In Memory of Frances

MACQUEEN, Frances (Chico) Mary
April 2, 1947-November 26, 2011

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Frances MacQueen in Santa
Ana, El Salvador this past weekend. An early leader in the humanrights movement in Vancouver, she served as the former chair of Amnesty International BC and a founder and Executive Director of the Vancouver Association for the Survivors of Torture (VAST) for twenty years.

Frances first came to Canada from England in the 70s, after having travelled widely and been involved in some of the more salient political movements of the day.  Bringing her convictions for human rights and social justice to Vancouver, her refugee advocacy and support work saw her working to support countless individuals from almost every conceivable corner of the globe.

After leaving VAST in 2007, and successfully combating lung cancer, she was led south to El Salvador, where she established a new organization (ASST) dedicated to combating impunity and demanding redress for survivors of political violence.  Her death was sudden and comes as a shock to us all.

Frances will be remembered as a strong and hopeful person.  Some will recall her
as a fighter, others as a mother and nurturer and still others as a shrewd political thinker.  Ultimately, however she was a survivor, and she did that by pushing her own humanity, by fighting, by believing in goodness and by striving to push beyond what was acceptable to the “status quo”.

Should she be reading this, she would welcome positive thoughts, feelings and prayers. We would like to thank her for all that she sacrificed, all she fought for and against (even when it challenged us and her) as well as all that she loved, provided for, nurtured and created.

The Future we can create if we recall her in our hearts, minds and souls would be a hopeful world and we should remind ourselves of that hope in our time of grief.

Her family would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of support and love and encouragement.  The story above remains incomplete, as there would be too much to place here in words.  Instead we encourage you to remember that each of you are a part of that story and we encourage you to leave your memories, remarks and thoughts below.

 In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Asociación Salvadoreña Sobrevivientes de la Tortura (ASST). 

A memorial for Frances will be held in the New Year (2012). 

For information about making a donation to ASST, attending the memorial or to pass on private thoughts to Frances’ family, please contact

Para leer los sentimientos dus sus companeros en America Latina:

Thoughts in Farsi from Shahrvand newspaper:

44 thoughts on “In Memory of Frances

  1. I love you Frances.

    You gave me so much love and care – I will never forget. You were happy when I am doing well and very supportive when I needed you. I miss you a lot. I still cannot believe you will not answer the phone anymore when I call you. I will always remember and cherish your voice, smile, and your massive good heart. I feel happy and lucky you have been part of my life journey. You will be always in my heart. I do not know how to express my appreciation for everything you have done for my sister and me and most importantly for your genuine love and care. Thank you for leaving with us Sarah – I love her like my sister.

    I love you Frances


  2. Taking a long time to say something here. As someone else has said to write a message on this memorial page is to accept Frances is no longer around. I will miss the woman who vibrated with life and took in so much from what she saw around her that others only could catch a small glimpse. So much to be conscious of and to attend to and so much to be done. And the very exceptional thing is that Frances did do much of what she saw needed to be done.

    My fondest memories of such a profound living soul is the times she took away from her work and spent with her cup of tea in the backyard of her home and land and visited the fish in the pond and tended to the garden and brought in herbs for the evening meal. Watch with loving eye her children jump on the trampoline. Tell stories of dance and adventure in far off middle eastern lands. Plans of renovating the house. Coming back and finding the house renovated and a yurt built for meditation amongst the grasses of the back yard. The teen-age children filling the house with young friends and parties. Stories of recent travels and improbable stories and impossible adventures that were all true. People were like birds coming through her life knowing hers was a safe place to land and some stayed months and others years and leaving love behind and gathering love into flight and never forgetting.

    I only know a small glimpse of your vast life and I was touched by you and like many others I will never forget. I will grieve that I am not able to listen to more and see more through your eyes and see you contently with tea in hand tending to your backyard. The vibrations of your well-lived life resonate in so, so many of us and the ripples extend far, far further than the backyard pond.

    with much love,

  3. Dear great frances

    you gave lives and love to many kept open our eyes to see and understand more and more about human rights.we have good and huge lesson to feel the love and courtesy.I can not and I don’t want to accept your death .It’s big lose for the people how you were their mother ,comrade.model in their are alive in people’s heart.I belief still your eyes looking us how we doing some thing to help the people.

