Albert (Bert) Weeks

FAST FACTS: Born on July 1, 1917: Montreal P.Q. First elected to city council 1954; elected mayor of Windsor 1974. Recipient of Negev award 1981; honourary degree in law from the University of Windsor 1983.
Died on December 10, 1990 in Windsor, ON.

Life was difficult for young Albert (Bert) Howard Weeks, raised by his widowed mother in Duplessis era Montreal. Observations of the effects of the Depression and the government of the day’s disregard for civil liberties gave rise to Weeks life-long concern for social justice.  While still living in Quebec, Weeks became involved with the CCF Party.  His wife once remarked that even while they dated, they invariably ended up at a political meeting.

Trained as a watchmaker, Mr. Weeks moved his family to Windsor in 1946, believing opportunities to be better here. Bert Weeks Jewellers opened on Ouellette Avenue in 1947 and continued operations until the business was sold in 1980.

Windsor in the 1940s still contained pockets of gambling, illicit liquor trade and other vices left over from the Prohibition. A greater threat to civil wellbeing was corruption within the police department.  Mr. Weeks was a founding member of the Citizens Action Committee created with the goal of cleaning up the police force.  Public support and incriminating information gained from a meeting with local gang members enabled Weeks to convince the RCMP to investigate.  Later a Royal Commission issued a report leading to the dismissal of the Chief of Police, the Deputy Chief, two members of the police commission and the local Crown Attorney.

First elected to city council in 1954, Mr. Weeks served several terms as alderman, interspersed with two unsuccessful runs for the mayor’s position and as the NDP candidate for the federal riding of Windsor-Walkerville. The 1974 mayoral contest was memorable as well as successful for Mr. Weeks.  Polling needed to be held over two days while blizzard-like conditions pounded the city.  When the storm cleared, Weeks had bested the incumbent, Fran Wansbrough, by just over 700 votes; a result confirmed by recount.  Bert Weeks went on to wear the mayor’s chain for Windsor for the next eight years until he retired in 1982.

Although socialist in his sympathies for public welfare, Mayor Weeks was conservative in the use of tax payer money. At the same time, Weeks saw the need to diversify the local economy.  He presented a plan to expand the Cleary building. He supported developers in the quest to build a new hotel in the city core, but not on the waterfront.  Weeks promoted Windsor as a host location for the 1976 Canadian Open Golf Tournament.  Initially the Royal Canadian Golf Association awarded the event to the city, but when the association pulled the event, the Mayor did not rest until the Association honoured their pledge. During his second term Weeks convinced Maple Leaf Mills and the United Cooperatives to locate facilities here.  He pursued and obtained additional money from senior governments to finance the construction of the E.C. Row Expressway, the creation of the Ford engine factory and the expansion of the GM transmission plant.

An avid gardener in his private life, Weeks oversaw the development of nine new parks within Windsor, including Coventry Gardens and the Ganatchio Trail. Due to his vision, old industrial lands adjacent the Detroit River were acquired and turned into a grand public space along the waterfront.

Ill health lead to his decision not to run for mayor again in 1982, but Weeks did not retire completely from public life. He won a position on the Windsor Utilities Commission, and later served as the vice-chairman of a provincial panel considering the management of industrial waste in Ontario.

Albert Weeks died of cancer at age 73 in 1990. In September 2005, City Council honoured the former mayor’s contributions with the official opening of the Bert Weeks Memorial Garden, located on the waterfront between Parent and Langlois Avenues.

Sources:

Vander Doelen, Chris. “Former Mayor dies at 73”. Windsor Star. (December 11, 1990) p. A1

Taylor, Natalie. “Park opens to honour Bert Weeks”. Windsor Star. (September 9, 2005) p. C9

Robinet, Laurice. “An interview with Mayor Bert Weeks”. Windsor This Month. (June-July 1976)

Vasey, Paul. “A Week’s worth of Civic Concern”. Windsor Star. (November 20, 1982) p. A10

[and other clippings from the Local History collection]