Teaching Labour History: Making Connections Conference

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REGISTER HERE: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/teaching-labour-history-making-connections-tickets-53330837972


TTOC and Expense Form application is here: FUND APPLICATION

Vancouver Technical Secondary School 

February 15, 2019

Sponsored by: BCSSTA, BC Labour Heritage Centre, Simon Fraser University Labour Studies Program

  labour studies sfu logo   labour history logo

The Planning Committee would like to acknowledge the generous financial support of the following:

BCTF, Community Savings Credit Union, WorkSafe BC and UFCW 1518


8:15 am             Registration desk and Display tables open (4th Floor)

9:00-10:15        Welcome, introductions and Plenary panel discussion (Music Room)

10:15-10:30     Coffee (4th floor)

10:30-12:00     Workshop 1 (4th Floor)

12:00-1:00        Lunch (Hot lunch provided by a grant from UFCW local1518) (4th Floor)

1:00-2:30          Workshop 2 (4th Floor)

2:30-2:45          Door prizes (4th Floor)

3:00-5:00          Social gathering at Charlatan’s 1447 Commercial Drive


Hidden Histories of Women Workers In – and Out – of the Labour Movement

Presenters: Janet Nicol and Marica Toms

More than 300 workers—most of them female—organized into the Laundry Workers Union in Vancouver in 1918.   Over four months these “girl strikers” picketed at seven steam laundries.  In the first half of the presentation, Janet Nicol tells their story and suggests relevant ways to teach students about working women’s struggles.

Between 1918 and 1960, many women who lived in Strathcona, Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, worked there and in adjacent Chinatown. The majority of them were marginalized and/ or racialized and did work traditionally regarded neither important nor worthy of inclusion in trade unions. Yet, what they created supported families and, whether in entertainment, food services or light industry, contributed economically and socially to Vancouver’s vibrant life.  Marcy Toms tells stories of Black, Asian and Indigenous women who have been hidden from history, and whose time to be visible is long past due.

Presenters’ biographies

Janet Nicol taught Social Studies in Vancouver for 29 years, retiring from Killarney Secondary in 2017.  Volunteer work includes the BC Labour Heritage Centre, summer workshops with teachers in Mongolia, Peru and Tanzania and serving on boards of BC Historical Federation and the Vancouver municipal Youth Justice Committee.   Her freelance writing blog is at http://janetnicol.wordpress.com/

Marcia Toms is a retired Vancouver secondary teacher with a long history of social and political activism both in and out of the BCTF. She has a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies from SFU and is interested in social movements, particularly in terms of the activism of women. Currently, she is involved with the BC Labour Heritage Centre and as a volunteer conversational language mentor for refugees and new Canadians at Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House in East Vancouver.

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Child Labour: Then and Now

Presenters: Helesia Luke and John Decaire

This session will explore child labour in an historic and global context, changes to BC’s employment standards act in 2003 that lowered the work-start age and the subsequent increase in child work-related injuries.

Presenters will also discuss Canada’s recent ratification of the International Labour Organization’s Convention 138 and the current campaign in BC to modernize employment standards to recognize the unique vulnerabilities of children and adolescents.

Presenters’ biographies

Helesia has over twenty years of communications and community organizing experience on some of the most pressing public interest issues in Canada, including climate change, poverty, homelessness, child labour and public education. Helesia has authored and edited numerous studies on child labour and BC’s employment standards. Prior to joining the First Call team, Helesia worked at the Columbia Institute.

John is   a member of the Labour History Project Education workgroup and has contributed lessons on the Working people of British Columbia as well as developing lessons and resource materials to support the Day of Mourning commemoration in Public Schools. He currently teaches in the Surrey School District

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The ‘Other’ Labour Movement – Workers of the Transpacific

Presenters: John Price and Hayne Wai

From earliest times, newcomers from across the Pacific joined Indigenous peoples as key figures in the labour history of the province. Workers from China, Hawai’i, Japan, and South Asia laboured in resource industries, on the railways and in the factories, and were later joined by those from Korea, the Philippines and many other places. Often branded as strikebreakers, they worked as fishers, miners, farmworkers, and they organized unions yet their stories still remain largely on the margins of labour history. Look to the past to reshape our futures.

Presenters’ biographies

John Price is the former coordinator of the Labour Studies Program, Capilano University, and professor emeritus at the University of Victoria where he taught Asian and Asian Canadian history.

Hayne Wai is a founding member and past president of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of BC. http://www.cchsbc.ca/   He has been a researcher and involved in Chinese Canadian issues for several decades and is a former sessional instructor at the Faculty of Education, UBC.

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The History of Indigenous Labour In BC: The Importance of Teaching About It

Presenters: Carol Arnold and Sarah Purdy

In this workshop, we will be introduced to the history of First Nation involvement in the colonial economy in B.C. and the roots of activism and resistance.  Indigenous labour leaders and their attempts to organise will be discussed.  Sarah will introduce her new lesson Indigenous Workers in the Early History of British Columbia developed for the new Social Studies 9 curriculum in this session.

Presenters’ biographies

Carol is of Metis-Cree heritage and teaches Social Studies and B.C. First Nations Studies 12 at Gulf Islands Secondary on Salt Spring Island. She has taught for 29 years am currently a member of the Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee for BCTF and that work includes workshop writing and facilitation.

Sarah Purdy is Secondary Social Studies teacher at Byrne Creek Secondary school.  In addition to Social Studies courses 8-11, she also teaches history, law and Social Justice 12. She has been an active member of the Labour History Working group and authored a number of lessons including a full unit for Social Justice 12.

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 Overview of BC Labour History: “On the Line”

Presenters: Rod Mickleburgh and Wayne Axford

On the Line: A History of the BC Labour Movement provides an overview of the struggles and issues that working people and their unions faced as they set out to build the British Columbia we know today. The workshop highlights the role of Indigenous labour, immigrant labour and the role of women in building our economy over close to two centuries. The role of workers in major resource industries, the two world wars, the depression, the post war social contract and its attack by government that gave rise to Solidarity and the rise of public sector unions and their battle over bargaining rights with right wing governments. Workshop participants will be directed to lesson plans that address many of these topics and will also be provided with a free copy of the book On the Line: A History of the BC Labour Movement by Rod Mickleburgh.

Presenters’ biographies

Wayne is a mostly retired Social Studies teacher from Burnaby. He is a member of the BCSSTA Executive and the Education consultant for the Labour Heritage Centre. Wayne is also a guide for the BC Labour History Walking tours on Vancouver.

Rod is a former labour reporter for the Vancouver Sun and Province and senior writer for The Globe and Mail. He is also the author of The Art of the Impossible: Dave Barrett and the NDP in Power, 1972–1975 (co-authored with Geoff Meggs).

Rod is also a guide for the BC Labour History Walking tours on Vancouver.

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“Making Labour History Work for Students: Experiential Learning, the Work Process, and the Paper Airplane Game.”

Presenters: Mark Leier and Dale Martelli

This workshop will examine some of the difficulties in teaching labour history in schools. These range from labour history’s highly political nature, to the current sense that history is irrelevant, to the demands of content and pedagogy in the school system. We’ll then work through an example of experiential learning that can help overcome some of these problems. It will be a “hands-on” participatory workshop, and we will draw out lessons and ideas for the future from it.

Presenters’ biographies

Mark Leier is a professor in the history department at SFU and has taught labour history in schools, universities, and unions. He is the author of several books and article on labour and left history, and has written on teaching techniques and ideas.


Dale Martelli is the Social Studies Department Head and Flex Humanities Coordinator at Vancouver Technical School where he teaches Social Studies, History and Philosophy 12. He is the President of the British Columbia Social Studies Teachers Association and Editor-in-chief of the Detours Social Science Education Research Journal Currently he is completing his PhD at Simon Fraser University.

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Changing Nature of Work

Presenter: Kendra Strauss

This session will focus on how Labour Studies addresses themes of the changing world of work and the future of work, and how these themes can be integrated in the new curriculum for Social Studies. We will cover themes like precarious employment, automation and technological change, the ‘gig’ economy, the green jobs transition, and migration. The session will include a presentation, groups discussions, and a hands-on curriculum activity.

Presenter’s biography

Kendra Strauss is Associate Professor and Director of the Labour Studies Program at Simon Fraser University. She is a human geographer with interests in labour market change, migration, precarious work and social inequality.

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History of Health and Safety in British Columbia

Presenters:  Al Cornes, Suzie Mah and Robin Schooley

The focus of this workshop is on major events in BC public and worker health and safety from the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century and how these events led to the creation of new public health and workplace regulations, standards, and laws for BC workers.  Materials will include teaching ideas appropriate for Social Studies 9, 10, 11, Law Studies 12, Career Life Education, and Career Life Connections.

Some of the content will include public health disasters, coal mining disasters, child labour, the collapse of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, and injuries in the commercial fishing, farmworker, and asbestos industries.  In addition to historical content, participants will be reviewing health and safety basics, resources from the BC Labour Heritage Centre, WorkSafe BC, and the Day of Mourning:  BC Schools Project.

Presenters’ biography
Suzie Mah is a Vancouver teacher who is currently an online career education teacher working at the Vancouver Learning Network.  She has developed several career education courses, each with a health and safety component.  In addition to teaching in this field, Suzie has over 30 years working with elementary, high school, and adult students – both as an elementary generalist and teaching English language learners (ELL).  Suzie is a Labour Heritage Center Education Committee member and a long-time union activist. She believes that teaching health and safety practices is key in our schools today.  “So many of our youth get their first part time jobs when they hit 15 and as a teacher, I want to make sure they understand their rights and responsibilities as a young worker as well as understand how BC workers won these rights.”

Al Cornes is a retired teacher who is currently the Chair of the Labour History Project Curriculum Committee and is the Project Manager for the BC Schools Day of Mourning Project with a focus on young worker safety. Prior to his retirement, he served in senior staff roles at the BC Teachers’ Federation.  He taught for 10 years in Social Studies at various grade levels.

Robin Schooley (WorkSafe BC)

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