Mark Benjamin Goldblatt Memorial Blog

cropped-mark3.pngMark Goldblatt died suddenly on February 3 of a heart attack. Mark was a lifelong champion of co-operation as a co-op leader and advocate. He had many accomplishments. He was a founding member of the Board of Directors of Canadian Co-operative Association, the first Executive Director of Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, a Past President of the Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation, a co-founder of Rooftops Canada and the current President of the  Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa.

Mark was a friend and colleague to many in the co-operative movement. Along with our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends we have collected the messages that have been shared by many on this blog. Feel free to share your own below in the comments. If you would like to send condolences privately to his wife, Linda O’Neil, her e-mail is linda.oneil@sympatico.ca

Mark’s memorial service will take place at 3:00 p.m. this Sunday February 8 at the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa at 30 Cleary Avenue. [map]


Mark was a gentle, inspirational and creative person.  ‎He was instrumental in building institutional capacity in so many co-operative worlds across business sectors.  He touched people in whatever he did. He was also a voice of steadfast support in the most difficult moments of the creation of CMC. We’ve lost a mentor, a leader and a dear friend.

Denyse Guy, Executive Director of Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada


It’s a very sad day. Mark Goldblatt died suddenly of a heart attack yesterday. Mark was one of my best friends & an extraordinary, generous & visionary human being. He was president of the organization I work for (CWCF) for 14 years, and until his passing was our volunteer Government Relations Officer. The also-too-soon departed Ian MacPherson described Mark to me over 20 years ago as, “one of his heroes.” Without him, the co-op housing movement, worker co-op movement, and I’d argue the entire co-operative movement in this country and beyond, would not be what they are today. I know that you will rest in peace, Mark. My heart goes out to all who knew & loved him. Linda, Alexandra, Colin, April, Greg, Lobie, Maureen, Peter, Alain, Jamie, Reba, Stephen Jessica, Allan, Susan, Rebecca, etc.

Hazel Corcoran, Executive Director, Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation


Mark was a true co-op housing pioneer and leader. He was a visionary whose ideas, such as a pooled investment program, were before their time. It was Mark who first crystalized the resolve and determination of our movement into the phrase ‘Co-op housing never takes no for an answer.

Mark was one of the kindest, most generous people it has been my privilege to know.  He will be greatly missed and long remembered.

Nicholas Gazzard, Executive Director, CHF Canada


Mark was instrumental in putting both CHFT and CHF Canada on a sound financial footing by taking steps to ensure that both federations charged meaningful dues to their members. At CHF Canada, he invented the idea of sector support. It is not an exaggeration to say that CHF Canada and CHFT would not be the organizations they are today if he hadn’t passed through them.

Alexandra Wilson, CEO, Agency for Co-op Housing and former CHF Canada executive director


Mark has been an inspirational leader in the co-op housing movement for the last five decades.   In fact Mark was a founder of this movement.

He mentored new staff like Harvey Cooper and me. He helped to found Co-op Housing Association of Ontario, Rooftops Canada, Colandco, numerous co-ops in Toronto and Ottawa, initiated the first public housing conversion, provided support and encouragement to help found federations and resource groups. Mark did the initial work on the Atkinson Co-op.

Mark was organizer who believed in going out and helping our members.   He believed in people and saw their potential.   He knew co-ops were not perfected and enjoyed get them on the right track.

Tom Clement, Executive Director, CHFT


Mark played an absolutely critical role in launching Rooftops Canada. It was his vision that led to the very strong partnership with CHF Canada including the annual contribution which he felt was necessary to guarantee that we could always have some core staff and operating funds. He will indeed be sorely missed and long remembered.

Barry Pinsky, Executive Director, Rooftops Canada


Mark is the person who talked me into an accidental career in co-op housing during a visit to Saskatoon in 1981.  His contribution to the sector defies measurement.

Mark would not want to be remembered for any individual contribution.  He would simply be happy for our success.  The best way we can thank him is to be even more successful.

Thom Armstrong, Executive Director, CHF BC


A great loss to our movement and to Mark’s many many close friends and admirers. Many of us are both.

Nick Sidor, Director, Corporate Affairs, CHF Canada


Very sad news.

Mark was one of the incorporators of Dufferin Grove Housing Co‑op – my first co‑op client as a very green brand‑new lawyer, back in 1974.

Dufferin Grove was one of the earliest housing co-ops under the then brand-new CMHC co-op housing program.