  4. France MacQueen was our Mother Teresa of Calcuta in Canada
    and Latin America.

    I express deep condolences to John and Sarah with strong love as
    a brother Rafael [ Of El Salvador ]

    With Compliment.

  5. It’s been so hard for me to write on this site, since it means I had to accept that Frances is gone.
    I thought she would be ever lasting, and we would have many more amazing experiences together.
    Frances brought life to my dreams.
    Working with survivors along side Frances at VAST, was the highlight of my career and life. I am so glad I had the privilege to meet Frances, and for us to work together in the amazing and unique organization, which she created. VAST not only helped people with their difficulties as refugees, but gave them a safe home.
    Frances had a big heart. She loved and cared for people in need. Frances was a role model to all of us.
    Thank you Frances, for sharing your skills, passion, strength, knowledge, and experiences with me.
    Thank you for being such a great friend to my family and myself.
    You will always be in my heart, and I miss you so much.

  6. It’s not easy to be from country like Iraq at this moment hear that some one of your member of family or friends die and the dead of some one dead shocking you but when I hear that about you shocked me in real ….
    Frances I still telling you every time I saw you that I never meet Mother Teresa in real but I hear about her as a very kind women for poor people,she did all this for her god because she want to go to heaven as religion person,But I saw you always and in a practice you prove that you do everything for humanity and without thinking about to get anything when you leave this live except our love to you and for your fight in human rights struggle around the World you make me proud of myself to be your comrade forever you a real unknown real Mother Teresa for me and for whom I introducing you in my live …I miss you Frances my as teacher and comrade you never dead because you leave in our heart forever…. I sheering your family members and all your friends sorrow from the bottom of my heart…And I proms you like you now me I never forget you and never leave your struggle way for real human right and better World to be continuing till real victory ….I shout in your memorial, Long live human real rights in the World ….Long live Frances Mac Queen revolutionary women for better World…
    I’m very sorry if I couldn’t introduce my real feeling in my broken English writing…

  7. I remember meeting Frances at an Amnesty picnic around 1980; hearing her laughter. Her passion, consistency, integrity, dedication & irreverent humour always inspired me, as did her outrage at injustice and ignorance.

    She was never doctrinaire or dogmatic; how many activists would bother to make a chocolate cream pie from her neighbour’s fresh Jersey milk?! Frances understood and offered hospitality so deeply it was positively subversive in contrast to the increasingly individualistic culture we live in.

    Few people can match her commitment or what she achieved in so many ways & on so many levels. Her death is a huge loss to the world, and though I am deeply saddened, I am very, very grateful to have known her.

    Yes, Sarah (& John), you have so much to be proud of. Thank-you for letting me know what happened and for setting up this memorial site with the wonderful photos and stories.
    Bill Horne
    Wells, BC Canada

    ¡Compañera Frances presente!

  8. I Want you u to know what u were to me I will always remember you as a mother to me I can’t thank you enough for giving me a new life in Canada the life we had together It makes me think of u you every day and I pray that god will bless you may you rest in peace !! I will miss you Francis and to her family please accept my sympathy yours Faith

  9. When the Lord calls someone home and they just go to him in a very gentle manner can be soothing to those left behind but only from Him do we obtain this grace. It is good to number our days by spending it in a walk with the Almighty!! Sleep on Frances, friend and mentor!!
    Frances 1947-2011

  10. Dear Frances,
    Are you still around, wherever that may be? Can you feel our shock, my wife and I, when we received the news from Sara? Shall we meet again, in whatever form? Shall we remember that we met at Amnesty in 1980 and remained close friends ever since? If the answer is positive, it will be some consolation that this is not the end.
    N. Azab

  11. I was expecting to read a mail from Frances or a call that she was back in town but never expected this!!!
    Frances was a rare breed and a mother in deed to all that truly knew her!!!
    I remember when she visited my home recently and how we went back memory lane, I never knew it would be the last time that we would be together.
    Adieu dear friend and mentor !!

    Anita Odunuga

  12. Frances lived her life with purpose. I remember her saying that she wanted her tombstone to read “She made a difference”. She certainly carried out her intentions.

