A native of the small farming community of Stoney Point, Ontario, Joe learned about
hard times early in life. His father, a factory worker and farmer, died when Joe was less
than a year old. With seven children and an eighth on the way, Joe's mother, Loretto, was
forced to live on meagre social assistance and the limited support her extended family
could provide. The sheer strength of Loretto's will and determination kept her family
together. At her earliest opportunity Loretto found work, teaching elementary school, so
that she could better support her impoverished family. His mother's strength of character
and her perseverance against the odds left an indelible mark on Joe.
Despite the difficulties of growing up poor and fatherless, Joe followed the example set
by his mother. He fought his way from a one-room schoolhouse through university and
law school, becoming a lawyer in 1973. While a student, Joe often had to work two or
three jobs to support his studies, but he still found time to begin his lifetime commitment
to ensuring that the air we breathe and the water we drink is free of harmful pollutants.
Working with Pollution Probe and the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Joe
learned early that environmental protection must be a major consideration in any
economic development plan.
Commitment to Justice and Opportunity for all
As a young lawyer, Joe often took on cases where the challenges were overwhelming and
the compensation small or non-existent. Joe worked tirelessly for people no one else was
able or willing to help. His commitment to providing legal services, especially to women
needing a family lawyer, was his way of making sure that the hardships that single
mothers faced, hardships he knew of first hand, would not be made worse by an uncaring
In the early eighties, Joe learned how often workers' health and safety was sacrificed in
the name of corporate profits. In the late seventies Tommy Dunn, an employee of the
automobile brake manufacturer Bendix, died of mesothelioma, a cancer caused by
exposure to asbestos. A few years later, his wife Lucie came into Joe's office. She told
Joe about her fight to get compensation from Bendix and have mesothelioma recognized
as a compensable injury from the Worker's Compensation Board. Joe made sure that
Lucie left his office knowing that she had a lawyer to fighting for her and Tommy's
memory. Even though he had to battle a major American corporation Joe was
determined to hold Bendix accountable and chased them from Canada to the United
Dedicated to the Community
In addition to his challenging legal practice, Joe found time to serve the Windsor and
Essex community. Among his many volunteer commitments Joe was the first
chairperson of the Children's Services Committee for the City of Windsor and was a
member of the city's Emergency and Health Services Inquiry Commission, directed by
Stephen Lewis. From 1986 until 2000 Joe was also a member and chair of the Board of
Directors at the Motor City Community Credit Union.
In 1984 Joe left his private legal practice to join the newly established CAW Legal
Service Plan in Windsor to become its first Managing Lawyer. In this role Joe served the
Windsor-Essex-area CAW membership when they needed legal representation for
Committed to the vision of affordable and non-profit housing, Joe was a founding
member and/or chair of five different non-profit housing organizations in Essex County.
Together with Ontario's first NDP government and the CAW, Joe led the construction of
over 2,700 units of affordable housing. A staunch ally of the democratic rights of
workers, Joe has provided counsel and guidance to activists and leadership in the labour
movement. In recognition of his commitment, CAW Local 444 named Joe an honourary
member in 1991.
On November 27, 2000, Joe was elected Member of Parliament for Windsor-St. Clair: the
first NDP candidate from Ontario to be elected to Parliament in over ten years. As a
rookie MP, Joe was given the critic responsibilities for the Environment, Natural
Resources and Energy. During his term in Parliament, Joe has worked tirelessly on
bringing environmental issues to the forefront. He pushed the government to ratify Kyoto
and take action on water quality. Joe has been instrumental in raising national awareness
about the problems facing Windsor, in particular matters relating to our air quality. He
has introduced several motions and other environmental issues. He has also petitioned
the Commissioner of the Environment in an effort to force the government to take action
on the recommendations stemming from the Gilberston-Brophy report. This led to Joe
being recognized by Wild Canada as "Rookie MP of the Year" in 2001. Their
media release declared:
"Comartin is an MP to watch. He will be a bright and shining star in the
effort to protect Canada's wildlands and wildlife."
Joe has been married to his wife Maureen for almost thirty-five years. Together they
have raised three children: Heidi, Adam and Eric.