Category: Research Projects

Public Service Alliance of Canada Wall Exhibit

Check out our latest permanent wall exhibit located at 233 Gilmour Street in Ottawa. This was a collaboration with the PSAC, Chapter One Studio for the design and the Workers’ History Museum.

The exhibit is made up of 100 photos showing a variety of the jobs carried out over the last 50 years by Public Service Alliance of Canada members from coast to coast to coast. Also included are photos of some major strikes that helped create the direction that the PSAC moved forward, such as the Clerk and Regulatory (CR) strike in 1980, the general strike of 1991 plus a couple of other creative strikes. Pictures of three members that took their human rights struggles to the Human Rights Tribunal or the Supreme Court of Canada and won that saw rights and benefits then given across the country are highlighted too.

Most people view PSAC members as office government workers, but the reality is vastly different as you can see by the exhibit.

Capital History Kiosks

CapitalHistoryKiosks: Project Team (*) and Graduate Researchers:

Left to rightSamantha Osborn*, Ross Rheaume*, Chelsea Fahey*, Barb Stewart*, Sara Hollett, Stephanie Lett, Sarah Chelchowski, Kelsea McKenna, Lisa Bullock, David Dean*, Francesca Brzezicki, Meredith Comba, Rebecca Sykes, William Teal, Jen Halsall, Adam Mahoney, Denise Steeves, Andre Mersereau*

Seated: Emily Barsanti-Innes, Kelsey Bodechon, Phoebe Mannell, Pascale Couturier

Absent: Kelly Ferguson, Chris Goneau*, Dany Guay-Belanger, Kira Smith

Photo: Paul Harrison, Workers’ History Museum (April 5, 2017)

The Workers’ History Museum is pleased to announce the launch of the first of over a dozen Capital History Kiosks featuring little known and untold stories about Ottawa’s past. The kiosks consist of vinyl wraps around traffic control boxes featuring a striking image, lively text, and a QR code taking visitors to the Carleton Centre for Public History’s web-based storytelling site,

Stories for Capital History Kiosks were developed by graduate students taking Carleton Professor David Dean’s seminar Museums, Public Memory, and National Identity in winter 2017. The first kiosk, located at Bank And Exhibition Way at Lansdowne Park, tells the early history of lacrosse at Lansdowne and was researched by Lisa Bullock.

Capital History Kiosks is a project of the Workers’ History Museum partnering with the Carleton Centre for Public History, the design firm Chapter One Studio, and artist Ross Rheaume. It was made possible by Ottawa 2017, CIBC and the three Arts, Culture and Heritage Program Stewarding Partners AOE Arts Council, Ottawa Arts Council and Council of Heritage Organizations of Ottawa and was funded by a City of Ottawa 2017 Arts, Culture and Heritage Investment Programme Grant.

There will be more than a dozen kiosks appearing across the city in the coming weeks.

A Day in the Life of a WHM Volunteer at the E. B. Eddy Mill, Part 1

For over 150 years, the E. B. Eddy paper mill was the site of ever-expanding industrial activity. It grew to a sprawling hive of buildings that bestrode the Quebec and Ontario sides of the Chaudière Falls, employed thousands, and turned trees into an astonishing variety of paper products. Then, in 2006, the mill closed.

In the years since, in the vast halls where for decades machinery had hummed and roared, the silence was deep enough that the echo of a single footstep would reach dozens of empty rooms. Now, however, there are new sounds: the soft whirr of camera shutters, the scrape of tripods against concrete, the riffling of log book sheets, and the bleep of a laser range-finder.

Twice a week since July 2014, a team of volunteer photographers and videographers organized by the Workers’ History Museum has been recording the buildings, which are decades and in places over a hundred years old, to create a detailed visual record of a complex that is one giant historical artifact; a place of work for generations of engineers, mechanics, chemists, salesmen, forklift operators, and all the dozens of other professions needed to make paper on a huge scale.

It is a race against time. Windmill Corporation is shortly to commence refashioning the complex into offices, condominiums, and public spaces. They will incorporate as much of the existing historical buildings as possible, but many are structurally unsound and will have to come down. Those retained will be refashioned for purposes very different from their past.

 A control platform where steam flow was monitored gleams in the light of nearby windows.

A control platform where steam flow was monitored gleams in the light of nearby windows.

Conscious of the history and heritage of the site, and determined to preserve it as far as possible, Windmill (and the current owners, Domtar) welcomed a WHM proposal for an unusual, possibly unique, archival project to visually record all the dozens of buildings on site, frozen in a moment just before they are to disappear or change.