  13. A poem Frances shared with me this summer:

    For Strong Women

    A strong woman is a woman who is straining
    A strong woman is a woman standing
    on tiptoe and lifting a barbell
    while trying to sing “Boris Godunov.”
    A strong woman is a woman at work
    cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,
    and while she shovels, she talks about
    how she doesn’t mind crying, it opens
    the ducts of the eyes, and throwing up
    develops the stomach muscles, and
    she goes on shoveling with tears in her nose.
    A strong woman is a woman in whose head
    a voice is repeating, I told you so,
    ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,
    ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,
    why aren’t you feminine, why aren’t
    you soft, why aren’t you quiet, why aren’t you dead?
    A strong woman is a woman determined
    to do something others are determined
    not be done. She is pushing up on the bottom
    of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise
    a manhole cover with her head, she is trying
    to butt her way through a steel wall.
    Her head hurts. People waiting for the hole
    to be made say, hurry, you’re so strong.
    A strong woman is a woman bleeding
    inside. A strong woman is a woman making
    herself strong every morning while her teeth
    loosen and her back throbs. Every baby,
    a tooth, midwives used to say, and now
    every battle a scar. A strong woman
    is a mass of scar tissue that aches
    when it rains and wounds that bleed
    when you bump them and memories that get up
    in the night and pace in boots to and fro.
    A strong woman is a woman who craves love
    like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
    A strong woman is a woman who loves
    strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
    terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
    in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
    she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
    suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she
    enacts it as the wind fills a sail.
    What comforts her is others loving
    her equally for the strength and for the weakness
    from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
    Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse.
    Only water of connection remains,
    flowing through us. Strong is what we make
    each other. Until we are all strong together,
    a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.
    (Marge Piercy)

    Thank you for reminding me. I won’t forget.

  14. What a remarkable woman, Frances was. Her legacy lives on in the lives she saved and touched through her selflessness and strength. May her family know the peace that comes from the assurance that their mother/grandmother was a person of light of the sort that can not be extinguished.

  15. I met Frances in 1997 when I arrived in Vancouver. I was a survivor of torture from Iran. Frances and VAST helped me how to survive in a new country and deal with my past of torture. I would not be where I am today without the help of Frances and her team. I am deeply sorry and will miss her very much. Heartfelt thoughts to the family and friends. Rest in Peace Frances!

  16. Fare Thee well, my beloved sister of spirit and spunk
    I will miss you in the basil patch when the sun returns
    and the always times to stop for cups of tea
    You did it your way with every ounce of resolve you could muster
    Kilsli Frances – I salute the chief within you
    Blessed be.

  17. Dear friends,

    It was with great sadness that I heard the news that Frances MacQueen has passed away. Frances helped many people in our community, thru VAST, and was known to many of us as a strong advocate, selfless, dedicated, and someone who had compassion for those she assisted.

    This loss will be felt by many people and we will remember her and her wonderful work over many years.

    I offer my deepest sympathy to her family and friends, and hope that during this difficult time, the love and strength of friends, and the community, give hope and inspiration for the future.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Libby Davies
    MP Vancouver East

  18. Dear Chico my friend from the 1960′s,

    This website has made me remember a plethora of memories from my youth spent with you, some rather wonderfully misspent!!

    Sincere condolences to all your family and please rest in peace old friend.

    Jacki Ingram
    Thank you to whoever created this website

  19. Amazing, feisty, courageous, loving, compassionate, no-nonsense woman. Frances inspired me to reach higher, to follow my passion, to fight the good fight. She did such important work. Few of us could do the difficult and sometimes dangerous work she did. She died doing the work that was her passion.
    I was honoured to know her. And I feel blessed to live next door to her daughter, Sarah, her son-in-law, Jeff and her two amazing grandchildren, Aryana and Johnathon. They are a special family who bring light to this world and they are carrying on Frances’ legacy of courage, love and healing.

