Labour notes

May 15, 2018

by Janet Nicol

Check out Labour Notes in the latest issue of “Our Times” on the retirement musings of the Vancouver Trade and Labour Council’s President Joey Hartman along with the latest information about the unique and important Simon Fraser University labour studies courses.

Advertisements

Indigenous lives matter

April 16, 2018

by Janet Nicol

This February, a visibly all-white jury acquitted Gerald Stanley of second degree murder in the death of Colten Boushie, a 22 year old man from Red Pheasant First Nation reserve in Saskatchewan and even dismissed the charge of manslaughter, accepting his defence that the gun fired accidentally. Thousands of Canadians – indigenous and non-indigenous – took to the streets in cities across the country, with slogans including ‘I am Colten’ and ‘No justice, no peace’.

I deliver a short report on this case and its aftermath in the current issue of New Internationalist magazine.

Surrey: A City of Stories – a book review

March 19, 2018

Surrey:  A City of Stories, by K. Jane Watt.  Published by Surrey: City of Surrey Heritage Services (Fenton Street Publishing), 2017. $25.00

Reviewed by Janet Nicol

This visually rich book provides a satisfying history of the City of Surrey, the fastest growing area in Metro Vancouver, with B.C.’s second largest civic population of about half a million people. For a project to mark Canada’s 150th birthday, K. Jane Watt has devoted her passion for B.C.’s past to provide a concise text accompanied by more than 500 photographs, documents, maps and other fascinating illustrations. Obviously delivering an historical overview of sprawling Surrey is a daunting task, considering its vast mix of urban and rural landscape framed by the Fraser River to the north and the Strait of Georgia (Boundary Bay) to the south, including six town centres in between — Whalley, Guildford, Fleetwood, Newton, Cloverdale, and South Surrey.

So begins a book review of ‘Surrey: A City of Stories” written by the current President of the BC Historical Society and historian, K. Jane Watt. The full review is available on line at

https://bcbooklook.com/2018/03/16/surrey-gets-proper-billing/

Published by The Ormsby Review, March 20, 2018.

@cougar history – Facebook page on school history

March 15, 2018

by Janet Nicol

A facebook page created by Killarney students during my final teaching year in 2017 and based on their school and community history, is featured in the upcoming issue of BC History magazine, as a “Cabinet of Curiosity.” Check out the magazine, with lots of history articles about BC schools–and check out the Facebook page at Killarney Secondary and Community History@cougarhistory.”

BC History, Spring, 2018

Women’s march – 2018

March 8, 2018

Check out the latest issue of Our Times magazine for my report on this year’s women’s march in Vancouver. (Winter, 2017-18)

That Seventies Show

January 30, 2018

by Janet Nicol

The cleverly titled Rereading Room, an installation by Vancouver artist Alexandra Bischoff, is a centerpiece for Beginning with the Seventies: Glut, which celebrates art, archives and activism as they pertain to the women’s movement. On view at UBC’s Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery until April 8, Bischoff’s work consists of some 100 books assembled on shelves lined along a wall, covers facing outward.

Viewers browsing the collection are transported back to the 1970s, when women awakened to the pervasive sexism around them aided by books such as Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman and Our Bodies, Ourselves, which takes a frank look at women’s health and sexuality. Bischoff based her archive on an early inventory list from the Vancouver Women’s Bookstore, a downtown fixture from 1973 to 1996.

Additionally, 13 female artists and activists are occupying the installation, here in its second iteration, giving the work a performative dimension. At various times, they sit at the installation’s table or on the couch, reading and writing reflections that will be archived later. Visitors are welcome to join in.
The Rereading Room underscores the importance of feminist texts and the once-pervasive network of independent women’s bookstores across Canada, both for the wider community and for artists. The Vancouver bookstore was the first, and like the others, created a space for women to gather, engage in dialogue and offer mutual support.

Curator Lorna Brown says social movements of the 1970s are of keen interest to young artists today. “They have observed the activism and cultural production of the 1970s, but there is a gap in their knowledge about many of the organizations in this period,” she says.

Feminist, environmental and anti-racist movements, to name a few, left a document trail in public and private archives throughout Vancouver’s Lower Mainland. The exhibition exposes, celebrates – and critiques – this abundance (or “glut”) of materials. “We are able to build a complex and rich understanding of our histories as a result,” says Brown.

