Remembering Robin Breon

BE | December 2023 | Issue No. 5

Robin Breon: Anti-racism and human rights advocate, and dear friend.

Refugee Next Door Committee (L-R): Maureen O’Reilly, Abdi Hagi Yusuf, Miguel Lima, Sharon Simpson, Robin Breon, Faduma Mohamed, David Rapaport

Robin was an integral member of the Refugee Next Door campaign committee since it was first established in 2019. He provided direction and invaluable input in fighting racism against refugees.

As part of the committee, Robin took part in creating the Refugees in Canada: Facts and Myths presentation which was shown at the Canadian Labour Congress convention. In 2022, the presentation also received the Fighting Oppression Award from the Canadian Association of Labour Media (CALM).

Robin's dedication to positive change was always apparent, rarely missing a meeting, sharing current news on refugee issues happening within the GTA and in Canada, and taking on opportunities to meet with MPs to discuss the prioritization of equal treatment of refugees in Canada. 

We will always remember Robin's kind presence and thank him for his years of support and friendship.

Post from the Toronto Star

BREON, ROBIN H. "Pursue your drafts and one day you will realize your dreams." Robin (Robert H.)

Breon passed away November 23, 2023 after a brief illness. Robin chose to make his home in Toronto and happily lived and worked in the city for more than four decades. He was an active participant in many fields with a lifetime of devotion to family, friends, and social justice.

Robin grew up in State College, Pennsylvania, a university town, where he made lifelong friends. Among these were members of the band, Robin and the Hoods, which won the 1966 World Rock 'n' Roll Champions competition. It was in State College where he began his love of drama while participating with his family in community theatre.

Following his undergraduate degree in theatre and communications, a scholarship took him to an MFA program at Stanford University. But he took an alternative journey by joining Margrit Roma's New Shakespeare Company in San Francisco that played in parks and prisons. Robin both acted and administered the theatre, organizing a national U.S. tour.

Later, Robin completed a Masters of Education from Lehigh University's Social Restoration Program after which he taught drama at Abington Friends School in Pennsylvania.

In 1981, Robin returned to live permanently in Toronto after a brief time living there in the early 1970s. Then he served as arts critic for Guerilla, the city's "underground" newspaper and in 1972 became a founding member of the Toronto Drama Bench, nominated by Globe and Mail critic, Herbert Whittaker. For much of the 1980s, he worked as administrator for Black Theatre Canada with founder Vera Cudjo.

As a playwright, he authored The African Roscius (Being the Life and Times of Ira Aldridge), produced by Black Theatre Canada at the Alumnae Theatre in 1986. Later in his career, Robin served as administrator and internship coordinator for University of Toronto's Museum Studies Program. He also taught arts journalism for the U of T's School of Continuing Studies. During this time, he served proudly as Vice President of Steelworkers of Canada Local 1998.

Most recently, Robin was an executive board member of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association, Toronto Labour Council's Refugee Support Committee, a veteran for Chilean and South African solidarity, and writer for his Aisle Say Toronto website.

His large circle of friends spanned the globe and he is deeply mourned by them, his wife, Joan Simalchik; sister, Barbara Anthony; and godsons, Camilo Lanfranco-Sagaris and Daniel Lanfranco-Sagaris. He will be remembered for his generosity, the fragrant delivery of morning cappuccinos, his mischievous smile, skilled rhetoric and ability to blend strategy with humour. Donations in his memory may be made to the Actors Fund of Canada.

Published online December 9, 2023

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