People Profiles

Bob Everton, PhD, Communication

November 11, 2015

In September of 1973, Dr. Bob Everton was one of thousands of Chileans and foreign nationals who were detained at Santiago’s National Stadium as part of Pinochet's coup. Everton barely escaped the firing squad. 

According to Carmen Aguirre, Everton’s stepdaughter and author of Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter, the experience shaped the rest of his life. 

“Bob never expected to escape the stadium alive — and he wouldn't have if the Canadian embassy's cultural attaché hadn't intervened. The fact that he did survive solidified his commitment to supporting the Chilean resistance movement and countless Chileans in the Vancouver community,” says Aguirre. 

Everton was recognized locally and internationally as a tireless social and political activist. He completed a PhD at SFU's School of Communication, where he also worked as a sessional instructor, in 2003. He passed away from a heart attack in 2004.

Everton's work helped to create compassionate government at home and abroad regardless of the risk to his life. Following his return to Canada from Chile, Everton organized a cross-Canada caravan to Ottawa’s Parliament Hill.

“They held a sit-in and succeeded in pressuring Trudeau to give asylum to Chilean refugees. It was the first time Canada had done that for a ‘third world’ country with a right-wing dictatorship,” says Aguirre.

But Everton wasn’t done yet.

Posing with Aguirre, her mother and sister as a typical middle-class family, Everton returned to South America to run a safe house for political dissidents during the Pinochet regime.

“We were living in Bolivia and running a safe haven for dissenters who were coming and going from Chile. Bob mapped and guided people through one of the driest deserts on earth — by foot. If he had been caught, he would have been lucky if he was only shot,” says Aguirre.

After they moved back to Canada, Everton continued his activist work, supporting nearly any cause that asked for his help. Aguirre says that the evidence of Everton’s impact on the Vancouver community was apparent at his funeral.

“There were hundreds of people there and it was a complete cross-section of society. Zapatistas, feminists, students, First Nations, Palestinians, Iranians — they were all there because he had contributed to their movements," she says.

One of the people Everton affected was Dr. Enda Brophy. Brophy, now an assistant professor with SFU’s School of Communication, was an undergraduate student when he first met the tireless teacher and activist.

“I took Bob’s Political Economy of Communication course, and the experience was truly transformative. Bob taught us about politics and economics, and how crucial they were to understanding the media. He really encouraged me to keep exploring,” he says.

Brophy explains that Everton’s commitment and passion to not only talking about, but also living the subject he taught, inspired him to pursue a career in the discipline.

“My last memory of Bob is running into him at the Quebec Summit of the Americas in 2001. I had spent all day there in the heat being teargassed and was on my way to take a bus back to Ottawa but Bob grabbed me and said ‘C’mon, we’re going back to the fence!’” he says. 

In addition to the School of Communication’s still-vibrant focus on political economy, Brophy explains that Everton’s legacy lives on in his own teaching practice.

“Fifteen years later, I’m now teaching the same courses I once took with Bob. I try and transmit to my students the same encouragement and enthusiasm that I learned from him about the importance of understanding and changing the world,” he says.  

Author: Jackie Amsden

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