Covid Chronicles

By Janet Nicol

A living history project by workers and the BC Labour Heritage Centre.

Canadians on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic are facing risks that workers faced a century ago when the Spanish flu swept the globe — but this time working people are telling their stories and people are listening, including volunteers at the BC Labour Heritage Centre, in Vancouver.

“It sets you to thinking about your own history,” says Marie Decaire, a member of the centre’s board who recently retired from her job at the Community Savings Credit Union. “My mother was born in the Kootenays around the time of the flu outbreak. She never mentioned the Spanish flu when I was growing up. And I never asked.”

Lasting from February 1918 to April 1920, the 1918 flu pandemic infected 500 million people, about a third of the world’s population at the time. Last year, Decaire researched Vancouver newspapers published in 1918 and she noticed how workers’ lives were rarely mentioned. She didn’t want the same thing to happen to workers and their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, and so she proposed an oral history project called “COVID Chronicles: Labour’s Story.”

“Workers’ voices need to be heard,” she says. “When I proposed the idea of collecting COVID stories, everyone loved it.”

So what are BC workers saying? Check out the latest issue of Our Times magazine to find out.

Our Times magazine, Winter 2021.

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