Last Canadian Spanish Civil War Volunteer Dies at 96 (Edit)

September 12, 2013
Jules Paivio in Spain.  Credit: Vapaa Sana

Jules Paivio in Spain. Credit: Vapaa Sana

Jules Paivio, the last Canadian veteran of the Spanish Civil War, died last week at the age of 96.  He volunteered to fight for the Spanish Republic at the age of 19.  His family had taught him to “believe in justice, liberty and fair play for all.” Yet, when asked why he volunteered in an interview with CBC reporter Mac Reynolds in the mid-1960s, Paivio replied that “it was partly dissatisfaction with a lack of real purpose and this being an opportunity for a real purpose in life.” Between idealism and the harsh conditions of the Great Depression, over 1,700 Canadians risked law, limb and life to fight for the Spanish Republic, eventually forming a unit known as the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion or the ‘Mac-Paps’.

During his service, he was wounded, taken prisoner, and just barely avoiding execution by a Nationalist firing squad.  Indeed, casualties ran high for the Canadian volunteers, as over 721 were killed and still hundreds more wounded.  Those lucky enough to survive and return to Canada faced no warm welcome.  Many were hounded by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, seeking to suppress any leftist revolution in a disaffected Canada still suffering from the Great Depression.  Indeed, some were not allowed to serve in the Second World War for fear that they would cause rebellion in the ranks.  Yet according to Terrence Rundle West, author of Not In My Father’s Footsteps,

What the authorities failed to see was that the fire had gone out of these volunteers; that the idealism and quest for revolution they’d left with, had been extinguished by the brutality, corruption and mismanagement of the cause they’d championed. In short, they returned disillusioned with communism.

Although a monument to the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion exists in Ottawa, the Canadian government still does not officially recognize the Mac-Paps or their treatment after the war.

To read more, click here.

To hear The Spanish Crucible, a CBC program about Canadians in the Spanish Civil War which heavily features interviews with Jules Paivio, click here.

EDIT: According to data provided by Canadian Spanish Civil War historian Michael Petrou, Paivio was 19 when he volunteered and was only 96 when he died, not 17 and 97 as in the previous version of this post.


3 Responses to “ Last Canadian Spanish Civil War Volunteer Dies at 96 (Edit) ”

  1. Alan Warren on September 14, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Having had the pleasure of meeting Jules a couple of times in Spain, though this news was ineviatble, it still grieves me to hear the news. I will go to the location where he was lined up with Carl Geiser and almost executed next week over the IBMT Last Stand event and leave some flowers there in memory of him and all the other Mac Paps who fought in Spain, many never to return. Rest in Peace, Jules and thank you.

  2. Nacho García on September 19, 2013 at 12:10 pm


    In this link your will see the brave and bold testimony of Jules Paivio in the Concentration Campo of San Pedro de Cardeña on april 1938, it signed by Jules.
    ¡No pasarán!

  3. Jordi on October 1, 2013 at 6:47 am

    THANKS all from Barcelona,CATALONIA.

    My uncle fight in the 124 Brigada Mixta,27 Division.Dead at 18 years after Ebro battle.

    Visca la terra lliure!