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Last Mac-Pap dead at 97

Jules Paivio, a retired architect and educator, who made his home in Sudbury for many years, has died at the age of 96 in Aurora.
The Paivio family gathered in Ottawa at the memorial to the Canadian veterans of the Spanish civil war with the Spanish Ambassador to Canada, Eudaldo Mirapeix, in the back middle. Supplied photo.

Jules Paivio, a retired architect and educator, who made his home in Sudbury for many years, has died at the age of 96 in Aurora.

A lifelong activist, he was the last living Canadian veteran of the Mackenzie-Papineau (Mac-Paps) Battalion who went to Spain to fight fascism during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. He was 19 at the time.

Canada was officially neutral regarding the Spanish conflict and the government was suspicious of the Canadians who went to Spain to fight with republicans and communists against the army led by Gen. Francisco Franco. The Spanish army received support from Germany and Italy.

The civil war is now considered a dress rehearsal for the Second World War, and in recent times, the men and women who went to Spain, have been given an official place in the history books. Most, like Paivio, remained social activists and pacifists for the rest of their lives.

After narrowly escaping a firing squad and living in a POW camp for more than a year, Paivio returned to Canada on the eve of the Second World War. He enlisted in the Canadian army but was not allowed to go overseas. He remained in Canada during the war teaching soldiers at CFB Petawawa.

Later he studied architecture at Ryerson in Toronto, eventually becoming chair of the department.

He practised architecture in Sault Ste. Marie and Mattawa. In his later years, he moved to Sudbury where he had many friends and was active in the Finnish-Canadian community.

Paivio lobbied tirelessly to get the Canadian government to honour and recognize the Mac-Paps contributions to democracy. He spearheaded a campaign to have a national monument to the 1,600 Canadians who served in the Spanish Civil War erected at Green Island Park on Sussex Drive in Ottawa.

Many of the people who went to Spain were like Paivio, of Finnish descent. In 2011, Paivio was given Spanish citizenship for his contributions to that country’s fight for democracy in the late 1930s. He returned to Spain several times during his lifetime.

Paivio was born in Port Arthur but grew up in Sudbury. His father, Aku, was a respected journalist and poet.

A memorial will be held Saturday, Sept. 28 at Finlandia Village at 2 p.m.