The labour movement is people. Our unions have brought millions of men and women together, made them members one of another and given them common tools for common goals.

John F Kennedy

Remember the Pioneers as you celebrate Labour Day

Posted by martin.parnell |

This weekend, Cochrane has been enjoying various ways to celebrate Canada’s Labour Day weekend. Events included pancake breakfasts, a rodeo, a dance and, as in many Canadian towns and cities, the annual parade.

Labour Day in Canada falls on the first Monday in September and, for many, it signals the end of summer. But, having looked into its history, I discovered that, what evolved into just another long weekend, began as a massive working class demonstration in the streets of Toronto. I decided to delve deeper and came across an article that shed more light on the background to Labour Day. So, I thought I’d share it; 

The First Labour Day by Joanna Dawson:

“In a time when workers’ rights are taken for granted and even workers’ benefits have come to be expected, it’s no wonder that the origins of Labour Day are confined to the history books.

Canada was changing rapidly during the second half of the 19th century. Immigration was increasing, cities were getting crowded, and industrialization was drastically altering the country’s economy and workforce.

As machines began to replace or automate many work processes, employees found they no longer had special skills to offer employers. Workers could easily be replaced if they complained or dissented and so were often unable to speak out against low wages, long work weeks and deplorable working conditions.

This is the context and setting for what is generally considered Canada’s first Labour Day event in 1872. At the time, unions were illegal in Canada, which was still operating under an archaic British law already abolished in England.

For over three years the Toronto Printers Union had been lobbying its employers for a shorter work week. Inspired by workers in Hamilton who had begun the movement for a nine-hour work day, the Toronto printers threatened to strike if their demands weren’t met. After repeatedly being ignored by their employers, the workers took bold action and on March 25, 1872, they went on strike.

Toronto’s publishing industry was paralyzed and the printers soon had the support of other workers. On April 14, a group of 2,000 workers marched through the streets in a show of solidarity. They picked up even more supporters along the way and by the time they reached their destination of Queen’s Park, their parade had 10,000 participants – one tenth of the city’s population.

The employers were forced to take notice. Led by George Brown, founder of the Toronto Globe and notable Liberal, the publishers retaliated. Brown brought in workers from nearby towns to replace the printers. He even took legal action to quell the strike and had the strike leaders charged and arrested for criminal conspiracy.

Conservative Prime Minister John A. Macdonald was watching the events unfold and quickly saw the political benefit of siding with the workers. Macdonald spoke out against Brown’s actions at a public demonstration at City Hall, gaining the support of the workers and embarrassing his Liberal rival. Macdonald passed the Trade Union Act, which repealed the outdated British law and decriminalized unions. The strike leaders were released from jail.

The workers still did not obtain their immediate goals of a shorter work week. In fact, many still lost their job. They did, however, discover how to regain the power they lost in the industrialized economy. Their strike proved that workers could gain the attention of their employers, the public, and most importantly, their political leaders if they worked together. The “Nine-Hour Movement,” as it became known, spread to other Canadian cities and a shorter work week became the primary demand of union workers in the years following the Toronto strike.

The parade that was held in support of the strikers carried over into an annual celebration of worker’s rights and was adopted in cities throughout Canada. The parades demonstrated solidarity, with different unions identified by the colorful banners they carried. In 1894, under mounting pressure from the working class, Prime Minister Sir John Thompson declared Labour Day a national holiday.”

Over time, Labour Day strayed from its origins and evolved into a popular celebration enjoyed by the masses. It became viewed as the last celebration of summer, a time for picnics, barbecues and shopping.

No matter where you find yourself next Labour Day, take a minute to think about Canada’s labour pioneers. Their actions laid the foundations for future labour movements and helped workers secure the rights and benefits enjoyed today.

Read More

Like the ocean, life ebbs and flows with the occasional rip

Kamil Ali, Profound Vers-A-Tales

How to Reset your Goals and Swim with the Tide

Posted by martin.parnell |

Like me, my wife, Sue took up running later in life. In 2010, at the age of 58, she ran her first marathon, the Queen’s City Marathon, in Regina. Fast forward a few years and she decided that she wanted to go back to Manitoba this year and run that same marathon, as it actually fell on September 10th, her 65th. Birthday. 

Training was going well until she developed a hip problem and fasciitis in her right foot. Despite the weeks of physiotherapy and cortisone shots, Sue’s dreams of the finish line were dashed and she had to accept her doctor’s advice and give up running, for the time being. 

Not being daunted by this news, Sue set to thinking what else she could do to celebrate this milestone.  She has been making the most of the new pool in Cochrane. Her love of swimming stems from living most of her life near the sea in Dorset, England, where, even as a schoolgirl, she would often go for a “quick dip” before breakfast. 

Sue’s no longer as fast as she used to be, but she loves to get in the pool and swim a few lengths, getting into a rhythm and clearing her mind. She decided, as she wouldn’t be running, to celebrate her birthday, she’d “swim her age” instead.  And so today, I joined her in completing 65 lengths of the pool (actually, it was 66, because if you swim up you need to swim back). 

Sometimes, despite all the planning, training and goal-setting, life takes a turn and your plans are thwarted, through no fault of your own. Instead of accepting defeat, sometimes you just need to change course, set new goals and take a different approach. 

This isn’t always easy. If you have set yourself goals and you are part-way through achieving them, it can be disappointing and stressful if you have to change track. In Sue’s case it made sense. She could have sought out more treatment, tried to run with an injury and caused herself more problems or accept the doctor’s advice.  But what if you are working toward achieving your set goals and someone else changes them for you? You may have a new boss, the company you work for may decide to change course and the goals you had may no longer seem appropriate. 

