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Chapter 7 – Rallies Around the Province

A parade of people is assembled walking, on bicycles and in wheelchairs. A banner reads “Budget Coalition” and other signs are visible.

On July 23, more than 20,000 demonstrators marched in Vancouver to a rally organized by the Lower Mainland Budget Coalition.

On July 23, more than 20,000 demonstrators marched in Vancouver in a rally organized by the Lower Mainland Budget Coalition to oppose the government’s package. A week earlier, BC Federation of Labour President Art Kube predicted 3,000 would show up. The people of B.C. were ready to fight.

Audio with transcript: “Rally in Victoria – Joy Langan, BC Federation of Labour”

A crowd of people face the camera, some holding umbrellas and others wearing picket signs. Banners read “Unemployed Teachers Action Centre” and “British Columbia Teachers’ Federation”.

The largest protest ever held at the BC legislature in Victoria was on July 27, 1983. It drew twenty-five thousand angry citizens.

July 27, 1983 saw the largest protest ever held at the legislature in Victoria. Twenty-five thousand citizens expressed their widespread anger at the Social Credit government’s “restraint” budget as an excuse for stripping away labour and social rights.

Province-wide pickets appeared at government offices. Work-to-rule was used. Canadian clergymen called Bennett dishonest and unfair. The federal government, Vancouver City Council, and the BC Health Association all added their voices to the growing opposition.

Smaller actions also took hold across the province. 20 people in Usk in northwestern BC protested by blocking access to the ferry, the only link across the Skeena River. The Vancouver Sun reported that picketers held back until after the ferry operator got to work so his job would not be in jeopardy.

A large group of people are parading down a paved road holding signs reading “In Support Operation Solidarity”, “Bill where is your cents of value” and “Grace McCarthy abuses children”.

Solidarity demonstrations occurred in communities around BC. This march of protestors took place in Prince George on August 4, 1983 where 1,000 people denounced the government’s actions.

“We hope other communities will find their own way to fight back,” said an Usk protester.

Rallies and Organizing Around the Province, Rod Mickleburgh (Labour Reporter), Ken Novakowski, Mervyn Van Steinburg (Unemployment Action Centre coordinator) Art Kube (President, BC Federation of Labour), Jim Sinclair, Larry Kuehn (President, BC Teachers’ Federation), and Patsy George (fired BC government social worker & staff for Solidarity Coalition) 

Video transcript

A stage faces a group of people standing and sitting on the grass. The Operation Solidarity flag flies and banners include “Justice & Dignity for Pensioners”, “Nelson Womens Centre” and “Nelson and District Labour Council”

In the West Kootenay city of Nelson, community and labour representatives joined together to protest the provincial government’s 1983 budget and legislative package which attacked social and labour rights.

“Basic rights are being taken away from all British Columbians and the amendments don’t change that,” Art Kube told a rally of 2,000 in Nelson. Similar rallies were held in communities like Prince George, Kamloops, Kelowna, Williams Lake, Quesnel, Fort St. John and Dawson Creek.

A typewritten sheet includes a logo of Operation Solidarity West Kootenay Coalition and lyrics to songs “We Shall Overcome”, “Bread and Roses”, “We ShallNot Be Moved”, “Hold the Fort”, “Solidarity Forever” and “If I Had a Hammer”

Music from historic labour and social justice movements were often part of the 1983 Solidarity events as shown in this song sheet from the West Kootenay Solidarity Coalition. The songs helped to build unity and comradeship among protesters.