Libby Davies | Outside In: A Political MemoirReviewed by: Cindy Critchley
Biography Brief: Libby Davies is well known to most Canadians for her work on social justice, both inside parliament and out on the streets, for more than four decades. Her aptly titled memoir, Outside In, is both a political and personal story of Davies’ forty years of work at the intersection of politics and social movements.
Libby began working as a community organizer in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in 1972, and spent the next 45 plus years working to improve the lives of those living in her community.
Libby fell in love with community activist, Bruce Eriksen (25 years her senior) and they were devoted partners for the next 24 years. They had one son, Lief. Libby and Bruce were key figures in the founding of the Downtown Eastside Residents Association.
Libby was elected to Vancouver City Council for 5 consecutive terms beginning in 1982, and in 1997 she was elected the Member of Parliament representing Vancouver East for the NDP. During that election campaign, she was also dealing with great personal tragedy – Bruce was dying. Shortly after his death and while still trying to come to terms with her grief, Libby spent her first night in Ottawa with only a mattress on the floor of her new apartment and a pair of sheets. At first she felt like an imposter, but she gradually found her way in the complicated world of federal politics, using the skills she’d learned on the Downtown Eastside to form alliances and build bridges. She became well known for her grassroots approach to working with diverse communities, her grasp of information, and her work ethic. She followed a brutal schedule, flying back to her son and her constituency often. Libby continued to advocate for those most vulnerable in her community (drug users, sex workers, and the homeless), even when she was also filling the busy role of house leader for the NDP.
Outside In is both a political and personal memoir, filled with interesting anecdotes. This is a compelling story of effective activism and Canadian politics from an insider’s perspective. It is also the personal story of a strong and resilient woman. Outside In is a reminder that passionate individuals working together can make change happen.