DIAMOND, Jack




Author Tags: Business

Although he was ostensibly a reluctant subject for a biography, Jack Diamond cooperated with hired writer Gareth Sirotnik to produce his rags to riches, butcher to university chancellor story, Running Tough: The Story of Vancouver's Jack Diamond (Diamond family, 1988), a coffee table book and biography that was financed by his wealthy family. Born on a farm near the village of Lubience in Poland in 1909, Diamond was a Galician Jew who immigrated to Quebed City in 1926. He soon arrived in Vancouver's Strathcona neighborhood. He and his brother Dave bought a butcher shop in 1928 and and ten years later "was battling Canada's national corporations for control of British Columbia's meat-packing industry." As man who began working as a horse-and-buggy potato pedlar, Diamond later became widely recognized for his philanthropy as Western Canada's largest independent meat packer and owner of Pacific Meat for 25 years from 1939 to 1964. The contacts Diamond obtained during the war years during his trips to Ottawa as a 'dollar a year man' proved vital in amassing his fortune. After selling Pacific Meat, he became involved in property development in concert with his sons. He made his mark socially by raising more than half the money required to host the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1954, facilitating the construction of Empire Stadium.

Also very active in the Jewish Orthodox community of Vancouver, Diamond gained the trust of Premier W.A.C. Bennett and enjoyed a relatively free reign as the most powerful figure at Hastings Park (Exhibition Park), the province's main venue for horse racing and legalized betting, until the election of the NDP in 1972. After serving on the board of governors of Simon Fraser University during its most turburlent years (1967-1978), Diamond was elected to serve as SFU Chancellor from 1975-1978, finding himself at odds with President Pauline Jewett. Diamond remained as a major donor to the university and a liaison between other major private funders, especially Sam Belzberg and Joe Segal. The sons of Sadie and Jack Diamond also contributed handsomely to the builing of the SFU university club that was named the Jack and Sadie Diamond Club. Among his various citations and honours, he received the Vancouver Good Citizen of the Year Award (1955), an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree (1974), member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame (1977), Freeman of the City (1979), the Order of Canada (1980) and the Order of B.C. (1991).

[BCBW 2005] "Business"