Chapter 4 – British Columbia Fights Back
Communities around B.C. were shocked by the 26 bills that accompanied the budget. Nearly everyone was impacted – women, children, faith groups, people with disabilities, renters, workers and more. Minority groups feared their human rights were at greater risk, with no effective means of pursuing justice. 1600 provincial employees received layoff notices on July 8th. It didn’t take long for these communities to decide they had to fight back.
Within days, George Hewison of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union [UFAWU] and head of the labour council’s Unemployment Committee called a meeting at the Fishermen’s Hall in Vancouver. More than a hundred people turned out and formed the Lower Mainland Budget Coalition. They planned a demonstration for Saturday, July 23.
Lower Mainland Budget Coalition, George Hewison (Chair, Lower Mainland Budget Coalition)
Community activists, horrified at what was happening to basic rights and social services in the province, were just as fast. The day after Hewison’s meeting, on July 12th, hundreds came to a forum addressed by fired members of the Human Rights Commission. The next day, Women Against the Budget was formed – a broad-based umbrella organization of activist women that brought “radical feminist views and action” to the fight, according to member Lorraine Chisholm.
Former university staff John Shayler remembers “a coalition of campus unions, secretarial, clerical and technical support staff, sessional and tutor instructors, the student union, the building trades, and faculty. I chaired the coalition and we voted early to join the Lower Mainland Budget Coalition.”
Small gatherings, large gatherings, discussion groups, planning meetings and action caucuses appeared everywhere.