The Canadian Media Guild is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our brother, friend and colleague Keith Maskell.
As a union, we are dedicated to the proposition that work has value and workers are vital. Our mission is rooted in a recognition of the humanness and humanity of workers.
We likewise celebrate and cherish Canadian Media Guild staff members. Our union has a small paid staff that is tasked with supporting and guiding members and elected member-representatives across the country.
Keith was an exemplar of dedication to fellow CMG members during his many years as a CMG workplace-based activist and later during 16 years at our union office as a CMG Staff Representative.
On behalf of our union, I have offered our deepest condolences to Keith’s family.
Keith’s niece, Nicole Riva, has asked that I share the following: “We’ve been overwhelmed by all the messages and memories that have been shared with us in the last week, many of which have been from CMG members. We are comforted to know how much his work was appreciated.”
Details for a memorial will come at a later date. We will share this information when it becomes available.
Please see words of tribute and respect, below, from some of those who worked with Keith at CMG and knew him best.
With warm regards, and in solidarity,
National President, Canadian Media Guild
Keith Maskell was that rare blend of intellect and compassion. As a volunteer and ultimately as a staff rep for the Canadian Media Guild he was always in it for the right reasons. His focus was on the members and their struggles. During his time with CMG there was no task too difficult or complicated for him to tackle. Working effectively in both official languages, Keith created solid relationships built on honesty, good humour and hard work. But more than all of that, he was a great friend. He was gifted with a wonderful mind and a sharp wit and spending time with him at work or over a beer was always enjoyable. He made all around him better people. Our Brother Keith will be sorely missed. – Dan Oldfield, Former CMG Senior Staff Representative
Keith was a friend, colleague and the person who first got me involved with the CMG. We worked together on the executive in Edmonton where he showed me the ropes of navigating the difficult path of advocating for members while attaining the best possible result from management. Keith was humorous, fair and really knew his stuff. When he was a CMG staffer, it was comforting to know he always had our backs. – Kim Trynacity, Prairie Director, CMG CBC Branch Executive, and Vice-President, CMG CBC/Radio-Canada Edmonton Local Executive
Keith could be a stubborn, insistent man — attributes that paid dividends when he was battling an adversary on behalf of Guild members. But Keith also had a soft heart, something that was hidden from most who did not know him. He also loved his family, his close friends and his music. I am shocked and saddened at his passing and will miss him terribly. – Terry Pedwell – President, CMG Canadian Press Branch
Keith was one of the first people I met from the Guild office. I was hired to replace him in communications so that he could devote all of his time to representing members and he was on the hiring committee. I came into the union at a tense time – in the midst of a major conflict with CBC management that would lead to the 2005 lockout – and Keith was unfailingly kind, encouraging and generous with his time and knowledge. It was largely because of his support that I found a place for myself at the Guild in the early days. And I think a lot of people share that experience with me.
He was always there to give a hand, an ear, an appropriate collective agreement or labour law article, an analysis, a joke or a piece of computer hardware. He’d always read the manual and had a knack for coming up with the appropriate Homer Simpson reference for most situations. His photographic and aural memory and his love of bylaws, contracts, technology, popular culture and music made him a sure source of most information you’d need at a union office on any given day. It also helped make union work approachable for the dozens of new activists that he worked with in union training courses, bargaining committees and union executives.
Keith knew when a co-worker needed a proper lunch break, a word of encouragement or congratulation, a moment to vent or a stiff drink. He stepped up for difficult discussions with management. He helped countless people get the recognition and pay they deserve and worked especially hard for the freelancers who so often are out there with the most modest of safety nets.
I like to think Keith embodied the best of Prairie co-operation and solidarity. Like many others, I could never figure out exactly how he learned such perfect French in Saskatoon. He liked to talk about his family and was so proud of his mom and siblings. My heart goes out to them at this sad time. I hope they can take the same comfort in their memories of him as I do in mine. – Karen Wirsig, CMG Organizer and Staff Representative
When I came into the Guild, I found myself at the door of Keith’s office on more than one occasion seeking guidance with a historical fact about a given bargaining unit, or a question about language in a CA or strategies in dealing with a difficult case — and he always gave his time willingly with wisdom and humour. – Terri Monture, CMG Staff Representative
It’s so hard to accept that Keith is gone because he was so full of life. He loved jazz, fast cars, good food and wine – and really good scotch. Reading the tributes, I see all the things that made us love him. He was so generous with his time, his knowledge, and his money (as witnessed by his tipping practice). In a business with its’ share of egos and control freaks, Keith was neither. He had the ability to defuse a meltdown (deep breaths dear, Om) even when you wanted to smack him; and, he understood when you needed a laugh, a hug, or a drink or two over which to vent. And yes, he did read the manuals. Keith was a true colleague and I loved him like a brother. We need to hold these fond memories close in these dark days. Farewell darlin’. – Kathy Viner – Former CMG Staff Representative
While Keith worked with CMG he held the ‘freelance portfolio’, as we liked to call it. And since I was the Freelance Branch president for all that time, we worked together frequently on individual cases for members and also bargained the freelance article in the collective agreement with CBC several times. He always kept the best interests of the member in mind, and quickly became the ‘go-to’ advice person when we launched the Independent Membership of the Branch, with an unrivalled expertise in contract language and an uncanny ability to come up with examples of how things work in other parts of life, and how that should apply to freelance contracts. I deeply regret his early passing. – Don Genova – President, CMG Freelance Branch
We both joined the Guild as Reps. back in 2000. No matter how busy Keith was, there was never a time when Keith was not available to me. Whether it was to share a Union issue or to lend his vast knowledge and understanding of how one should proceed. He was a very good listener and always saw the good in all sides. Something I greatly admired in Keith. It was my pleasure to have known him and experience the full extent of his gift to help people whom he greatly cared for throughout this country. Did I also mention that he loved a good joke and shared plenty? – Gerry Whelan, Former CMG Staff Representative
Over the years, Keith became a valued mentor and friend. I imagine him playing a gig at some great jazz club in the sky. At CBC/SRC Edmonton, where he spent a good chunk of the 1990s working as a French Services journalist, we mourn our colleague whose wit and intellect were truly memorable and offer our condolences to all who are grieving. – Marianne Malo Chenard – President, CMG CBC/Radio-Canada Edmonton Local Executive
When we tied ourselves in knots over rules and bylaws Keith calmly unravelled the mess with rational and sound advice, pointing out that the rules of order and bylaws were there to get things done, they were not cudgels. It was all about the members – not scoring points. And he did this with the sweetest smile. – Michael D’Souza – Former CMG CBC Branch Vice-President
A friend has left us!
Keith was always ready to lend a hand, no matter what the situation was.
A true gentleman! – Dominique Delisle, CMG President, CBC/Radio-Canada Winnipeg
As Guild legal counsel I had the pleasure of working with Keith many times on many cases. He was, as others have said, such a great combination of really smart and really fun, with a fast wit, eclectic interests, eclectic skills, easy manner and a big big heart. Gone way too soon. – Sean FitzPatrick, Cavalluzzo LLP
Keith had so many skills – and brought wit and intelligence to so many difficult files. In particular, he played a huge role in developing our union’s unique ability to represent and advance the issues facing freelancers, at CBC and elsewhere. Keith seemed to relish complex problems that had no easy answers. His ability to learn French fluently — as an adult, born in Saskatchewan — is another example of someone with an aptitude to take on whatever he wanted. Though he was no longer with the Guild when he died, I know many of us were comforted knowing he was just a phone call away if we needed advice. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case and I know many of us are feeling a great loss. – Lise Lareau – Former CMG National President