Les Copan, FRCNA FCNRS passed away peacefully on May 12, 2020 in Burnaby, BC at the age of 93 years.
Predeceased by Ivy Beaton, his loving partner of 30 years, and by his children Lee, Michael, and Stephen, he is survived by his daughter Gail, grandson Robert and granddaughter Willow, and great-grandchildren Anthony, Kaitlyn, and Adam.
Les lived most of his life near and connected to the ocean; he joined the navy at 15, serving on the Pacific coast and aboard an escort minesweeper in the Atlantic during World War II. He remarked that he had sailed halfway to Europe many times but never actually made it all the way there.
Les worked as a longshoreman on the Vancouver waterfront from 1953 to 1988, being sworn in to the International Longshore & Warehouse Union in 1956. An early “safety nut”, Les often defied the employer and pushed back when he and his crew were asked to do something unsafe.
Serving as the last President of ILWU Local 501 and then the Vice-President and President of ILWU Local 500, Les was one of 10 union leaders jailed in June 1966 for refusing to comply with an injunction to force longshoremen to work on a statutory holiday. This refusal, jailing, and interruption of the 1966 collective agreement negotiations led to the BC government’s application of the labour code to longshoremen and ultimately to the removal of the court’s power to issue injunctions in many labour cases.
One of his notable accomplishments as a leader was to advocate for and convince the local membership to ratify an unusual extension of full retirement benefits to 27 members who had joined the union after the age of 40 and would otherwise not have been eligible for full pensions.
A passionate numismatist, Les was involved in the study and collection of currency from childhood onward. Recognized as Fellow of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (FRCNA) and as Fellow of the Canadian Numismatic Research Society (FCNRS), Les was active nationally and locally in the Vancouver Numismatic Society and North Shore Numismatic Society for decades.
A generous and giving man, Les believed in fairness and justice and fought hard for the rights of workers and social equality. An Honorary Life Member of the British Columbia New Democratic Party, Les volunteered, campaigned for, and supported candidates in his ridings at every level of government. An active volunteer, Les served on organizing committees and as general chairman of numerous Annual CNA Conventions from 1963 to 1977 and of the Pacific Coast Pensioners Association 1999 Convention.
Born in Victoria but reared in East Vancouver, in his later years he resided on a block to which he had delivered newspapers as a child. He donated generously each year to the school lunch program at the nearby elementary school he had attended some 80 years previous.
In celebration of Les Copan, please consider contributing to a food bank, school, union, or political party that is advancing his values.
Nos plus sincères sympathies à la famille et aux amis de Leslie David Copan July 22 1928 May 12 2020..
Décès pour la Ville: Vancouver, Province: Colombie britanique