built a people's bank. They say he gave tirelessly of himself to make a better life for those who couldn't do it for themselves and in the process, wound up making Vancouver a better place to live.

Headed north to dodge the draft

Green was born in Alabama in 1943 but moved to Canada to avoid being drafted in the Vietnam War in 1968. He was first elected to city council in 2002 and ran unsuccessfully for mayor as the leader of the Vision Vancouver slate against Sam Sullivan in 2005.

He also ran for mayor unsuccessfully in 1990 against Gordon Campbell, and then lost again to Campbell in the provincial election as a NDP candidate for Vancouver-Point Grey.

Green graduated with a master of anthropology from UBC, where he later taught opera and architecture, and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris.