Labour Movement Honours MacPaps
Re-circulated by the New Westminster & District Labour Council
Labour movement honours MacPaps
Burnaby, BC- This Remembrance Day as many events are cancelled or downsized again due to COVID-19, local union members are honouring the sacrifice of those who joined the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion to fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. Delegates of the New Westminster & District Labour Council will place flowers in Ocean View and Forest Lawn cemeteries in Burnaby.
The NWDLC have been placing MacPap flags and flowers at gravesites across the Metro region for the past two years. Today’s labour activists are also helping descendants of some of the MacPaps in their project to locate long forgotten burial sites. This year, with the assistance of cemetery staff they are looking for and will mark the graves of 15 MacPaps believed to be buried in Burnaby.
The MacPaps were part of the International Brigades which came to the aid of the newly democratic Spanish Republic, at the time resisting a military coup led by General Franco and supported by fascist leaders in Germany and Italy. Almost a quarter of the 1500 Canadian volunteers came from BC, and many were working people and labour organizers united in their fight for secure employment, living wages and safer working conditions. Those who had participated in BC’s pivotal labour moments – the Relief Camp workers’ strike, the On to Ottawa trek, the 35-36 Seamen’s strike and the Battle at Ballantyne Pier saw similar struggles in Spain, and the need to fight the rise of fascism in Europe.
Most of the volunteers defied their own government; Canada’s Foreign Enlistment Act made it illegal to volunteer to fight in the war. Their story is not taught at school, not recognized at Remembrance Day ceremonies by Veterans Affairs Canada, by Heritage Canada or as a part of BC labour history.
The organizers of this November 11th tribute both have personal connections. Ray Hoff, whose father was an American volunteer (joining the Mac-Paps in Spain) started the project in the US and brought it to Canada in 2017. Victoria filmmaker Pamela Vivian’s great uncle was a volunteer from North Vancouver who died in Spain. She is producing a documentary film about the British Columbia volunteers of the International Brigades.
NWDLC-Janet Andrews 604-291-9306 www.nwdlc.ca