Tombstone, Prospect Cemetery (Section 7, Lot 24) St. Clair Ave. West, near Lansdowne Ave., Toronto

“The Great Defender: Fearless Leader of the Canadian Labor Defence League” are the words inscribed on this gravestone. A.E. Smith (1871-1947) began his activist life as a Methodist minister in Manitoba. In the 1920s he founded the Canadian Labour Defence League and became a driving force in defending the civil rights and liberties of those victimized in strikes and labour struggles. An eloquent speaker, he played a major role in the struggle to remove the hated Section 98 from Canada’s Criminal Code, and campaigned successfully for the release of Tim Buck, head of the Communist Party, who had been imprisoned in Kingston Penitentiary under the arbitrary powers of this law.

His autobiography
All My Life records his early life in Hamilton where he began preaching as a student Methodist, apprenticed as a bookbinder and worked at many trades. He held ministries in Manitoba, then went to the People’s Church at 450 Spadina Ave. in Toronto. As a member of the Communist Party, he became educational director of the Canadian Labour Party and worked to make it an inclusive united front.