Bruce Cox led Greenpeace Canada as our Executive Director for ten years, from 2003 to 2013.

Bruce was also a brother, uncle and friend to many. His recent passing has left us stunned and saddened. Our thoughts are with his partner of many years, Una.

While this is a sad time for those of us who knew Bruce, it’s also a moment to celebrate the person who gave so much to the movement for social and environmental justice and who led us with courage, passion and integrity for many years.

Bruce was never interested in glamour or fame, but in making a difference. He often dressed in shorts and sandals, but always had a suit jacket tucked away in the office for those moments when the media called or Greenpeace was under attack. He’d ask you if the jacket fit one minute and the next you’d see him live on CBC defending our right to protest against the Harper government. 

He instilled in so many of us that we are part of a long tradition of direct action and civil disobedience that have always brought social change, from the Suffragettes to Gandhi and Martin Luther King. It’s inspiring to see today a new generation taking this baton in Canada with the Land Back and Black Lives Matter movements challenging the status quo with such moral authority and bravery in their actions.

Bruce knew that social change doesn’t come easy, so he defended instinctively the role of dissenters in our society. He also defended his people as much as he defended our right to protest. He understood the toll that activism takes and how important it is to have someone in your corner, come what may. Bruce always had your back.

He embodied an attitude and spirit that gave those around him the confidence to dream big. He encouraged risk taking and inspired belief that we could change the world, which continued and renewed a Greenpeace culture of attempting the impossible. He put his own body on the line and wasn’t afraid to get arrested standing up to dirty oil.

He was smart too, weaving political analysis with bold action and making an impact far beyond our limited resources.

A “bird guy”, Bruce knew all the red-tailed hawks around our Kensington/Chinatown neighbourhood, calling people into his office whenever they came into view.

A campaigner until the end, Bruce was still speaking truth to power during his final months and standing up for Ontario’s birds in the face of Doug Ford’s onslaught on wildlife. He’d appreciate us sharing a line from his last opinion column, still compelling and full of passion and wisdom in equal parts:

The unmanaged hunt of an inedible native bird that was virtually wiped out in Ontario … is at best almost completely devoid of scientific grounding, and at worst, live target practice.

He brought to Greenpeace both a deep love for nature and a passion for social justice. Intersectional, we’d call it these days.

He was as fiercely committed to challenging the industries destroying our planet as he was to solutions for workers and communities. A former commercial fisherman and longtime labour organiser, this wasn’t abstract to Bruce. It was a part of his DNA just as it became part of Greenpeace’s during his time. That legacy lives on.

He threw the best Greenpeace parties and was up late with the whole crew telling stories. He had a hell of a laugh. Those were special times.

He was our leader and we are forever grateful for his dedication, humour and big heart. Thanks for everything Bruce.