Imagine if a complete image and video record had been made of an ancient Roman military camp only hours after the site was abandoned. It would be a historical treasure. By marshalling the efforts of a score of photographers and historically minded assistants, that is what WHM is creating for the E. B. Eddy mill complex.

Like an archaeological dig – indeed, the project has been referred to as “industrial archaeology” – the images and video will enable the reconstruction, and understanding, of the environment in which workers of the 20th century functioned. Future researchers and historians will be better able to establish how industrial buildings were constructed and extended over time, and discern how safety, electrical, steam heating, and other systems functioned.

Several boxes with contents like these were found along the main paper production halls.  They are probably cast-off parts that accumulated as the great machines once housed there were dismantled for shipment after being sold.

Several boxes with contents like these were found along the main paper production halls. They are probably cast-off parts that accumulated as the great machines once housed there were dismantled for shipment after being sold.

For the next three weeks, we’ll share the stories of these people who gamely spend sometimes exhausting days in often dark, dusty, and damp spaces, and to the images they’ve captured. See you next Wednesday!

By Paul Harrison, WHM Official Photographer

The WHM’s Rand Formula Project

In 1946, after a bitter 99-day strike that pitted the fledgling United Autoworkers (UAW) Local 200 against the powerful Ford Motor Company in Windsor, Ontario, Justice Ivan Rand of the Supreme Court of Canada handed down a landmark decision. Because the union provides representation to all bargaining unit members, including those who are not union members, it is entitled to receive payment for all the services it provides. No employee is obliged to become a union member; however, the employer deducts union dues at source from the salaries of all bargaining unit employees, whether they are union members or not, and remits these dues to the union.

This decision, which came to be known as the Rand formula, has been upheld and strengthened in court cases and arbitration awards. Nonetheless, and despite popular support, it continues to be challenged–such as with the recent introduction of private members bill C-525.

Recognizing the important role that the Rand formula has played in the lives of both unionized and non-unionized workers, a member of the Workers’ History Museum suggested that it be the focus of an upcoming WHM exhibition.

The subcommittee for the Rand Formula Project has been working diligently ever since. A travelling exhibit will be ready in the fall of 2014 and a documentary will be released in the winter. We are also preparing research notes, educational material including a participant manual, an exhibit and a short documentary film in English and French. The project will include teaching notes for facilitators on union courses and a web-based self-teaching version.

We look forward to presenting this new exhibit and sharing the positive contributions that unions have made to Canada’s social, political, and economic life.

Ottawa’s working class and the First World War

While researching for the WHM’s upcoming exhibit on Ottawa’s working class during the First World War, I have been inspired by the way that people from various classes, religions, and races were able to come together as a community.

Ottawa is often described as a big city with a small city feel. The sense of community that exudes from it is one that is ever present; it is a part of its charm, its personality, and it is at the very core of Ottawa’s development. The research completed thus far only confirms this for me.

I hope that you enjoy taking a glimpse into the research that I have been conducting as much as I have enjoyed compiling it.

Hospital Ship Campaign

The first thing that caught my attention while I was looking for research topics was the nationwide Hospital Ship Campaign. It was organized by women to raise funds for the purpose of giving a hospital ship to the Empire.

The campaign was run by the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE) and had a goal of raising $100,000.00. In The History of the Hospital Ship Campaign, it is noted that it was seen as “an opportunity for every Canadian woman to show her loyalty and devotion to the empire [sic]” (Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, n.d.a., p2). The 2-3 week campaign raised a total of $282, 857.77; a portion went to purchase motor ambulances, and the remainder was used to construct a building at the Royal Naval Hospital Haslar where the nurses would reside (Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, n.d.a.).


According to the records of the IODE, $19,541.14 came from Ottawa. Luckily for me, the IODE were not the only ones that kept records of the donations; The Ottawa Journal kept records in greater detail. They would print the names of the donors and the amount that they each donated. This list is key in examining how the various communities in Ottawa did their part at the onset of war.

There is evidence of girls from various companies pooling their money to donate, of others collecting donations at events, and many others donating what they could. From the working class to the elite, raising the money was a community effort. It is a perfect example of how a community like Ottawa can come together in times of need and go above and beyond.

One of the more notable stories that arose from the campaign was that of two little boys, Roland and Walter Garlick. Accompanying their $3.50 donation was the following letter: “Dear Sir:–We wanted to help to raise money for the Hospital Ship Fund. My brother is nearly blind, but he sold his bead work which he made at the Brantford Blind School while I have sold my manual training woodwork” (Ottawa Evening Journal, August 19, 1914).

