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Lytton - March 12, 2009 - The Executive of Democratic Reform BC, together with First Nations leaders, family and friends gathered in Lytton to pay tribute to John Robinson Warren, a founding director of the party who passed away a year ago.
About 150 people gathered in a community hall for a memorial feast. A portrait of John was a centrepiece in the hall. Later the gathering went to the nearby confluence of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers where John's sister, Janet Warren, a professor of psychiatry and neuro-behavioral sciences, scattered his ashes. At the same time, a platter of food in accordance with First Nations' tradition was released into the water.
A realtor and consultant on aboriginal land and resource development, John Warren was well known throughout British Columbia for his knowledge of aboriginal affairs. Originally from Manitoba, he lived in B.C. for 32 years, and was just 60 years old when he died. In recent years he worked for the Nlaka'pamux Nation Tribal Council, the Ashcroft Band, Boothroyd Band, Lower Nikola Band and Boston Bar Band. Representatives of all these and other bands were present at the ceremony, among them his long-term friend and associate Chief Don Moses.
Those who knew him recalled John as a thoughtful, soft-spoken man, with a wry sense of humour, who was passionate about politics and about First Nations issues. As a Buddhist, he was also a vegetarian. The food selected for his last platter reflected his beliefs.
"John would give me a disapproving look, when I sat across the table from him enjoying a meal smothered in meat," recalled Chief Moses. "But he forgave us cattle ranchers. He grew his own vegetables and was proud of his garden produce, especially the tomatoes. Once a person gave him a freezer full of old salmon. He buried it in his garden and bragged about the best crop of vegetables he had in years."
John Warren completed a degree in civil engineering at the University of Manitoba and an MBA at the University of Western Ontario. He also worked for four years through Canadian University Service Overseas (CUSO) in Papua New Guinea and Bangladesh in the 1970s. He was the principal owner and managing broker of Warren Pacific Realty Ltd in Lytton.
His first involvement with politics was in the 1957 federal election. At 10-years-old, he campaigned for the Progressive Conservatives in his home riding of Winnipeg South. In the 1978 federal election campaign, he served as campaign manager to Don Moses who was a federal Liberal candidate. Later when Chief Moses founded the All Nations Party of BC, John chaired the ANPBC policy committee, worked as a fund-raiser and was a key member of the party executive.
When the All Nations Party membership merged with DR BC, John was there again, becoming a founding director of the party. DR BC President and Provincial Policy Chair Robert Allington recalled John Warren's involvement.
"John was helping us and working conscientiously to encourage us long before DR BC became a reality," Allington remembered. "When our predecessor party, the BC Democratic Alliance, made a submission to the Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reformation calling for proportional representation which included dedicated First Nations representation, John's advice was invaluable."
"Simultaneously, together with Don Moses, he prepared a submission on behalf of the ANPBC, which supported us, and elaborated on the justifications for First Nations membership in the Legislature. It was co-operative democracy in action. A John's involvement no doubt contributed to our submission being ranked among the top 15 recommended by members to members of the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform--no mean feat considering the Assembly received over 1600 submissions. Ultimately the Citizens Assembly would decide that aboriginal representation was beyond their mandate, but nevertheless John, by addressing the issues, left an indelible mark that endures in the policies and perspectives of DR BC.
DR BC President Robert Allington was joined at the ceremony by Membership Chair Lyne England and her husband Joe, and current Party Leader Graeme Rodger. Former Leader Tom Morino was unable to attend but sent a written statement.
"I know John Warren as a friend, a colleague and a beautiful spirit," Morino said. "In his presence there was little need for words, we knew immediately his worth and his warmth. But if I have any regrets, it is that I didn't spend more time talking, because we can't do that anymore. As friends and family gather to commemorate John's life, we should each remember that there are too few people like him in this world, and humanity is diminished whenever we lose someone like John Warren."
In the 2005 provincial election, John was a DR BC candidate in the New Westminster Electoral District. Some people in New Westminster were surprised that a Lytton resident was running in a riding three hours away from his home. Those who knew John were not be surprised. He was frequently in the Lower Mainland on business.
As his ashes were released into the Thompson River, a friend from Ashcroft observed: "John's on his way to Vancouver again."
All Nations Party Submission to Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform
BC Democratic Alliance Submission to Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform
Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform--Submissions with Most Member Recommendations
Read the full release.