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TWUC co-founder Heather Robertson dies at 72

Heather Robertson (photo: Aaron Marshall)

Heather Robertson, a novelist, journalist, and co-founder of The Writers’ Union of Canada, passed away on March 19, her 72nd birthday, after a battle with cancer.

Born in Winnipeg in 1942, Robertson began her writing career as a reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press in the 1960s, helping pave the way for women journalists to leave the “women’s pages.” In 1970, she published her first book, Reservations Are for Indians (Lorimer), an investigation into the conditions of Canadian First Nations reserves. A decade later, she received the Books in Canada First Novel Award for Willie: A Romance (Lorimer), based on former Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King.

In 1995, Robertson launched a lawsuit against The Globe and Mail when she learned she would not be compensated for her freelance articles held on the corporation’s electronic databases. The Supreme Court suit resulted in a multi-million dollar settlement, and was among the first in Canada on the subject of intellectual rights protection on the Internet.

Freelance writer David Hayes remembers Robertson on the National Magazine Awards Foundation blog: “Robertson was a muckracker whose reforming spirit animated much of her work and her life.” The NMAF honoured Robertson in 2011 with its Outstanding Achievement Award.

Robertson is survived by her husband Andrew Marshall, who lives in King City, Ontario, and their two children.