Activist, union leader and arts supporter Leo Cheverie dies at 60

A lifelong defender of social justice and beloved supporter of the Island arts community, Leo Cheverie, has died. (Kevin Yarr/CBC - image credit)
A lifelong defender of social justice and beloved supporter of the Island arts community, Leo Cheverie, has died. (Kevin Yarr/CBC - image credit)

Leo Cheverie, a long-time advocate for fairness and equity on Prince Edward Island, has died at age 60.

Whether supporting the labour movement, social justice, or the arts community, Cheverie was a familiar face in many crowds.

"I have time for making sure that if there are things out there that need to be done, I can raise awareness about all sorts of issues. I'm always happy to do that," Cheverie said in an August interview with CBC.

He was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in spring of 2022.

NDP candidate and supporter

The New Democratic Party of Prince Edward Island, for which Cheverie ran as a candidate in number of elections, expressed deep sadness following his passing Thursday.

"Leo stood out in the crowd for his passion and advocacy for many causes including the Labour movement, environment and Indigenous issues, proportional representational and social justice," the party's statement read.

person at a podium
person at a podium

Leo Cheverie addessing a democratic reform town hall in Charlottetown in 2016. (Stephanie Brown/CBC)

Cheverie graduated from the University of Prince Edward Island in 1984 and began working in the library the year after — a post he held until recently.

A supporter of electoral reform on P.E.I., Cheverie advocated for the adoption of proportional representation.

Following his diagnosis, Cheverie became a proponent of colorectal cancer screening.

"The best thing is early detection," said Cheverie in August. "Be aware that it is very treatable in its early stages."

His father's guitar and fiddle playing planted a seed that blossomed into a love for music, he said.

"Music has always been part of my life and has always been highly valued," Cheverie said.

"It's been one of the things I've always turned to. Something that's always lifted me up."

Growing up, his family valued giving back to the community, he said. "I guess I blame my mother," who was an activist and involved in community service, he said.

He served as president of CUPE Local 1870 for more than a decade until 2015 and was once president of the P.E.I. Federation of Labour.

"I just want to do it because I want to make P.E.I. better and stronger and a more progressive place," he said of his activism in the 2022 interview.

'Be present, completely in the present'

An outpouring of support followed news of Cheverie's illness. A GoFundMe campaign raised more than $28,000 to help him offset costs.

He studied history, philosophy and politics in university and said it probably shaped how he viewed life.

"We learn from the past to move forward into the future," he said.

"Be present, completely in the present. So that we are completely understanding where we are, and really enjoying … every sunset."