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Dr. Parzival Copes

Biographical information

Dr. Parzival Copes was born in Naskup, British Columbia, and earned a BA in economics and political science at the University of British Columbia in 1949 and an MA in economics from UBC the following year. In 1956, he graduated from the London School of Economics (University of London) with a PhD in economics.

Dr. Copes' connection with Memorial began in 1957 when he came to establish the university's Economics Department. In 1961 he helped create Memorial's Institute of Social and Economic Research which had a profound impact on the social and political development of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in the succeeding decade.

In 1964, he went to the newly-founded Simon Fraser University where he established and ran its Department of Economics and Commerce, created Canada's first executive MBA program, and the Centre for Canadian Studies and the Institute of Fisheries Analysis.

It was his 1972 work on the fishery that earned him fame in this province. In that study, unambiguously titled The Resettlement of Fishing Communities in Newfoundland, he explained what would happen if there was not some balance between economic growth and resource extraction. Dr. Copes continues to work on the problems of the fishery - on both coasts and across the Pacific. While working with colleagues at Memorial, he serves on the Fisheries Advisory Group for aboriginal treaty negotiations and on the advisory panel of the Pacific Coast Sustainable Fisheries Society.

Dr. Copes has been recognized around the globe for his academic work. In 1991, he was named Emeritus Professor of Economics at Simon Fraser University, and in 1992 he was named a Fellow of the Academy of Natural Sciences of the Russian Federation and an honorary life member of Simon Fraser University Faculty Association. He was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Tromsø, Norway in 1993, and was the first recipient of the Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy, Simon Fraser University in 1994.

Oration honouring Dr. Parzival Copes
Given by Shane O'Dea, Public orator

The study of fisheries economics and management is one that is essential to us in both Newfoundland and in Labrador. Before you stands a man who has made a most significant contribution to the development of that discipline, a member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and recipient of the Distinguished Service Award of the International Institute of Fisheries. More than that, he was the founder of our Economics Department and of our Institute of Social and Economic Research. That institute was a major force in the reconception, redirection and remaking of Newfoundland at the end of the last century. But, Chancellor, there is some small problem for us. After years of honouring Newfoundlanders who celebrated the outport in their scholarship, their art and their writings, it is a most curious thing to see their antithesis on this stage. To honour Parzival Copes is to honour he who is believed to be the chief apologist for resettlement, the very man who justified the abandonment of what we have been wont to call our soul, he who not only argued for the government program but went far further than any government was prepared to do and proposed a major outmigration.

We could create a wonderful medieval tableau here, a perverse triptych for the 20th century. Let it be composed in this fashion: in one panel we would have our painter, Gerry Squires, armed with a paintbrush, in the other our satirist, Ray Guy, armed with a pen. In the centre, lashed to a flake, a Newfoundland fisher over whom stands, flogging the poor fisher with numerous reports on individual transferable quotas, economic efficiencies and adjacency access rights, the good Dr. Copes.

Chancellor, you who have some sense of the fishery from the underside of a flake and a better sense of economics from the dark side of a dollar, may well find this triptych unsuitable for our convocation. But sir, what you and your audience must realize is that this disturbing icon is a mere mirror of the view held of Parzival Copes for a generation. In 1971 the Evening Telegram compared resettlement to the Nazi's relocation of the Jews; a comparison which, as Patrick O'Flaherty has pointed out, was completely inappropriate in light of Copes' involvement in the Dutch anti-Nazi resistance. Copes was also the subject of a ballad which says he proposed moving great numbers of Newfoundlanders: "one half of this horrible lot to/ heave them to pickle in Canada's pot/ …[to become] part of the devil's own plan/ And be boxed off like codfish to some foreign land".

When, a generation later, the Telegram said Copes had had "the last laugh," it was a muffled retraction of their former view. The editorialists and the composers of this ode, "The Rubber-Boot Brigade," as one Townie wag described them, had only dipped shallowly into Copes' work. Copes had analyzed the Newfoundland situation very thoroughly during his time here at Memorial from 1957 to 1964. He did a major report on the economic prospects of St. John's and Newfoundland in 1961, delivered his outmigration proposal to the Learned Societies at Memorial in 1971 (a brave man to walk into the jaws of the lion). In the years since he has become engaged in the West Coast and Pacific fisheries, but continues to work on or in relation to our concerns. A long-time believer in a balanced approach to fishery-based economies, Copes' resettlement report made clear that he was well aware of attachment to place, well aware that "income [was] not the only consideration in where one chooses to live," and stated that his study was being conducted "in cognizance of realistic constraints regarding social needs … not quantifiable in economic terms." In more recent work, in his very active retirement, he has said that fisheries policy must be based on three pillars: biological sustainability, economic efficiency and social equity. This is a man who has argued for the adjacency principle: that local populations must have first right of access to a fishery; who has argued against individual transferable quotas, the byproducts of which include the ceding of rights to large corporations and the encouragement of resource wastage.

Forty years ago he left us for a distinguished career at Simon Fraser, a university created to promote debate. Should we be surprised, then, to learn that when Simon Fraser created a prize for controversy, Parzival Copes was its first recipient? Chancellor, I present to you for the degree of doctor of letters, honoris causa, a man with a tongue unstilled, but still in the service of truth, Parzival Copes.

Address to convocation

My first task in addressing you, Memorial's graduating students in October 2004, is to congratulate you most heartily and sincerely for your hard work and achievements that now entitle you to honour and recognition as graduates of Memorial University in your respective programs. As a fellow graduand on this occasion, I am proud to join you. I remember almost half a century ago - in 1957 - when I for the first time met with students at Memorial University. Memorial was a relatively new and small university, with but 700 or 800 students. But I had deliberately pursued an appointment at Memorial, rather than at any larger, more prestigious and better known institution. This was much to the puzzlement of my professional colleagues in central Canada, but not to me. I had always been attracted to less usual, more adventurous and more challenging circumstances. Newfoundland and Labrador appealed to me: the newest part of Canada, but the oldest site of European venture in northern North America. I felt that nowhere else would I find an institution of higher learning with a more intense commitment to learning and personal development, to which I could make a more satisfying contribution in the academic advancement of this country.

I have not been disappointed. Memorial University gave me the opportunity to become part of the intellectual and professional core on which this province depended for its advancement. The circumstances in which academic development here is now taking place have improved vastly. Around you now, you see the largest and most comprehensively developed centre of higher learning in Atlantic Canada. Of this you are a part, to this you have the privilege to contribute, and from this you may dray advantage in your own development. In this venture I wish you all great personal success.