  20. چقدر بین انسانها فرق است یکی برای جویایی نام در شهرستانی کوچک
    مسجدی می سازد که 750000میلیون هزینه می برد و در کنار آن در همان شهرستان مدرسه ای در حال تخریب است و دیگری بدون هیچ نام ونشانی از کشور خود دور می شود و در خدمت به دیگران با دردی پنهان تسلیم جان آفرین می شوداو همیشه در دلهای انسانها زنده است وبه او افتخار خواهیم کرد

  21. Thank you for creating this webpage. I too have been moved by seeing the pictures of her, reading about her life and being reminded of what a strong, caring and, at the same time, politically astute presence Frances was in the world in which she worked so passionately.

    I was a lawyer for refugees in Vancouver in the late ’80′s and through the ’90′s. Simply put, Frances was a mentor to me, and other lawyers, in our work with clients of VAST. She offered us, who had everything, support and insight so that we could be more caring and more effective advocates. We all benefited from her unflagging energy and commitment to the never-ending struggle for the rights and safety of refugees.

    Please add me to your list of people who would like to attend her memorial.

  22. I met Frances many years ago, in the earliest times of VAST.
    I will remember her pasion, love and dedication to refugees in general, but particularly those who like her went beyond their struggles to find social justice and protect human rights.
    Rest in peace dear Frances.
    My sincere condolences to the family.
    Cecilia T

  23. I met Frances when we were both fighting the death penalty with Amnesty, and her dedication, passion and drive for justice drew me into her fire. We worked at VAST where Frances was my mentor and had an amazing influence on my life. Sarah & John I am so sorry for your loss. Thanks for a life time of sharing your mother with folks who needed her so much.

    Frances once gave me a poem, “To Be of Use” by Marge Piercy:
    “I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
    who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
    who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
    who do what has to be done, again and again.

    I want to be with people who submerge
    in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
    and work in a row and pass the bags along,
    who stand in the line and haul in their places,
    who are not parlor generals and field deserters
    but move in a common rhythm
    when the food must come in or the fire be put out. ”

    These lines name Frances’ ethics of taking action and doing justice.
    Heartfelt thanks for all your teachings big sister-even the hard ones
    with imperfect solidarity, huge respect & big love

  24. The world has lost a great person, but the strength of her spirit in our personal and corporate memories lives on. I first met Frances in 1998 and learned quickly that she fiercely cared for people; she became my go-to person whenever I needed advice on a refugee situation. I will forever value what I learned from her and what she has left among us: truth, impatience for nonsense, and care for the most vulnerable.

  25. As well as being a tireless activist , Frances was a wonderful mom and grandmother, as well as a great mother in law to my son Jeff. I will miss Frances very much and considered her a good friend.

  26. The Shimmer of the Dancing Light.

    In the Darkness there was the presence,a shimmer of glowing light,
    Burning bravely,burning steady, willing to share its mighty plight.

    The Dark grew restless and said,”I don’t – really Care”,
    Little light never responded to say”,it was’nt fair”.
    Instead it grew stronger… the Angels heard her prayer.

    Little light Shawn Bright , as it Grew to Believe..
    Dark fell weak, and could not trick, nor decieve.

    The light then Knew if it tried even harder,
    It could Shine out the dark…
    For the Dark was not Smarter.

    Strength from Dark comes from power,anger,Fear,
    Light flows weak when its not Present, nor Clear.

    ~Feed light “Self love”~
    A Thought that’s clean and pure.
    Dance toward Belief,
    the dark simply can’t endure.

    Power lies deep within the lightness of our Being;
    Its Not Always True that Seeing is Believing…

    Energy from Light grows stronger and ever bright,
    just like the Stars in the Dark of purple Night.

    Dark is the Ebony…Black as the Charcoal,
    Light is the “Other” …to Gleam and to Sparkle.

    The Moral of my Poem is this:

    Light and Dark have a bond they hold together,
    and must balance out the time;
    when they share the Stormy Weather.

    Dark with its purpose, to understand our need to fight,
    ….That way it too….. can shed an ounce of light!

    Its up to the light to find a path thats truly clear,
    All within the Darkness to burn away the fear.

    From that Darkness, little light learned how to see….

    The One Bright light,It Was Always meant to be.

    Poem by Tina Jamil.

