Clips from BC Labour Heritage Centre oral history interviews, 2018.
Pam Moodie (community activist) [00:00:00] Well I had been, had been going to all of the meetings along the way and I knew that it was a fairly big thing that was going on. There was this sort of sense of building momentum. But you know, you really didn’t know how many other people were involved in it. So I got on the bus to go to the stadium, expecting it would be large, but not really know what would happen. We pulled up way down probably a mile away from the entrance to the PNE. The the bus just pulled over and stopped and the driver said, “OK. This is as close as I can get. You’ll have to all get out here.” It’s like, you know, what’s going on? We’re quite far away. OK, we’re getting off the bus and so everybody marched and almost everyone on the bus was carrying placards of one kind or another. Everybody had some kind of Solidarity stuff on them, and the whole bus load of people and everybody got off the bus one by one, and I was near the end of the bus. So I was one of the last people off and as I got off, the bus driver came out behind me and turned around and locked the door, and there was a long, long line up of buses all the way along and every one of them was locked and closed because the bus drivers were all just driving there, stopping and all going in to participate in the rally. It was so exciting.
Marion Pollack (Women Against the Budget, postal worker) [00:01:15] I remember Empire Stadium and I remember we had buses. Like there was a bus that picked us up at the post office and I remember clearly walking off, off the job. And you know by that time I wasn’t afraid of management, but a lot of people were intimidated. But we had a huge contingent of people who walked onto the bus and then there were tons of letter carriers who were in there.
Jackie Larkin (Women Against the Budget) [00:01:42] So you’re saying you walked off the job on the fence to go to Empire Stadium?
Marion Pollack [00:01:44] Yes.
Jackie Larkin [00:01:45] Is that right.
Marion Pollack [00:01:46] Yeah. They they tried to suspend us, I think. You know, after, I think we all got one day suspensions. You know, which sort of made no sense but… and I remember walking into Empire Stadium. We were being piped in. We were behind the letter carriers and we’re being piped in and it was like, I still remember it like, it was like the labour movement was united. The- We were with the communities. It was like sort of, everything I had wanted was there in that one moment. It was like we had the real possibility of making change and we were making change with people who I never thought would walk off the job. Like I just remember being so proud and so excited there.
Stuart Alcock (Representative for Gay Men, Solidarity Coalition) [00:02:39] I was there. It was huge. It was amazing.
Ken Novakowski [00:02:43] What do you remember?
Stuart Alcock [00:02:45] Well first of all, the crowd. Secondly, the sort of, the spirit of the crowd. I mean this was a very significant expression of anger, I thought. But it was not… It was not a sour expression. At some level, it almost felt like a celebration. I remember the firefighters. I was down on the field behind the Human, Human Rights Coalition’s banner. And I remember the cheers and applause that we received as a group as we went around the field. And of course, there were all sorts of people there that I knew in various ways. It was, it was quite an astonishing feeling and one that I thought might well have persuaded the government to rethink its position on some things.
Ken Novakowski (Bargaining Staff, BC Teachers’ Federation) [00:04:06] People have said that it created an aura that made, made people believe anything was possible, and that was the way people felt. It was the way I felt. I know that I couldn’t believe the, the overwhelming strength of the opposition and the breadth of people that were involved in coming together to oppose it. It was really, really quite, quite an exciting moment. And it left you with very, very positive feeling of what was possible.
Rod Mickleburgh (Labour Reporter) [00:04:39] And you know, you’re there as a reporter and I covered it and so on. But you’re also there as a human being, and you see all these people so moved and you talk to ordinary people that were at the rally, because there were a lot of ordinary people there too. And it was a sign that this was different, something was really happening out there.
Hanne Jensen (fired Director, BC Human Rights Branch) [00:04:57] I was absolutely there and I spoke.
Ken Novakowski [00:04:59] And you spoke.
Hanne Jensen [00:05:00] And I spoke at that rally. What I remember most about that protest is that, that enormous waves of energy were just washing through the entire group. And it was all, it was about celebrating solidarity. There was just such a strength. I mean, it was all positive energy. I was on stage and I was surrounded by everyone else who was speaking and I remember saying to someone, “Now I know what it must be like to be a rock star”. Except in this case, I mean, to be the focus of so much enthusiastic energy. But here it was a very big difference from rock concerts, not that I’ve attended a lot of them, because this was real. It was real people expressing, exercising the right to protest against an unfair government. It really felt, I mean, it was just a once in a lifetime experience.
Pam Moodie [00:06:00] It was huge. There was so much colour and action and you know, the stands were just filling and filling and they had people coming in in groups. So, different unions and community groups, I think, but unions was what I mostly remember. Coming in in contingents and marching in and marching around the track one after the other, after the other and then they would go into the stands and sit, kind of like they do with the Olympics, you know. And it was so exciting and it just got bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and bigger and more and more noise and you know, lots and lots of shouting and slogans and fun and laughter. And I do remember very specifically the firefighters. I think probably anybody who was there saw that, that day, remembers that. The firefighters, when they marched in, all of them in their blue uniforms and you know looking fit and strong and healthy and prepared to go on strike. And one of them was carrying a tiny little baby dressed in white, like a tiny, six weeks old or less. And he had the baby up on his shoulder and he was holding a Solidarity flag in the other hand, waving his hand holding his tiny little baby. And it was quite a striking picture. It was really exciting. The energy was enormous. I really did believe that this was it. We were changing the world, and it was going to happen really soon, starting B.C. and we’d spread from there. Everything would change.
Patsy George (Fired BC government social worker & staff for Solidarity Coalition) [00:07:24] Oh fantastic. Yes I was, I was one of the ones who, you know, brought the group of social workers, yeah.
Ken Novakowski [00:07:35] Down on the field.
Patsy George [00:07:35] Indeed, marching and in.
Ken Novakowski [00:07:38] What was one of your highlights of that?
Patsy George [00:07:39] Well I think, highlight for so many of us, I think – I get very emotional when I think about it actually, is the Fire, Firefighters coming in and and everybody just got up. And it was such a wonderful, wonderful venue, as well as the thousands of people coming in too, too. We never imagined people in uniforms, you know, will come to support those of us who work in front line, you know. So, that was amazing and I’m getting, I’m getting emotional as you can see. It was a wonderful, wonderful event and I’ll never, never forget it. Never forget it. Yeah.