On the incorporating document he is described as a Community Organizer. Mark continued to be a community organizer for the rest of his life.

We’d met on the Artistic Woodwork picket line the previous fall, where I was volunteering to bail out picketers arrested, and Mark and his friends were there supporting the strikers.

Mark always supported the powerless, and, more than most, understood the potential for the co-operative model to deliver power to the powerless.

We worked closely in the nineteen eighties when the potential for worker co-operative development excited him and many others. He was central to the formation of the Worker Ownership Development Foundation and the resource group Co-operative Work.

We ran across each other a number of times since, but his move to Ottawa led to far less contact.

I, and our sector, will miss his boundless energy and commitment for building a better world.

Brian Iler


I remember the first time I met Mark at a co-op meeting in the 80’s. I was unemployed along with my fellow workers and we were thinking about starting a natural food store which would become The Big Carrot. I knew nothing about co-ops. He was sitting on a couch perhaps at Don Altman’s home, expounding on the possibilities and so excited I wondered “who is this guy” and why is he so passionate?” As I got to know him I could see that he was passionate about everything, about life in general. I asked him to be one of the Board members for Carrot Cache in early 2000 and he dutifully took the train to Toronto four times a year to help us think through this new foundation. He loved the start-up stories and the entrepreneurial spirit of the young people and he always had an opinion.

I really enjoyed knowing Mark and would like it if someone could pass on my condolences and support to his life partner.

Mary Lou


Mark believed passionately in co-operatives and put body and soul into building the sector. His untimely death at a relatively young age is a terrible shock and a great loss to the co-operative sector and to all that knew him. He will be missed!

Jack Quarter

21 thoughts on “Mark Benjamin Goldblatt Memorial Blog”

  1. Mark believed passionately in co-operatives and put body and soul into building the sector. His untimely death at a relatively young age is a terrible shock and a great loss to the co-operative sector and to all that knew him. He will be missed!
    Jack Quarter

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  2. I remember working with Mark when he was with the Canadian Co-operative Association and having several phone calls about supporting co-ops in Saskatchewan. He was always kind, patient and was a great listener. I will always remember Mark and appreciate all the work he did for co-ops in Canada.

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  3. The news of Mark Goldblatt’s death has deeply saddened members of health, wellness and social service co-ops across the country, in fact the whole co-op community. Mark was the epitome of generosity and inspiration in how he shared wisdom, provided practical support and lived out the co-op values. He was the energy and glue that brought health co-ops across Canada together to form our Federation. When we made Mark a life member of the Health Care Co-op Federation, we looked forward to many years of his wisdom and friendship.
    Mark, we will miss you.
    We offer our condolences to Mark’s family and friends.
    Vanessa Hammond
    Chair: on behalf of all members of health, wellness and social service co-ops across Canada.

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  4. In many ways, Mark was my introduction to the intricacies of the co-op movement. When I arrived at CCA in November 2008, we were in temporary offices because of a fire and I was asked to share an office with Mark. Before that, my co-op experience had consisted of membership in MEC and Alterna, and my new office-mate was a wealth of information about anything and everything co-op. I asked him dozens of questions, and he (nearly) always had an answer. As my personal “font of wisdom”, he made my learning curve in the job a whole lot easier.

    My favourite story about Mark involved the Occupy Movement, who had set up camp in Confederation Park in Ottawa. We had recently published a little booklet entitled “The Power of Co-operation”, and Mark came into my office (by then we had moved back to Bank & Somerset) asking for a bundle of them. When I asked what they were for, he said he wanted to bring them to the Occupy folks and talk to them about co-ops as an alternative to the corporate business model. He actually ended up holding mini-workshops on co-ops for the Occupiers at the park – just one little example of his amazing commitment to co-operation.

    I wish I could be in Ottawa for Mark’s memorial, but I now live in Nova Scotia and can’t get away. But I’ll be there in spirit, remembering Mark as a great co-operator and a good friend.

    – Donna Balkan, Communications Manager, Canadian Co-operative Association 2008-2013

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  5. What sad and shocking news, and what a loss for the many communities to which he belonged and contributed. I have known Mark for over thirty years. He was a passionate, inspiring, tenacious and incredibly hard-working advocate for co-ops and for social justice. He has long been a treasured friend, and will be greatly missed. My condolences to Linda and his other family members.

