• James Parry

Environmental pioneer Dr. June Irwin passes away at the age of 83


PHOTO COURTESY ANN PETERSEN ANDERSON

Dr. June Irwin played a key role in Hudson becoming the first town in Canada to ban indiscriminate use of pesticides in 1991.

Dr. June Irwin, longtime Hudson resident and lifelong pioneer in the battle against pesticides, and who played a key role in the town making history in 1991 when it became the first community in Canada to ban all non-essential pesticides from residential and public spaces, died recently at the age of 83.

She has left an enduring legacy of local environmental activism which impacted upon a generation and led to both national and international awareness campaigns and legislation against pesticide use in urban areas.

It was in the 1980s that Dr. Irwin, who had a dermatology practice in Pointe-Claire, started to see patients with worrying health problems. True to her scientific training, she began taking blood samples and sending them to specialized labs in the U.S. for analysis - which she paid for and continued to do throughout her practice - keeping records and documenting her findings. She soon made the connection between her patients' symptoms and their exposure to lawn care pesticides, which were then in widespread use.

Said Michael Elliott, mayor in 1991 and whose council adopted By-law 270 imposing the ban in the community, “Dr. Irwin was a very special, gracious lady and a true warrior in the fight against the indiscriminate use of harmful pesticides. She would attend every council meeting getting that message across. But always very eloquently, passionately, and never in an aggressive or argumentative way.

Her main concern was for the general public and the next generation. And for that we owe her a great deal of gratitude.”

Following a private service, Dr. Irwin was interred in the Irwin family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery, Cornwall, Ontario.

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