Other artists in the show explore language as a medium and material. These pieces include a series of provocative posters by Winnipeg-born Divya Mehra and Vancouver artist Allyson Clay’s Double Self Portrait, an unsettling photograph of books being tossed from an apartment window. Also on view are works by two Vancouver-based artists – Kathy Slade’s text-embedded weavings and Gathie Falk’s glazed ceramic piece, 14 Rotten Apples. The gallery’s commissions include Lisa Robertson’s Proverbs of a She-Dandy, a limited-edition book. Also in the show are Jamelie Hassan, Germaine Koh, Laiwan, Kristina Lee Podesva, Elizabeth Zvonar and others.

Re-printed from Galleries West Digital magazine, January 30, 2018 – link at http://www.gallerieswest.ca

Chinatown and Strathcona • BC Labour History Bronzed

December 14, 2017

Labour Notes

by Janet Nicol

Check out the latest issue of Our Times magazine for Labour Notes
on Marcy Toms’ Chinatown/Strathcona history walking tour, featuring many
remarkable women, and the BC Labour Heritage Centre’s ‘plaques around the province’ project, with the spotlight on previous generations of coal miners in Fernie, BC.

1921 New Westminster teacher strike

October 31, 2017

by Janet Nicol

Teachers in New Westminster delivered a special valentine to their school board when they announced an “illegal” strike February 14, 1921. Since the founding of the BC Teachers’ Federation in 1917, only one other local, Victoria, had defied their employer. The New Westminster walk out almost a century ago marked an important step toward full bargaining rights for BC teachers.

The full story of this lively and important part of teacher history is available at –
http://www.labourheritagecentre.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/BookletNewWestminster_web.pdf

The plaque remembering this strike was unveiled today (October 30, 2017) at New Westminster Secondary School and will be permanently installed at another location soon.

“Like a Bolt from the Blue”

October 18, 2017

by Janet Mary Nicol

“Like a bolt from the blue, and to my profound astonishment, I was on Tuesday afternoon set upon by a number of special constables and arrested,” Israel Rubinowitz wrote from his prison cell in Nanaimo.

It was autumn 1913 when the budding defence lawyer made a plea for his release, penning a letter to Judge Frederick Howay in the midst of a coal miners’ strike on Vancouver Island. Though a Conservative in politics, Rubinowitz offered a passionate, occasionally radical, perspective in British Columbian courtrooms. He grew up in Vancouver, studied at McGill University in Montreal and attended Oxford University in England on a Rhodes scholarship in 1905. He returned to Vancouver and had only practised law for a short time when he found himself in Nanaimo – as both counsel and accused.

So begins a biographical account about the life and legal cases of early Vancouver lawyer Israel Rubinowitz. The writing of this history was inspired by the novel The Sacrifice by Adele Wiseman (1928-1992). In the words of its protagonist, the family patriarch, Abraham: “… and yet there was a time, I think, when I had everything … but now, when I look back, I had at least the beginning of everything.”

The article is available in “The Scribe,” a journal of the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC, available in late November, 2017. A shorter version of this essay was published in the Jewish Independent, July 31, 2015.

Schools out in Terrace

October 5, 2017

Teacher’s six day strike in 1981 helped paved the way to full bargaining rights

 
by Janet Nicol

British Columbia’s public school teachers didn’t achieve the right to strike until 1987—but that didn’t stop them from walking off the job. In fact teachers across the province have engaged in several disputes since the BC Teacher’s Federation was established in 1917, all playing an essential role toward gaining full collective bargaining rights. Among these actions was the teachers’ strike in Terrace in 1981. It was the fourth— but not final—time BC teachers would participate in an “illegal” walk out.

Tensions had been growing between the Terrace District Teachers’ Association (TDTA) and the nine-member school board in early 1981. About 337 teachers worked in schools enrolling 3,800 students within Terrace and other communities in northwestern BC. Local teacher associations (which included principals) only negotiated wages with their school boards and if they could not reach an agreement by a set deadline, the matter went to binding arbitration. School boards were not required to negotiate any working condition items with teachers.

That fateful spring a popular middle school principal, Tom Hamakawa, was transferred and demoted to classroom teacher by the district superintendent Frank Hamilton. This disciplinary action was “the catalyst that brought the whole thing to the surface,” Wayne Wyatt, President of the TDTA, told the Vancouver Sun. “We want a decent policy established on how this sort of thing should be handled in the future.” The staff supported the principal “very strongly,” Wyatt also said. Three hundred students were sympathetic too, walking out of class and marching to the school board office in protest.

Full article at BC Labour Heritage website – http://www.labourheritagecentre.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/TerraceTeachers1981_web.pdf