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  6. Mark was one of the first people I met when I joined the co-op movement and I will always remember him for his unbridled passion and absolute glee whenever he was talking about his favorite topic; co-operatives. A lifelong advocate and tireless supporter of democracy, Mark has left his mark in almost every sector of co-operatives in this country from housing to worker, local food, car share, health care, and the list goes on. Regardless of how many barriers he encountered, he didn’t give up, refused to give in, simply persisted until he found a way around them. We have lost a friend, a mentor, and a gentle soul who truly and genuinely cared about people and a just society. You will be missed Mark and always remembered with love and a smile. xoxo

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  7. He’ll grow not old as we that are left grow old.
    Age shall not weary him, nor the years condemn,
    But at the going down of the sun and in the morning,
    We will remember him.

    adapted from Laurence Binyon

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  8. I can’t really say that I ever knew Mark well. That doesn’t mean I didn’t know him or that I didn’t meet him in my various co-operative involvements and in his. He was also a delegate to The Co-operators for a time and I met him there in my capacity as Corporate Secretary. I wasn’t born into the co-operative movement like Mark; I sort of grew into it and Mark was one of those truly inspirational people whose passion made me realize how important co-operatives and the co-operative form of enterprise was and is. Even though we weren’t clsoe friends like many giving comments here were with him, whenever or wherever I saw Mark I made a beeline to say hello and to talk to him—as I knew that he was always on the cutting edge of what was happening in the movement. And he was an asbolute delight to talk to—one of those people who just made you feel good. Loved life, gave everything he had and was devoted to the cooperative movement. I am very saddened to see you go Mark as I am sure that all of my colleagues at The Co-operators who knew you are—God bless you and keep you well on the rest of your journey.

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  9. Mark will be missed. It’s hard to think of him gone. It never occurred to me that such an incredible icon could not still be among us. Rest well and thank-you for paving the road on so many cooperative fronts.

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  10. This is very sad. I have known Mark for many years, we worked closely together on many projects. Mark was a co-op hero and he did not take no for an answer. Mark will be truly missed.

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    1. I am shocked and saddened to hear of Mark’s passing; He became such a good friend and supporter of our family members with developmental disabilities becoming members of the McLean Housing Coop in Ottawa. He was so generous with his time and patience in establishing relationships. A very caring and compassionate person.
      I later had the privilege of working with Mark as a founding board member of the Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa. It was an honour Mark. A great loss to the Cooperative Community across Canada. My condolences to his family and the Cooperatives Family.

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  11. Mark was a childhood friend. His parents and mine were great, great friends and there were many ‘get-togethers’ with Mark and his sisters. So I didn’t really know the professional man who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of so many. I knew the generous, kind and compassionate man who spoke quiet words of support when my mother was ill. We didn’t stay in touch on a regular basis once I left Ottawa – but we were always connected – we were family.

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  12. So sad to hear of Mark’s sudden passing. I had the pleasure to work with Mark when I was Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy with CCA from 2005-2012. I first met Mark when he was a CCA Board member and then worked with Mark on the renewed and expanded Co-operative Development Initiative and on national co-operative development. Mark played a major role in helping establish Health, Funeral and Car-share co-op federations and in helping to start the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Co-operative Development Program which helps fund indigenous co-op start-ups.

    Mark’s experience with national funeral co-ops led him to take the lead in founding the Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa.

    Mark was one of the key founders of the modern Canadian co-operative movement and will be sorely missed.

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  13. Mark was a friend, confidant, and colleague for many years. If my heart was ever heavy or I was ever frustrated with the machinations and politics of the co-op movement or with CCA, he would always lift my spirits and suggest a way forward. He was the kind of person that if you put out a question, he would take it to heart himself , reflect on the issue or challenge to be addressed, and then come back with his thoughts and suggestions all written up . Mark was a philosopher, a pragmatist, the most generous man I knew and the most humble. He was a collaborator and a system builder and often spoke to me about the power of co-op federations. He was instrumental in building and supporting so many federations and associations– from CCA, to CWCF, CHF Canada, to health care and car share federations. The co-operative sector in Canada has a supportive structure thanks to all of Mark’s commitment and vision.

    I often take comfort in a prayer from Archbishop Oscar Romero which I think would have been meaningful to Mark. Here is part of that prayer;

    “We plant the seeds that one day will grow;
    We water the seeds already planted,
    Knowing that they hold future promise,
    We lay foundations that will need further development.

    We provide yeast that produces effects
    Far beyond our capabilities,
    We cannot do everything,
    And there is a sense of liberation in realizing that,
    This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

    It may be incomplete but it is a beginning,
    A step along the way, an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest
    We may never see the end results
    But that is the difference between the Master Builder and the worker.