Although the community came together on many occasions, there was still a lot of worry—especially within the working class—about job competition, dilution, and the ever-growing cost of goods.

“The May Day 18”

The second issue that caught my attention was the raid on May 1, 1918—when the Dominion Police force arrested eighteen men between the ages of 21-56 during a meeting of the Industrial Workers of the World and the Nove Zhyttia at 268 Rochester Street.

The men were there to listen to a speech by Stefan Waskan, a Toronto-based IWW organizer (Hunchuck, Moore, May 2009.). During the raid they confiscated Austrian literature for translation purposes, and also found buttons that stated: “Social service independent workers world unite” (Ottawa Evening Journal, 2 May 1918, 1).

Internment campSeventeen of the eighteen men were sent to Kapuskasing and released on October 2, 1919. Waskan was the only one that was not interned; although he was Austrian-born, he was a naturalized British citizen, and the law stating that citizenship granted after 1902 could be revoked only applied to Canadians (Hunchuck, Moore, 2009.). Waskan was held for criminal idleness until the book and pamphlet translations were completed (Ottawa Evening Journal, 1918, p3).

Of the men that went to Kapuskasing, four returned to Ottawa and began the Ottawa Branch of the UK Labour Temple Association in 1920. Records of the other thirteen men post-internment have yet to be found. (Hunchuck, 2010)

Final thoughts

The issues surrounding Ottawa’s working class during the First World War provide a broader understanding of the struggles that were felt on the home front, while simultaneously portraying the sense of the community that existed.

The research that has been, and continues to be, conducted is a glimpse into Ottawa’s cultural past. We are looking forward to telling you more about Ottawa’s working class during the First World War.

Ottawa Evening Journal. 19 Aug 1914

Ottawa Evening Journal. 2 May 1918

Ottawa Evening Journal. 3 May 1918

Canadian Women’s Block, Royal Naval Hospital Haslar. [sketch]. Retrieved from Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire. N.d.a. The History of the Hospital Ship Fund; Which was the Imperial Gift of the Women of Canada to the British Army and Navy 1914. Located at the National Archives MG28-I17 V33.

Haslar Hospital, Canadian Womens Wing. [photograph]. Retrieved from Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire. N.d.a. The History of the Hospital Ship Fund; Which was the Imperial Gift of the Women of Canada to the British Army and Navy 1914. Located at the National Archives MG28-I17 V33.

Hunchuck, S.H., Moore, P.( May 12, 2009) 1918: Raid and Internment. Ottawa-Outaouais IWW. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from

Hunchuck, S.H., (2010). ‘Of course it was a Communist Hall’: A spatial, social, and political history of the Ukrainian Labour Temples in Ottawa, 1912-1965. In J.Mochoruk, R.L. Hinther (Eds.), Re-imagining Ukrainian Canadians: History, Politics, and Identity. (403-435). Toronto: University of Toronto Press

Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire. N.d.a. The History of the Hospital Ship Fund; Which was the Imperial Gift of the Women of Canada to the British Army and Navy 1914. Located at the National Archives MG28-I17 V33.

Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire. N.d.b. The IODE in Wartime; A record of women’s work for King and Empire. The Bryant Press: Toronto. Located at the National Archives MG28-I17 V33.

“Inside the campground at Kapuskasing”. [photograph]. In fear of the barbed wire fence: Canada’s first national internment operations and the Ukrainian Canadians, 1914-1920. Ed. Luciuk, L. Kingston: Kashtan Press, 2001.

Meet the Museum’s new summer student

The Workers’ History Museum is again fortunate to receive funding from Young Canada Works (YCW) for the hiring of a summer student. This year, our student is Andrea Gonzalez, and we’re extremely fortunate to have her.

“I’m excited about two things,” she says about her summer at the WHM, “the first being that I have the ability to be able to see how a museum that is considerably new grow, and the process that it needs to take to establish itself; the second being that I get to research and learn about Ottawa’s history. I enjoy doing research, and I think that learning about the community that you live in is important.”

A Sarnia native who now calls Ottawa home, Andrea graduated from Carleton University with a degree in History and Political Studies, and has just completed her first year at Algonquin College’s Applied Museum Studies program. An experienced traveller, Andrea is also passionate about museums. She lists the Grand Palace in Thailand as one of her favourites, recalling the “detail and thought that was placed into designing the Palace” as part of its charm. She also has fond memories of the St. Louis Science Center, and says that its approach and exhibits “haven’t gotten old for me yet, and I don’t think they ever will.”

