I have just learned that Barbara McInnis, the social justice visionary and advocate we all aspire to be, passed away last Friday in Ottawa. My condolences go to her family and to our whole social change community, which has lost a champion.
Barb–everybody called her by her first name–was friendly to a fault, convincing without being pushy, a diligent and humble citizen, and a woman of conviction and purpose. She was easy to approach, always willing to offer advice, guidance, information and support for any idea that might benefit our community, both locally and beyond. Many of her achievements, including the co-founding of the Ottawa Community Foundation, have been chronicled in her obituary, and in the many tributes to her.
However, it was not only her many achievements that will be her legacy; Barb was a leader without hierarchy. Much is said of the value and aspiration to create egalitarian structures in our society, but she lived this ideal in practice, as a person in a position of power and influence, and yet still accessible, personable, and genuinely interested in the lives of all she met.
Barb, in my mind, had mastered that elusive form of leadership, where people–people like me–felt compelled to follow her because she was one of us, yet she had clarity of purpose. She was magnetic. Her achievements are simply a testament to her magnetism. They are the outcomes, the signposts, of a life well lived, with fairness, firmness and commitment.
May we all aspire to be like Barb, and work tirelessly, and with meaningful human interactions that include people on the journey to social improvement.
I, like so many others, are fortunate to have called Barb our friend and I will miss her influence, her ideas, her support and her bubbly, smiling, personality.