Phil Jackson obituary


My partner, Phil Jackson, who has died suddenly aged 57, left the UK in the 1980s and became a public health official in Canada, where he was influential in developing a range of strategies that had a positive impact on the lives of millions. More recently he returned to his homeland to work on improving international cooperation between life science researchers.

Phil was born in Stockport, Greater Manchester, the elder son of an Irish mother, Pat (nee Christnor), a ballet dancer turned nurse, and an English father, also called Phil, a coalminer. After attending Davenport comprehensive school in Stockport, Phil Jr became a committed socialist at the University of York, while the 1984 miners’ strike was in full swing.

After university he moved to Canada, where he started but never finished a PhD, worked as a chef, and met Deborah Esch, an academic, with whom he had two daughters, Alexandra and Sophia. After moving away from the restaurant trade he found himself in the public health sphere, working on strategy and communications.

By the early 90s Phil was at Ontario Ministry of Health’s Aboriginal Health Office, supporting the development of a health and wellness strategy for Indigenous people that lasts to this day. He was also a lead partner in the development of Ontario’s first hospital governed by Indigenous people, the Sioux Lookout Meno-Ya-Win Health Centre, an initiative of which he was particularly proud. Under his leadership Ontario’s first public health agency, Public Health Ontario, was created.

Phil and Deborah separated after 16 years, and I met Phil in 2011, during an argument on Twitter. In 2014 he moved to London to join me and my son, Cuba, and to become head of international and cluster development at MedCity, an organisation launched that year to increase healthcare research collaboration between universities and to improve international cooperation on life science innovations.

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In 2020, with the outbreak of Covid-19, Phil’s experience working in control teams during Canadian outbreaks of Sars in 2003 and H1N1 in 2009 proved invaluable, as he helped to set up the London Testing Alliance for Covid.

He left a mark in our local community, too. When, in 2016, the London borough of Haringey tried to pursue a regeneration project that would have led to the demolition of thousands of council homes, he joined with others to play a leading role in successfully stopping the plans.

Phil loved cooking and music. He was looking forward to Covid restrictions being lifted so that we could go to the Womad festival this summer to see one of our favourite bands, the Selecter.

He is survived by me, Alexandra, Sophia and Cuba, and his brother, Rick.



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