Author: Brian Charlton

Makuk- Anew Exchange is Needed

“For the dead are not powerless” Chief Seattle There are so many wrongs to be undone, so much history that has to be relearned, that the whole idea of true reconciliation with our indigenous Brothers and Sisters seems like it will never be done in our lifetime.  No matter how high we rank as a country on global ‘happiness’ polls,  unless we do what needs to done, all those self- satisfied pats on the back will be a lie. I have just finished a book that helped me learn some truths about our shared history here in BC.  It is called ‘Makuk- A New History of Aboriginal-White Relations’ by John Lutz , who teaches history at the University of Victoria.  Some who attended the 2014 Pacific Northwest Labour History Association conference in Cumberland may remember the excellent presentation he and Wedlidi Speck gave on ‘Aboriginal Coalminers on Vancouver Island.’ One of the premises of the book is: “The myth of the “lazy Indian’, derived from peculiar views about labour that were prevalent in European culture of the time, was invoked to transfer lands from Aboriginal Peoples to colonial states and then to colonialists.”  Lutz shows how in order for that myth to be invoked,  the role of indigenous labour, both within the traditional subsistence and prestige economies,  and within the capitalism of the settlers, was ‘disappeared’ from the history...

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In the Pocket of ‘Big Labour’

  One of the myths perpetuated by corporate media is that the NDP, or any progressive social democratic political party for that matter, is in the pocket of Big Labour. This is not surprising considering that the corporate media is owned by corporations who, as a matter of record, are opposed to unions. What is surprising is when some potential allies of the labour movement start advancing this misconception. Soon after Horgan’s NDP government announced that they were proceeding with the Site ‘C’ hydro project, the social media was awash in angry speculation and one of the targets was unions. Variations of ‘NDP caves to Big Unions’, as an explanation for the Government’s decision, started popping up in conversations and on social media. First and foremost, Horgan’s Government knew there would be a very strong negative reaction to the decision, both within the Party membership and with the general public. They simply would not take all that heat for the sake of the Building Trades Council, which were the unions pushing for Site ‘C’. Many other unions in BC were opposed to construction of the Site ‘C’ dam. So it does not wash that the NDP decided to proceed because of the lobbying of some Building Trades unions. Add to that, that many of the workers at Site ‘C’ are actually members of a company union called the Christian...

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Remembering Ginger 100 Years On

Every new grave brings a thousand brothers, And every new grave brings a thousand sisters To the union in that union burying ground.’ Woody Guthrie ‘Union Burying Ground’   On July 27th, 1918 Albert ‘Ginger’ Goodwin was shot and killed on the slopes of Alone Mountain by a special deputy of the Dominion Police. The deputy was essentially ‘acquitted’ of manslaughter. ‘Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’. But Ginger was not forgotten and this year people will gather on the weekend of June 23rd in Cumberland BC to commemorate Ginger’s life and his death. The Cumberland Museum and Archives , along with the Campbell River, Courtenay and District Labour Council and the BC labour movement, will make this 100th year anniversary one to remember. There will be theatre productions, labour choruses, workshops, BBQs and art, plus the traditional events associated with Miners Memorial such as ‘Songs of the Workers’, a graveside service and a pancake breakfast. Ginger was an immigrant from the coalfields of Yorkshire who ended up working in the Cumberland mines just prior to the Big Strike of 1912-14. The strike was about the potentially lethal gas levels in the mines, and the intimidation by the company of members of the Gas Committee who monitored those levels.  The mine owners, with the support of the BC Government of Richard McBride, used strikebreakers, militias, and the...

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To Tip or Not to Tip

t Sitting in a little bistro in Bordeaux the bill came and automatically I began calculating how much a reasonable tip in Euros would be. The friends, who we were with, shook their heads and said ‘There is no tipping in France. Waiters here earn a living wage.’ It took some getting used to but I gradually learned to pay just what was on the bill unless one of the wait staff did something really extra. It did get me thinking ‘why do we tip?’. I should be clear here and now that I will not be arguing that servers should be paid less. On the contrary I think they should be paid more but just in a more equitable and less demeaning way. Americans tip the most and they tip a wider variety of workers but Canadians are not far behind. 10 % used to be a reasonable tip, now 20% is the standard. It used to be just servers at restaurants or bartenders; taxi drivers or people who handled your luggage. Now we tip hairdressers, the letter carrier, and fast food and coffee places where it is essentially self-serve and/or owned by the person serving you. The original reason that tips were given was to show gratitude for extra service, that is it was a gratuity. Tipping started with European aristocrats who brought the practice to the...

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The R Word

 “It’s time to stop segregating the race problem as one that harms only minorities. A deeper conception of how racism structures politics, government and the economy connects minority concerns to the issues faced by all workers. This approach makes clear that when racism triumphs, all workers lose”. Ian Haney Lopez Racism is a sensitive subject, full of misunderstandings, denial, and intense emotions. Given the pain and indignity, and in some cases physical danger, it brings to those who bear the brunt of this form of hatred, it’s not surprising that this is a very difficult discussion to have. I hesitate to write about it myself, given that I am writing from the perspective of a white, relatively privileged worker. However in these times when neo-nazis and white supremacists feel confident enough to march in the broad daylight shouting their hateful slogans, it is imperative that those who want a world free of all the ‘isms’ speak up. I also write this from the perspective of a union activist and educator. For unions, the solidarity of members of individual unions, and the solidarity of the labour movement as a whole, is crucial to our existence. Without unity and a sense of common purpose, unions could not exist. So anything that weakens or destroys that solidarity is harmful and needs to be dealt with. Unions have a checkered history when it...

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Upcoming Events

Nov
17
Sat
9:00 am Comox Valley Farmers’ Market
Comox Valley Farmers’ Market
Nov 17 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Each Saturday features a delicious recipe from the North Island Chefs Association – and of course all of the wonderful local producers of vegetables, meats, baking, preserves, fish and more! See you at the Native[...]
Nov
24
Sat
9:00 am Comox Valley Farmers’ Market
Comox Valley Farmers’ Market
Nov 24 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Each Saturday features a delicious recipe from the North Island Chefs Association – and of course all of the wonderful local producers of vegetables, meats, baking, preserves, fish and more! See you at the Native[...]

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