Category: Films and DVDs

Workers’ History Museum Movie Night at PSAC (Ottawa)!

The Workers’ History Museum is proud to host a viewing of its historiographical film about the Public Service Alliance of Canada. The film presents the fifty-year story that began when leaders from many different, often competing associations came together to formally establish a union for federal government workers.

Date: March 15, 2017

When: 12pm, 2:30pm, and 7pm

Where: 233 Gilmour Street, Ottawa (J.K. Wiley Boardroom)

Cost: Free!

Fifty years ago, the leaders of many different, often competing, associations came together at a convention to formally establish a union for federal government workers. This represented the culmination of years of struggle to achieve what other workers outside the federal public sector had enjoyed for decades. It was the first step to bringing about real change in our members’ workplaces. It helped families and built communities.

In 50 years, our membership has grown to include public sector workers in the north, university teaching and Research Assistants, workers in Indigenous communities and more. From the beginning, PSAC recognized the need to reach out to the broader labour movement, working in Canada and internationally to build solidarity with the struggles of working people around the world. As we celebrate our first 50 years, the work of building our union goes on.

CLiFF v.6 Next Friday!

When: Friday, November 28th, 7 – 9 p.m.
Where: 233 Gilmour Street (PSAC Headquarters)
Cost: Free!

WHM is proud to once again host the Canadian Labour International Film Festival in Ottawa. The films in this festival tell the stories of workers from four continents and many more countries. Their voices are not often told, so we are excited to share them with you on November 28th.

This year’s line-up includes:

Joe Hill’s Secret Canadian Hideout (Canada)

Judith: Portrait of a Street Vendor (USA)

Luminaris (Argentina)

Qatar World Cup (UK)

Welcome to Dresden: Jim Crow Lived Here Too (Canada)

Working People: A History of Labour in British Columbia (Part 2 of a 3-part series) (Canada)

Please join us for a night of entertainment, enlightenment, and free popcorn. What more could you ask for?

The Canadian Labour International Film Festival 2014

When: Friday, November 28th, 7 – 9 p.m.
Where: 233 Gilmour Street (PSAC Headquarters)
Cost:Free!

The Workers’ History Museum is proud to host Ottawa’s Canadian Labour International Film Festival. This successful festival, now in its sixth year nationwide, has brought independent films about working people to cities throughout Canada.

Please join us on November 28th for Ottawa’s 2nd annual CLiFF. The festival takes place at 233 Gilmour Street. It is a free event. Please contact treasurer@workershistorymuseum.ca to reserve tickets.

Thanks to our generous sponsors for their support of this event.

Remembering Ottawa’s Electric Railway

Did you know that 100 years ago, Ottawa had a fleet of electric streetcars? The Ottawa Electric Railway Company’s line to Britannia Park made it an inexpensive destination for the working people of Ottawa.

The electric streetcars stopped running in 1959, but Streetcar 696 is now being lovingly restored at the OC Transpo garages. The Workers’ History Museum talked to Bruce Dudley, a former streetcar operator, about his memories of the service.

If you’re interested in Ottawa’s streetcars and the history of Britannia-on-the-Bay, we invite you to visit our exhibit at the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre at Britannia Park, 102 Greenview Avenue, Ottawa.

By Cydney Foote


Simply the Best: A Talk With the Filmmakers

The Workers’ History Museum is proud to announce the Cal Best Project, exploring the life and legacy of this Black activist, union leader, and senior government official. The project includes a travelling exhibit, educational materials and a documentary, Simply the Best. I talked with Arthur Carkner, project coordinator, and Wasim Baobaid, filmmaker, to see how a project like this gets started from the ground up.

Cydney: First of all, I have to say that I’m very excited about this project. It seems like one of the most ambitious endeavours that the WHM has taken part in. Could you tell us how it began? Who came up with the initial idea?

Art: The Cal Best Project began with a DVD of a panel discussion with Founders of PSAC initiated by Craig Spencer. I suggested using parts of this to create a contemporary DVD looking at the life and career of the subject. One of the missions of the WHM is to bring archival or neglected material to a wider audience, to preserve the voices and artifacts of an earlier time.

Cydney: I understand that this project has grown way past the initial estimates. What have you discovered that warrants this larger scope?

Wasim: When we started the research we could not get any info in the web. There wasn’t even a Wikipedia entry on him. When we got his correct name (“J. Calbert Best”) we found more information, but not as much as we hoped. After that Arthur did very good job in tracking his family member and we got to know more about Cal.

Art: The scope of the project grew considerably as Wasim and I did further research. We learned about his early struggles with racism, his Nova Scotia achievements, about his mother, Carrie Best. Best’s role in immigration, amateur sport, senior positions in various government departments ending in being Canada’s first Black High Commissioner (ambassador) gradually came to light, and we continue to learn more.

Cydney: Could you share one of your favourite “gems” that the research has uncovered?