No stranger to local history, thanks to her classes in history as well as Canadian Studies, Andrea is tasked with the research of two WHM exhibitions: the history of the E.B. Eddy Company’s workers, and the story of Ottawa’s working class during the First World War.

Stay tuned to the WHM blog over the next few weeks to see what Andrea discovers!

Remembering the Civil Service: Call for Participants

Remembering the Civil Service: A Study of Aboriginal Labour Experiences in the Post-War Ottawa Federal Civil Service” is an oral history study designed to help self-identifying First Nation, Metis, and Inuit individuals share their stories about what it is like to work for the Canadian federal civil service in a student, temporary, or permanent position.

This is an important activity to participate in, because their voices as workers are missing from history and no one can address this part of the Canadian past better than they. Doing so will allow for greater public and academic recognition of their contributions to the Canadian economy and the country that we know in the present. It will also help scholars understand the transition period Canada went through to make the civil service a more inclusive workforce.

Interview materials (audio records and transcripts) may be deposited in Archives and Research Collections (ARC), the archive at Carleton University, so that these stories may be accessed in person and/or digitally. This may become a valuable cultural resource for interviewees and the communities to which they belong. Anonymity is available and sometimes recommended to those interviewed. In these cases, their participation will still be extremely valuable.

Taking part in the project can be as simple as participating in a one-hour interview. Anyone interested in participating (or providing friendly referrals to friends or colleagues) should contact Alisha Seguin or follow her on Twitter.

Getting a National Unemployment Insurance System was not an Easy Fight

With no unemployment insurance during the 1930s depression, workers only got support if they worked on public projects run by National Defence like this road construction in Rockcliffe.

For those without a job and struggling to survive on Unemployment Insurance, it will come as no surprise that since the start of the 2008 recession, Canada has fallen behind a majority of developed countries when it comes to job creation.

This got us thinking about other times of high unemployment, and how Canadian workers responded. Other than the “dirty 30s,” our history books play scant attention to the unemployed, yet there have been many times when our economy has failed working people.

In Ottawa, the Parliament buildings offer us a few opportunities to look at unemployment. During their initial construction in the 1860s, the budget was exhausted and work halted for the entire winter of 1862 and into 1863. A jumble of partially finished buildings, stones, and rubble was all that remained on the Hill, while in the city hungry families were trying to survive a long winter. The halt in construction was drastic for Ottawa, leaving between 1,300 and 1,700 men out of work with no chance of other employment and no compensation to help them feed their families.1

The depression that started in 1913 and lasted the duration of the First World War hit workers very hard; some trades saw over 40% of their members out of work. Those without income became increasingly desperate. In 1916, following the fire that destroyed the Centre Block, Public Works put out a call for 300 workers. The result was a near riot. Over 2,000 men turned up on the Hill looking for work; hundreds rushed the site picking up tools in the hope this would get them employment.

The Allied Trades and Labour Association membership reacted to these high levels of unemployment and successfully lobbied City Council to establish a Municipal Unemployment Bureau.2 But Canada did not get its first federal unemployment program until 1918 with the passage of the Employment Offices Co-ordination Act. This was a federal-provincial cost-sharing program in which the federal government subsidized provincial employment offices. At the same time they created the Department of Employment Services, with a mandate to provide employment data and advice.

Getting a national unemployment insurance system was not an easy fight. The 1935 Employment and Social Insurance Act, passed by the Bennett Tories, had established a national unemployment scheme, but the newly elected Liberal government referred the act to the Supreme Court. It was struck down on constitutional grounds because unemployment insurance was an area of provincial jurisdiction. It took the British Parliament to pass an amendment to the British North American Act in July 1940, recognizing unemployment insurance as one of the federal powers, before the government could act. By that time, the depression of the 1930s had hurt so many that the government was pressured to move fast. Just one month later, the federal government passed the Unemployment Insurance Act, instituting a national public system of unemployment insurance.

The workers of 1862-63 and those in 1916 needed the support of an unemployment insurance system, but did not have it. We owe it to them, and all those who fought to make national unemployment insurance a reality and ensure that it continues to serve workers. But we also know it will never replace what workers really want and need: a job.

By Ken Clavette

1 Bigio, Alia, Background Essay for “The Parliament Buildings: The Untold Story” (unpublished research paper), 2005, pg. 2.
2 Sykes, Peggy, “History of the Allied Trades and Labour Association 1897-1922: A Study of Working-Class Resistance and Accommodation by the Craft Worker,” MA Carleton University, May 1992, pgs. 48-49.