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Chapter 4 – British Columbia Fights Back

Five round metal buttons, with slogans including: “Restrain restraint!” “The Socred Budget Disables People” and “Government by the PEOPLE NOT the Fraser Institute”

Buttons were a popular method of expressing opposition to the 1983 provincial budget and the restraint policies advocated by right wing think tanks and the Social Credit government.

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.

A man is seated at a table with many microphones in front of him. Several television cameras are pointed at him.

Within days of the July 7, 1983 budget, George Hewison, head of the Vancouver Labour Council Unemployment Committee called a meeting at the Fisherman’s Hall. More than a hundred people showed up.

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) 

Video transcript

A woman is holding papers and speaking at a microphone. A man stands behind her waiting his turn to speak. They aresurrounded by people on seats and sitting on the floor.

On July 12, 1983 hundreds of people attended a forum called by fired members of the BC Human Rights Commission to express outrage at the attack on human rights.

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.

An illustration of three women walking bent over witha board on their heads. The board is piled with boxes labelled with the titles of government bills. The illustration is titled Government Attacks on Women’s Rights and includes a list of eight items.

A handbill itemizes concerns of women after the July 7, 1983 budget and legislative package.

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.