Art: Cal Best chaired a commission on amateur sport funding, a very hot topic to this day. He recommended that more money be targeted on fewer sports, rather than a scattergun approach. One of the sports subsequently suggested for defunding was biathlo. Myriam Bedard had won a gold medal in this sport, and publicly confronted the Minister, saying, “You’re not going to defund my sport, are you?”.Best’s family teased him about not standing on his apartment balcony, lest Bedard pick him off with her rifle.

Wasim: I would like also to mention that Cal was one of the few people in the world who had a chance to shake hands with the Queen. That itself will give you a good idea of how the man held a senior position at that time. (Unfortunately we could not get a photo of him with the Queen!)

Cydney: You’ve interviewed a lot of Cal Best’s friends and family. If you could talk to the man himself, what would you want to ask him?

Art: I would ask Cal Best what changes he saw in Canadian society in 49 years of public service, and how he thinks the public service of today will be challenged in the future.

Wasim: I would like to know more about his early age especially in New Glasgow and Halifax. I want to know his feelings during his school in terms of racism during that time, and how he got over it. From the interviews we did we know that he was the first black family to arrive to Ottawa, and his daughter Christene said that she and her brother were the only two in the school who were “coloured” at that time. So how much more did he feel that in his school days?

Cydney: The sad death of Burnley Allan Jones was a blow to this project. I believe he was scheduled to be interviewed during the week that he died. What are the plans now?

Art: There is no replacing Rocky Jones in our documentary, he is irreplaceable. We are pursuing other notable Nova Scotians and Ottawans who knew and worked with Best for archival purposes, and to post on our website.

Cydney: Cal Best seems to be one of the unsung heroes of Canada. What do you hope this project will accomplish in terms of making his name known?

Art: We hope the Cal Best Project will get its subject better known in the public, in schools, in the Black community and that he will serve as an inspiration to all those who struggle to improve Canada and the world.

Wasim: This film has a strong message, as do my latest films (Yes, I Can and Sax Appeal). I totally believe, if there is a strong need, desire, and believe of yourself; absolutely, you will achieve your goals no matter who you are, what color and what condition you are in. “Believe in yourself and move forward,” this is the simple message of this film.

By Cydney Foote

Catch a sneak preview of “Simply the Best” at the Canadian Labour International Film Festival on November 29th at the PSAC Building, 233 Gilmour Street, Ottawa.


The Canadian Labour International Film Festival 2013

When: 7pm, November 29th
Where: 233 Gilmour Street (PSAC Headquarters)
Cost: Free!

The Workers’ History Museum is proud to host Ottawa’s Canadian Labour International Film Festival. This successful festival, now in its fifth year, has brought independent films about working people to cities throughout Canada. This year, we’re bringing these stories home to Ottawa!

Please join us on November 29th for the Ottawa CLiFF, featuring the following films:

Ann Kore Moun – Solidarite se chimen devlopman
2012 • 35 Minutes • Haitian Créole (English subtitles)
Directed by André Vanasse
What are unions for? Haitian union leaders explain the role of unions and why civil society is necessary for a country to develop itself. The documentary shows unions in action, in different sectors of society like the peasantry, schools, hospitals, transportation, municipal services, garment factories In Haiti’s free zones. Social protection, public services and the necessity of the rule of law are also discussed.

Union Style
2013 • 3 Minutes • English
Directed by Corinne Baumgarten
This is a light educational video about the importance of unions in general, their history and the current state of unions in Canada. It is a parody of Gangnam Style.

Tough to Swallow: Meals that Sparked a Seniors Revolt
2012 • 14 Minutes • English
Directed by Carla Bridgewater
In 2010, Alberta Health Services began shutting down full-service kitchens in all facilities with fewer than 125 beds and replacing them with so-called “heat and serve” equipment, where pre-cooked food was trucked in, reheated and served to patients and residents. The new food was described as ‘terrible,’ ‘inedible,’ and memorably, ‘dog food,’ but AHS just wasn’t listening to residents or their families. This film takes you under cover with John Gilchrist, noted food expert, author and critic, to expose the truth about the 21-day menu. Following production of this film and the subsequent coverage in conventional media, the Alberta Legislature ordered Alberta Health Services to reverse this policy.

A Struggle to Remember: Fighting for our Families
2012 • 20 Minutes • English (English and French subtitles)
Directed by Aaron Floresco
This film explores how Canadian feminists, unionists and political activists built a potent coalition, mobilized public opinion and achieved vast improvements in maternity leave and other family leave benefits.

We’ll also treat you to a sneak preview of the WHM’s latest documentary, Simply the Best.

The festival takes place at 233 Gilmour Street. Doors open at 7pm; the films begin at 7:30pm. It is a free event. Please contact treasurer@workershistorymuseum.ca to reserve tickets.

Thanks to our generous sponsors for their support of this event.

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PSAC logo NCR english-full
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Mark Your Calendars: Family Leave & Multiple Birth Parents Event, November 7th

4.1981 Red Rose Review demo, Ottawa supporting CUPW maternit

The Workers’ History Museum invites you to a screening of our video A Struggle to Remember: Fighting for Our Families, followed by a panel discussion with MP Sana Hassainia, Christian Martin (parent of twins), representing Multiple Births Canada, and filmmakers from the Workers’ History Museum. Kimberley Weatherall, Executive Director of Multiple Births Canada, will also be presenting an award to Ms. Hassainia this evening.