    We are workers, not Master Builders,
    Ministers, not Messiahs.
    We are prophets of a future not our own”

    Thank you Mark. You are loved and will be deeply missed.

    Carol Hunter
    Guelph

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  14. Mark’s achievement are many and may be recognized in forums across the country over the next while, but I’d like to recognize the man he was:
    A principled leader. Mark’s leadership on CCA board and through his involvement in building the co-op movement demonstrate his deep principles of social justice and co-operative values .
    He left a legacy to follow. ‎Mark was always able to offer a practical co-operative solution to improving communities here and in other countries.
    An influencer. Mark respected opposing views and always found a way to engage with and ultimately influence opposing views.
    He taught us to follow his lead. Perhaps Mark’s biggest legacy is that he did the work, he was tireless starting and strengthening co-ops. He teaches us that improving communities and building co-ops takes work and we need to keep at it.
    Mark will be sorely missed and his influence on co-ops and on us ‎will last for a very long time – I daresay forever.
    Jo-Anne Ferguson
    CCA and CDF

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  15. Le depart de Mark laisse un grand vide dans le mouvement coopératif à la grandeur du Canada . Sa passion et son implication dans le développement des coopérative d’habitation et par la suite dans le développement des coopératives funéraires n’en sont que quelques exemples . Mark est un bâtisseur qui avait la capacité d’allier les valeurs d’entraide de démocratie et de solidarité aux impératifs économiques afin de favoriser le développement des coopératives la la grandeur du Canada ainsi qu’à l’international.
    Il avait cette énergie qui mobilisait les gens qui voulaient contribuer à la l’amélioration de notre société .
    Merci Mark , tu vas me manquer mon ami .

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  16. Bon voyage à un homme généreux de ses idées et de son temps! Pour avoir siégé avec Mark à l’Initiative de développement coopératif pendant 5 ou 6 ans, je me souviendrai d’un ami avec qui j’aimais partager! Merci Mark! Condoléances à toute sa famille!

    Francine Ferland

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  17. I met Mark in the mid-1970’s. I was a NASCO director and very involved in food co-operatives in Toronto and the Universities and Colleges Credit Union (now known as Alterna Savings and Credit Union). I was totally frustrated because I had been turned down for membership in a downtown housing co-operative. Mark assured me that another co-op in the neighbourhood was being developed and he would get me in. I have been forever grateful to him for my life at Church Isabella Residents Co-operative. A co-operative that he developed when he was involved with the Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto.

    From time to time I have run into Mark even when he moved to Ottawa as our co-op lives crossed – he as a tireless employee/consultant and me as a volunteer. As recently as a few months ago Mark e-mailed about the Ottawa Funeral Co-op and its struggles. As others have said he contributed in so many different ways and was at the forefront of so many initiatives.

    I just can’t believe he is gone.

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  18. my sympathies to Mark’s friends and family. I met Mark
    when he was helping my coop resolve a most perplexing
    problem with two very negative members. Mark solved
    it in one fell swoop. We, the members of Coop d’Habitation
    Voisins will always be grateful to him for that. rest in peace
    Mark.
    Jeff Gravelle

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  19. Thank you to all who have so generously shared their memories of Mark and offered condolences. It means so much to me to have your appreciations of his contribution to the co-op world, which he loved so much, and also of his character and sweet personality. When Mark and I wrote our wills we also wrote personal “testaments of gratitude” to thank the people and organizations that had made such a difference in our lives, and to acknowledge the opportunities with which we have been so richly blessed. Mark expressed his with a grace and intimacy I will always treasure. I’d like to share the last part of Mark’s testament where he wrote about his vision of the co-op movement and the friends that stood beside him and worked to fulfill it.
    Fondly, Linda

    “Although not a person, I wish to thank the co-op movement that has given direction and purpose to my life. I know it is customary for people with my kind of life to hope that they leave the world a bit better than they found it but I have been more ambitious. I wanted to create that better world on a sustainable basis. I don’t think there is any future for mankind unless we build institutions of mutual assistance to guide and unite us in our day-to-day lives. Co-operatives are better than any institution I know to get this job done. In particular I want to thank all my friends that I have met through the co-op movement making life rich even as we struggled to realize our dreams.

    “As you can see, I feel I have been surrounded by friends throughout my life. I feel their arms around me and my life has been complete.”

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