The General Director and Treasurer of the Steelworkers Humanity Fund, was the 18th recipient of the Pearson Peace Medal.
Mr. Geoffrey Pearson, distinguished former diplomat and son of Lester B. Pearson, presented the award to Gerry Barr at a ceremony on December 10, Human Rights Day, in Toronto, at the Union Hall of the United Steelworkers of America.The 1996 award acknowledged in particular, the enormous creative contribution of Gerry Barr in the conception, launching and promotion of the “Steelworkers Humanity Fund” – a uniquely Canadian instrument for generating resources for international assistance and solidarity work. The strength of the Humanity Fund derives from the negotiated contribution of a penny an hour from Steelworkers across the country. Widely adopted as a bargaining policy by six major Canadian unions, which together represent almost 1,000,000 workers, the Humanity Fund has galvanized the Trade Union movement in Canada into a major force promoting national and international development, cooperation and education.
Through its establishment, the Humanity Fund has enabled workers and all Canadians to witness the power that collective action can bring to seemingly distant issues of poverty and hunger. In the process, it has provided some active and far-reaching solutions to not only alleviating the pressure on overburdened food banks, but also to improving the human condition of the malnourished in the developing world.
Gerry Barr has been committed throughout his career to the causes of peace, equality and social justice. He has been a consistent contributor to the joint work of non-governmental organizations in Canada, and was a member of the Boards of Directors of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) and the North-South Institute. In the 1980’s, Mr. Barr was an active member of the steering Committee of a church-NGO group, the “Cross Border Coalition” which delivered humanitarian assistance to war-affected areas of Ethiopia. He is the founding chair of the “Horn of Africa Policy Group”, a working group of the CCIC.