This bilingual event will be held in the auditorium of the Ottawa Public Library (Main Branch, 120 Metcalfe Street, Ottawa) on Thursday, November 7th at 7pm. It is a free event.

For more information, please contact info@workershistorymuseum.ca.


The Almonte Train Wreck: A Story of People (New DVD)

On a snowy December night in 1942, the town of Almonte, Ontario’s Christmas celebrations were cut short when a train transporting Canadian troops rear-ended an Ottawa-bound passenger train that was waiting at the station platform. It is considered one of the worst train wrecks in Canadian history.

At the Canadian Pacific Railway station in Almonte, Ontario, a Canadian military troop train operated by Canadian Pacific struck the rear of a local C.P. passenger train No. 550, “The Pembroke Local.”
– Duncan H. du Fresne in The RailLink, Mississippi Valley Associated Railroaders, December 2008

Anyone with any sense would have stayed by the fire that dreadful night. Snow and sleet competed with freezing rain as engineer Joe Sauvé and conductor M. O’Connell approached train No. 550 in Petawawa on December 27, 1942. They would have to pull the 10 wooden cars with “the contemptible old hog”! The engine: light Pacific No. 2518 had plied the tracks of the Ottawa Valley for 34 years and in all that time, it had not had a single trip that went smoothly. This would be its most disastrous… Thirty six people died and 207 were injured…
– Ron Ritchie from Branchline, Bytown Railway Society, December 1988

The Workers’ History Museum in collaboration with the North Lanark Regional Museum is proud to present The Almonte Train Wreck: A Story of People. Ottawa StoryTellers Donna Stewart and Ruth Stewart-Verger tell stories of the people and events surrounding the Almonte train wreck. Johnny Spinks, a local Almonte singer accompanied by Bradley Scott, sings Mac Beattie’s song “Train Wreck at Almonte,” courtesy of the Beattie family and his own song “Rust on the Rails.”

The Almonte Train Wreck: A Story of People celebrates the people who rode and worked on the trains of the Ottawa Valley and, specifically, those who came to the aid of No. 550 Pembroke Local, during the foul weather of December 27, 1942. The DVD can be purchased for $15.00 from:

The Workers’ History Museum (plus $5 postage)
North Lanark Regional Museum, Appleton, ON
The Movie Store, 2355 Franktown Road, Carleton Place, ON
The Movie Store, 10 Houston Drive, #3, Almonte ON
Naismith Museum, 2854 Ramsay Concession 5, RR # 1, Mississippi Mills, ON
Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario, Smiths Falls, ON

Other locations to be confirmed.

By Barb Stewart, WHM Treasurer


Family Leave Exhibit: NOW ON TOUR!

Family leave has had a major, positive effect on the economic stability of families, on the emotional stability of children and parents, on the ability of workers, especially women, to advance their careers and still bring up a family, on the work life / family life balance of workers and on workplace stability, since employers are better able to retain workers.

The Workers’ History Museum’s Family Leave Exhibit consists of five bilingual display panels, suitable for exhibition in a museum, gallery, school, college or university, workplace, shopping mall, union, or community hall. The panels illustrate in words and pictures the struggle to win maternity leave and other family leave benefits.

A 20-minute documentary on the history of family leave in Canada is also available. Watch the trailer now!

Trailer: A Struggle to Remember


WHM Celebrates Black History Month

In honour of Black History Month, the Workers” History Museum would like to announce that work has begun on a documentary about Calbert Best, a prominent Black union pioneer, public servant, activist and diplomat.

Interviews and research are currently underway for the video and a travelling display. Arthur Carkner and Wasim Baobaid are working on the project, which will be available for Black History Month in 2014. The WHM is providing the research, production and documentary making work while two regions of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (Ontario and National Capital) are providing funding. The project was initially endorsed by the Racially Visible Action Committee (NCR) of the same union.

Calbert Best was the multi-term president of the Civil Service Association of Canada, one of two employee associations which merged to form PSAC. Born in Nova Scotia, he was active in the first newspaper for Black Nova Scotians, which was founded by his mother, Dr. Carrie Best. She is the subject of many archival and historical articles, and was honoured with a postage stamp in the 1970s.

Calbert Best was fined for refusing to sit in the Black-only section of a movie theatre in his youth. His strong sense of social activism led him to the CSAC, which he was elected president of while working at the Department of Labour. He was central in the merger talks, which led to formation of a union and collective bargaining, with all of the benefits that has provided since.

He subsequently held a number of senior posts in government, ending as Canada’s high commissioner (equivalent to an ambassador but within the Commonwealth nations) to Trinidad and Tobago. After retirement from his regular work, he headed up a federal study commission on amateur sport, and was a member of the 1999 Treasury Board committee studying visible minority participation in the Public Service of Canada. He has since passed away, but his many great contributions to create a better Canada will have a lasting effect on present and future generations of Canadians.


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