George Cram, former PWRDF secretary, mourned

Besides PWRDF, George Cram served a number of refugee advocacy organizations, and successfully pushed for the granting of Canadian visas to released prisoners in Chile during the rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet. Photo: General Synod Archives


George Holtby Cram, a former secretary of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), died Friday, March 16. He was 79.

Cram served the Anglican Church of Canada in a variety of roles from 1968 to 1989, when he stepped down as PWRDF secretary. PWRDF’s work grew significantly during Cram’s time as secretary, according to a notice announcing his resignation. He was known for his expertise in international development and his “outstanding work in the human rights and refugee fields,” it added.

Born in Montreal in 1938, Cram attended McGill University, where he completed degrees in science and divinity, according to an online obituary. He worked and travelled considerably throughout South America, developing a fondness for the region.

Cram worked for a time for the Latin American Working Group (LAWG), which focused on advocating for social justice in Latin America. During the rule of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, LAWG was instrumental in the eventual granting of Canadian visas to a prisoner release program in that country. Cram himself travelled to Chile to select the prisoners to be released.

Elsa Tesfay, PWRDF’s director of finance, administration and operations, began working at the fund not long before Cram’s departure and remembered him “as one who did not shy away from [speaking] his mind, especially on matters he was passionate about, such as human rights and refugees.”  Tesfay recalled that he and Kathleen Ptolemy, another PWRDF staff, had travelled across Canada to set up a network of diocesan co-ordinators of volunteers for refugee work. “It was the first time that any church had set up such a network,” Tesfay said. The network still exists to this day, raising awareness of refugees and mobilizing Anglicans to sponsor them.

Since joining the office of General Synod in 1968, Cram served the church both internationally and nationally, first in community development in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. He served as a projects officer for PWRDF before becoming its secretary and deputy-director of world mission.

Cram also worked for the Canadian Council for Refugees, serving as president of that organization in 1980. He worked as a refugee consultant and a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada for 10 years. He served as treasurer for AURA, a refugee advocacy group, and volunteered at South Riverdale Community Health Centre, Toronto.

Cram also chaired a study on government funding for the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, a coalition of Canadian volunteer organizations, and sat on the board of Partnership Africa Canada, now known as IMPACT, which monitors human rights issues involving conflict diamonds and minerals.

“George worked ceaselessly his entire career helping people,” the obituary states. “By the time he was done his work, he had travelled to the majority of the world’s countries and positively impacted the lives of countless people. His compassion, wisdom and work ethic made him a powerful force for people in need.”

A visitation is to be held Wednesday, March 21 from 6-8 p.m. at Trull Funeral Home & Cremation Centre in Toronto, and a funeral service Thursday, March 22 at 11 a.m. at St. Barnabas on the Danforth Anglican Church, Toronto.

Editor’s Note: A reaction to the death of George Cram has been added to this story. 


Anglican Journal News, March 20, 2018

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