    I dedicate this poem to Frances Macqueen because she has been, and will always be my dancing shimmer of light.I’m so thankful to have known you Frances. You put the sparkle back into my life, giving it a whole knew meaning of inspiration.If I can try to be just a little bit like you, then I hope I can make a difference in someone’s life, the way you have done for me.I’ll never forget you Frances. You will forever be in my Heart,and when I think of you I smile.I’m not sad.Love from Tina.

  27. It was my good fotune to know Frances through Glen Valley Organic Farm. She found time and energy to give our co-operative even when her heart had gone ahead to El Salvador. She told me of her work there, and her anxiety to return following her successful battle with cancer. The world is a better place for the spirit, soul and energy she shared with those who suffered most, and those of us who cannot even imagine that kind of suffering.

  28. Frances, was a very special person to me. I am one of her adopted children from one of those corners of the globe. When I came to Canada from Guatemala, she embrace me as one of her children. I lived with her for 8 months and learned many of the skills I need to survive in Canada.
    She was warm and loving and I will miss her dearly. The world has lost a real fighter for human rights and dignity.
    Thank you Frances for all that you did to make this world a better place.

  29. Frances has helped me adjust to life and settle in Canada. She has been an inspiration and hope for many of us newcomers. Frances was by my side during my happy times as well as during my sorrows. I just can’t believe that she has left us this soon. I, together with my family, will pray for her soul to rest in peace.

  30. Frances did not suffer fools easily. She was stern and made of strong stuff. When I met her as a refugee advocate in Vancouver, I was touched by her immense spirit. She aided those no one else would touch. I worked with her on cases and still today see the faces of those who survived the refugee process to live in Canada. She saved lives. There can be no larger recognition of what she gave. I am saddened by her loss. I am blessed to have worked and laughed with her. I pray for her soul. Z

  31. To Frances’ family – please accept condolences on behalf of VAST’s clients, staff and volunteers. Without Frances’ drive and determination VAST would not exist today. We are very sorry for your immense loss.

  32. I had the pleasure of meeting Francis once years ago. Even though she barely knew me, she offered her help to me during a difficult time I recently went through. Her compassion for others has inspired me to be a better person. I will always remember her kind spirit.


  33. Mum, I want to declare what an amazing life you lived, you will always be a powerful beyond source of love, hope and inspiration. I feel very privaledged to have spent so much of our lives together. Love eternally, John

  34. Wow. The pictures say it all. I will dig up another pic and send it along. I’m quite moved. I think of Frances as many depth manifestations, a strong visionary and practitioner of social action who just kept going, even in the face of grave illness and betrayal.

    But Frances was also an amazing nurturer with an expansive capacity for nurturing others, and a great mate (in the Cockney meaning), who could quaff a pint and share a belly laugh. This glass is raised to you, Duck!

  35. Dearest Sister

    How cruel to take you from us now
    And you were SO far away
    After battling on through illness long
    To end it all this way

    Your tireless efforts and enduring toil
    To help others in their plight
    Your courage, spirit and tenacity
    To aid you in your fight

    You helped so many people less fortunate – you cared
    And many found it easier, with their problems shared
    I am humbled by the work you did – and the picture that I paint
    When I mention you to friends… is that you are a ‘Saint’

    Our lovely sister Frances – I want to say OUT LOUD
    To everybody in the world – You made us very pround

    May you rest in peace with our lovely brother,Lawrence Garrad, who also died suddenly this year on August 13th

    Never-ending love from your sisters, Marion and Jeannette

  36. Brilliant Frances and Her Sun Rays

    Brilliant river Frances, choked with poisons into hues of undying magnificence.

    River Frances, feeling all alone shooked herself clean after years of intense relentless damage to her spirit to breathe life to all around her river bed, travelling far and wide.

    Then river Frances, claimed all the dying fishes and squeezed lifeforce vital nutrients to all.

    The traumatized, left over genocide skeletal frames, machete gashed scar ripped bodies, raped ravaged tortured phantom-like beings all washed and thirst quenched to live in their new same skins by brilliant Frances.

    Brilliant river Frances, you are deeply appreciated, we
    salut you for all you do, all lives you have saved and you are more loved than you know. We love you so…..

    Brilliant river Frances, may we sit by your river banks
    andjust be with you!! You are VASTLY special to us all.

    October 2011

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