Clips from BC Labour Heritage Centre oral history interviews, 2018.
Cliff Andstein (Chief Negotiator, BC Government Employees Union) [00:00:01] It was clear by August. The government was not responding to mass demonstrations of size and intensity that hadn’t been seen. When we called our first one in Victoria, BCGEU called one with the Labour Council. We didn’t expect anything big. Six thousand people – that was within a week of the budget coming out. Six thousand people were out on that one, and then later twenty thousand, in Victoria of all places, out on the legislature. Fifty thousand, thirty five thousand, in the two in Vancouver. Tens of thousands across the province. By August, the government wasn’t responding to any of that.
Art Kube (President, BC Federation of Labour) [00:00:40] We said, “Well, what we’re going to have to do is we’re going to have to have one other mass demonstration.” And so we went out there, and we really cranked ‘er up. Cranked it up. I tell you, I was shaking to make sure that that thing turned out, and it did turn out.
Jim Sinclair [00:01:04] Yes.
Art Kube [00:01:08] It did turn out.
Ken Novakowski (Bargaining Staff, BC Teachers’ Federation)[00:01:11] The number of people, it was overwhelming. I couldn’t believe it. So I actually did a count. As one of the organizers, I did a count of the number of people, and I came up with 80000. The official count was sixty thousand, but I am to this day convinced that there were a lot more than sixty thousand. And the second thing was, of course, going by the convention when there were all kinds of… People came out from the Social Credit convention to sort of goad the protesters, and there were sort of interactions that happened, some of which were actually caught on the video, but that was also a highlight. But the, the, the termination of the march at Queen Elizabeth Plaza and the singing of Solidarity Forever, the whole group, that was, that was really moving. And again, it was much like what happened at the Empire Stadium thing. You thought, “Wow, the government has to respond to this kind of opposition. They’ve never seen anything like it in the history of the province. It’s massive. They have… They can’t just carry on. They have to do something.”
Larry Kuehn (President, BC Teachers’ Federation) [00:02:29] Well, the, the thing that really made it, you know, gave it an edge to the demonstration, besides the massive number of people who came out to the demonstration, was the fact that it circled the Hotel Vancouver where the Social Credit Party was having its annual meeting. And so it gave a point of direct conflict between the government and the people, as reflected in Solidarity. You know, there, in one of the films of the, of that, that period, there’s a dispute between, an argument between one of the teacher protesters and one of the cabinet ministers, Social Credit cabinet ministers who came out, that kind of characterized the, you know, the degree of tension and the degree of of the anger that existed. And the, the role that Social Credit was taking as well, on the other side of this.
Stuart Alcock (Representative for Gay Men, Solidarity Coalition) [00:03:36] I remember walking past the Hotel Vancouver. I seem to remember that as we were passing by, some of the delegates from the So. Cred. Convention actually came out of one of the doors. And I, I felt a little bit afraid for their safety. They were, they were clearly being provocative. And I’m happy to say that nobody rose to the provocation in any meaningful way, but there was a mood of confrontation there. But people again were, sort of, solid in their support.
Hanne Jensen (Fired Director, BC Human Rights Branch) [00:04:40] I remember being on the plaza of the Queen Elizabeth, and just feeling the energy of the crowd and all of the people coming together and saying this is, there’s so much strength in numbers and we want our message to come across and be heard. And then marching down Georgia Street towards the Hotel Vancouver where the So. Creds. were now hovering behind closed doors, except for the few brave ones who came out to hector the protesters.
Marcy Toms (teacher, community activist) [00:05:05] I can remember a feeling of exhilaration, because well, it was absolutely uplifting and exhilarating and it, in full it brought up expectations that things could go forward quite successfully. To have so many people there, so engaged and walking around the Hotel Vancouver, which I guess we weren’t supposed to do because as I recall the B.C. Federation of Labour really didn’t want that action to happen at all, where the Social Credit Party was having its convention was a very powerful feeling. I do recall people standing or walking by the doors and shaking their fingers or occasionally shaking their fists. And I don’t know if I remember it or I remember it because it’s on the film “Common Cause”, one teacher having an argument with a So. Cred. that was quite vociferous and the teacher not, was not backing down. And I guess seeing so many teachers out at that demonstration and at others, when we weren’t a union under the labour code and had just got our expanded scope of bargaining activism, really motivated. It was something of a harbinger of times to come. So, I… Exhilaration is often fuelled by people, like-minded people together and it was a really strong, powerful feeling. Perhaps that we could actually stop, reverse the legislation.