Copes made a lasting contribution

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Dear Editor: My earliest and most vivid recollections of Parzival Copes centre around my deep struggles while doing an economics course from him during what was for me the tumultuous university year of 1963-64.

Although I applied myself as diligently as possible to the study of a subject that was fairly familiar and accessible to me, my battles with personal matters at the time led to my being given a lowly and decidedly unimpressive grade of D on the final exam in that course.

Dr. Copes was a notoriously tough marker, and I may have been lucky to even pass the exam, as I feared that I had failed it immediately after writing this rather challenging paper.

The next group of memories I have of Dr. Copes are not much more benign or inspiring. About 1999, I heard on television that he was reiterating his belief that Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy could not sustain its present population of 500,000 and that some resettlement to the mainland was called for.

I disagreed with this view, as I have come to the conclusion that our province’s natural resources are such that, if properly managed, can support up to a million residents.

By the way, I also believe that the present population explosion of the world is not as ominous as generally thought, because my research and thinking has yielded the notion that the total natural resources and food supply of our planet can support at least 10 billion people.

There just has to be large-scale improvement in the productivity of the world’s workers as well as fairer distribution of our food and other vital commodities — such as energy — and of the world’s wealth in general.

Dr. Copes was born in the Netherlands in 1924 and — this is a fact that surprised me  — he spent some time in a German prison camp during the Second World War. I do not know precisely what camp it was, nor the degree of harsh living conditions he had to endure (as you know, the Nazi concentration camps all involved immeasurable and unimaginable horrors and suffering) but he made a remarkable escape from his captors in 1944.

Also, with marvelous good fortune, he soon met up with a contingent of the Canadian army that was proceeding across Europe at the time, and he actually got a job with them as a translator.

I had never heard of this fact of Copes’ life before, but he must be eternally grateful that he even survived the greatly punishing deprivations of a prison camp and that he was soon also blessed by his rising to become one of Canada’s leading intellectuals for many years.

Dr. Copes came to Memorial University in 1957 and taught economics until 1964.

During that time, his exceptional intellectual powers and extensive knowledge led him to found a department of the university geared to intensive economic and social research.

He directed notably comprehensive and scholarly study of all aspects of Newfoundland’s economy ... especially the fishery and its implications for workers and residents of the province in general.

He also undertook the establishment of a similar agency in British Columbia when he moved there in the late 1960s.

He has built quite a high reputation for himself as a pre-eminent scholar and has to this day maintained a prominent role as a consultant and speaker on economic, social, and cultural matters.

His current age of 90 does not seem to have diminished his academic vision or his industriousness  at all.

My early impressions of Dr. Copes are, for the reasons stated at the beginning, somewhat ambivalent, but overall I hold a substantive and lasting admiration for his life and work.

He has made clearly creative , intrinsic and enduring contributions to the well-being and progress of our province and of our nation.

Lloyd Bonnell, Corner Brook

Organizations: Dear Editor

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Netherlands, Europe Canada British Columbia Corner Brook

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