Gratitude for Cathleen Kneen (1943-2016)

In 2005, when I first began researching the imbalances within the food system for the Deconstructing Dinner radio program, Cathleen Kneen was one of the first names I came across. As I reviewed her achievements and work to date, there was no question that Cathleen would not only need to help launch the first episode of the show, but that she should also be invited to have the final word of that inaugural episode! Indeed she did have the final word and those words went on to become literal soundbites on the many episodes which followed.

Cathleen maintains a special place within the Deconstructing Dinner archives just as she finds a special place in my heart for her dedication and perseverance which inspired me deeply. Thank you.

A compilation of Cathleen’s appearances on Deconstructing Dinner is found below.

In gratitude and admiration,

Jon Steinman
Deconstructing Dinner

January 5, 2006
Why Deconstructing Dinner?
(45:27 thru 54:36)

Full Episode Link

September 21, 2006
Reclaiming Our Food
(03:27 thru 05:50) and (48:34 thru 50:45)

Full Episode Link

October 19, 2006
Bridging Borders Highlights
(21:16 thru 23:44)

Full Episode Link

April 19, 2007
Co-operatives: Alternatives to Industrial Food II
(23:15 thru 41:17)

Full Episode Link

[Posted to Cathleen’s Facebook page on February 22, 2016]

Cathleen (née Rosenberg) Kneen passed away peacefully at home in Ottawa on February 21st, 2016, aged 72, after a struggle with pancreatic cancer.

She is survived by her beloved life and work partner of 53 years, Brewster Kneen, children Jamie Kneen (Soha) and Rebecca Kneen (Brian McIsaac), grandson Theodore, sister Jeannie Rosenberg and many colleagues and friends across the country and around the world.

Cathleen attended university at Edinburgh, Memorial, and Carleton, meeting Brewster through her activism in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and soon marrying him, in 1964. Cathleen’s activism wove together common themes of healthy communities and people. Her early years in the peace movement in Toronto shifted to women’s liberation, as a founding member of the Pictou County Women’s Centre in Nova Scotia – and after moving back to Toronto, as Executive Director of the Toronto Assaulted Women’s Help Line. During her fifteen years in Nova Scotia, she also developed her admirable skills as a potter, ran a successful sheep farm with her family, organized the Sheep Producers of Nova Scotia’s annual sheep fair, and for many years, contributed a weekly Farm Diary to the local noon program on CBC Radio.

When the Kneens moved to BC in 1995, Cathleen began to integrate her commitment to social justice with her farm background. She was instrumental in founding the Mission City Farmers’ Market, the Sorrento Village Farmers’ Market, and the BC Food Systems Network and served on the board of the Certified Organic Associations of BC. Upon her return to Ontario in 2006, Cathleen was elected Chair of the newly formed Food Secure Canada, served on the management team of the People’s Food Policy Project and was chair of Just Food Ottawa and the Ottawa Food Policy Council.

For 25 years, Cathleen worked alongside Brewster as editor, co-writer, illustrator and designer of The Ram’s Horn newsletter, which had a worldwide following, as well as editing his books. Whatever she involved herself in, Cathleen committed herself fully, applying her considerable energy to building a participatory, feminist path for people to connect and make positive change together to bring about the vision of a just and peaceful world she held so clearly. The work of her hands will be held by many on a daily basis, in the pottery she made.

There will be a visitation on Friday, February 26, from 2-4pm, at the Ottawa Funeral Co-operative, 419 St. Laurent Blvd., bus route #7.

There will be other celebrations all over the country throughout the spring as well. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Inter Pares, the BC Food Systems Network, the National Farmers Union, and/or MiningWatch Canada/the Canary Research Institute on Mining, Environment, and Health.