People

RIP Eric McGuinness

Eric McGuinness lived a life of quiet dignity on his own terms, right to the end.

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 22, 2014

This past summer, I ran into Eric McGuinness at the Hamilton Farmers' Market. He told me the cancer he had been struggling with had returned aggressively and that he would not be undertaking any more treatment. He said it in his quiet, gentle, formidable manner.

Then he switched topics to the fate of a street art project on King William. A reproduction of a painting by the late Alfred Joyce was going to be removed, and Eric wondered whether there was some way to replace it.

He asked if I would be interested in an article on the issue. "I'd like to put something together, while I still have time."

Quiet, gentle and formidable was Eric's way. As the Spectator's Environment writer, he brought a vital perspective to the public policy issues of the day without bombast or hyperbole.

When he retired in 2010, he continued to write about local affairs, focusing on art, architecture, heritage and environmental stewardship. He also shared his photography, including some striking shots from the vantage point of his Pigott Building apartment.

Dust from the James Street Baptist partial demolition, June 6, 2014
Dust from the James Street Baptist partial demolition, June 6, 2014

In October, Eric went public with his belief that people should have the right to die with dignity on their own terms. In an op-ed published in the Ottawa Citizen and the Spectator, he wrote, "I'm resigned to the fact that [cancer] will kill me. What worries me most is how I will die."

On October 15, Supreme Court of Canada began considering a 2012 lawsuit from British Columbia in which the plaintiff argued that the Canadian law prohibiting doctor-assisted suicide violates Sections 7 and 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A previous 1993 Supreme Court decision on a similar case ruled 5-4 that the law does violate the Charter but that the violation is consistent with "the principles of fundamental justice."

Eric did not have time to wait for the outcome of the current case. Last week, he left Hamilton for Switzerland, where doctor-assisted suicide is legal. He was still feeling well, but the legal and technical difficulties in making the arrangements meant he had to act when he did.

Eric McGuinness lived a life of quiet dignity on his own terms, right to the end.

The Spectator has published a lovely article about his life and death, including quotes from several friends.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

3 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By AP (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 11:10:42

Thanks for sharing, Ryan. The theme of quiet dignity lived on in your tribute.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By RogerGillespie (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 08:36:34

Hi Ryan, I just love the way you put it:

He told me the cancer he had been struggling with had returned aggressively and that he would not be undertaking any more treatment. He said it in his quiet, gentle, formidable manner.

Then he switched topics to the fate of a street art project on King William. A reproduction of a painting by the late Alfred Joyce was going to be removed, and Eric wondered whether there was some way to replace it.

Eric was and is so much more than the right-to-die guy. Thanks for this.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By mountain (anonymous) | Posted December 27, 2014 at 14:23:53

Eric McGuinness was the Spec reporter who reported that L Di Ianni's Stoney Creek town employee friends --Phil ruckler and another--had been found guilty of illegal dumping and fined under Ont Min of Environment regulations. Thanks Eric.

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds