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'The Rankin File': Upcoming Doc Spotlights COPE Co-founder's Radical Legacy

BC film charts Harry Rankin's rise within Vancouver's political scene.

Submitted by Tyee staff, 3 Feb 2016


New trailer coming soon.

He's been called remarkable, legendary, once-in-a-lifetime. He's also been called vulgar, egotistical and a communist.

Such is the legacy of Harry Rankin, a Vancouver lawyer, longtime city councilor and icon of B.C. politics. Now he's the subject of a forthcoming documentary The Rankin File: Legacy of a Radical, which recently launched a crowdfunding campaign.

Rankin was born in Vancouver in 1920 and earned his law degree at the University of British Columbia. He's been known as a champion of the underdog ever since -- a self-described socialist -- from legal battles to debates at city hall. He helped form Vancouver's left-wing civic party COPE (Coalition of Progressive Electors) and fought for many First Nations clients including Fred Quilt in 1971, who was allegedly beaten to death by RCMP officers.

Rankin ran for Vancouver city council 11 times before he was finally elected in 1966. He was never elected mayor, losing to Gordon Campbell in 1986, but served on council for over 25 years. He passed away in 2002 at age 81 from a heart attack.

The film is written, directed and produced by Teresa Alfeld, and draws on interviews with longtime East Vancouver MP Libby Davies, COPE co-chair Tim Louis, former premier Gordon Campbell and more. Rankin’s voice lends a constant presence from an unfinished film shot for his 1986 mayoral campaign.

In death, as in life, Harry gets the last word.

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