This is when you have to ask yourself “Are the goals to benefit me or the team?” Personal goals are something we should all set for ourselves e.g. to become more efficient, to hone our skills or simpler things like just getting to work on time. These should have a timeline and be achievable, but even these may have to be adapted due to events beyond our control.  The bigger goals are the ones usually set for us that tend to affect overall performance and may require cooperation from colleagues. They may be the ones agreed on when you were appointed to the job, or at your annual review. 

When these “goal posts” are changed don’t become dismayed, just ask for clarification of what future expectations might be and if they demand changes to your role in the workplace. If necessary ask for guidance as to how these might be achieved. Most importantly, be adaptable and look upon this turn of events to learn and apply new or different skills.

If you adopt a positive approach to change, be prepared to reset your goals and learn to go with the flow. Things will turn out swimmingly!

Read More

It's all in the mind.

George Harrison

Don't get in a Pickle, embrace your Age and Get Active

Posted by martin.parnell |

On the cover of the current Kerby News, a 55+ newspaper, it states “Pickleball: a sport suited for older adults of all fitness levels”. Legend has it, according to Rita McGillivray, that a family, in Washington State invented the game because their dog Pickles, loved to chase whiffle balls. It was in fact invented by a former US senator, in the 1960s, as a fun game for his children, two years before they acquired their dog, Pickles. The game became very popular and was eventually introduced to Canada. 

McGillivray goes on to explain that Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong. Players use a round paddle (bat), with which they have to hit a lightweight ball, with holes in it, over a lowered badminton net. When my wife and I play tennis, we often see people playing Pickleball on the other court and, in winter, it’s a very popular indoor activity at our local leisure center. Most of the players appear to be in their senior years, as that front cover would suggest. 

However, I was surprised when I went on to read the article to see that, Jason Bridger, senior marketing manager of the Calgary Sport and Social club said the average age in their 30 teams is 30 and the Legends League is for the over 35s. Although Pickleball is, no doubt, suited to active seniors, it’s a great activity to be enjoyed by all ages. 

Personally, like that US senator, I think it’s a game for all the family and don’t see why children shouldn’t be encouraged to play. It just goes to show, preconceptions can be deceptive and one has to be careful what one reads into headlines. 

I have come across 80 year-olds who regularly run marathons and 30 year-olds who do no exercise and are much less fit. But, it’s never too late to start. Pickleball may not appeal to you and you may have tried other activities, like running or biking that you don’t enjoy, but keep looking. 

I checked out some of the activities at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sport Leisure Centre, here in Cochrane. Currently on offer they have not only the pool, with its various areas for all ages to enjoy and regular Aquasize sessions, but there is an excellent gym and you can drop into other sessions such as Badminton, Curling, Thai kickboxing, Zumba, various forms of yoga, lacrosse, indoor soccer and, of course Pickleball, and that’s not including the hockey and ice-skating, to be enjoyed during the winter months. 

If you think about it, many of these can be enjoyed by all ages, you just have decide what you’d like to do and give it a go. Obviously, some sessions are specifically geared to children, but do check into them. Don’t be put off by the preconception that your age, whether young or old, may be a barrier. 

If you aren’t lucky enough to live in Cochrane, check out the sports facilities in your local area and see what activities are on offer. The ones I mentioned are all scheduled for indoors, but whilst the weather is still good, you could always opt for a game of tennis, go outside and kick a ball around with the kids or just take a stroll around the neighbourhood and, while your about it, why not ask a friend or neighbour to join you, whatever their age.

Read More

What does it take to be the first female anything? It takes grit, and it takes grace

Meryl Streep
First ever Afghan Women and girls to go Camping and Kayaking

First ever Afghan Women and girls to go Camping and Kayaking

Posted by martin.parnell |

On December 31st 2016, my 7th Annual Run / Walk was held at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre in Cochrane, Alberta. In the past the fundraiser has supported Right To Play and a playground in the village of Mto wa Mbu in Tanzania. The 2016 event raised over $7,000 for a project to support the NGO Free to Run and their goal of bringing sports and outdoor activities to women and girls in Afghanistan. This is their story, curtesy of a Free to Run blog (September 22nd 2017):

This summer Free to Run embarked on an unprecedented camping and kayaking expedition in the Panjshir Valley. Eleven female participants from multiple provinces in Afghanistan participated. Not only was it their first experience in Panjshir Valley, but it was the first time they had ever camped outdoors or kayaked. It was also the first time an Afghan female had ever kayaked in the country! 

Upon arrival in Panjshir, the team visited the grave of Ahmad Shah Massoud, a famous Afghan political and military leader. The team then journeyed another two hours into the valley to set up a temporary camp at the base of one of the tallest mountains in the region. They had an introductory meeting over green tea and sweets with the district governor, police chief, and elders, who were all interested in their experience as female adventurers. Although there were several concerns as to whether the team would be able to summit the mountain to the glacial lake at the peak, the participants managed to convince them of their capabilities with stories of running marathons and hiking through other Afghan mountains.

After several well-wishes, the team pulled all their gear and food from the van and set off on a short one hour hike up to a plateau camp for the night. Although only two participants were formally trained on setting up tents, the others took to it with enthusiasm. All of their tents were set up before dark. After dinner around a large campfire, the team turned-in for the night. They were up again before dawn so they could get an early start and beat the summer heat. Although the climb was very steep, the girls remained in good spirits by playing music, singing, and sharing stories about their home provinces. 

They arrived to the lake at an approximate altitude of 4,425 meters five hours after departing from base camp just in time to picnic on the shores for lunch. A few hours of napping in the sun and exploring the lake, they started on the descent. After 10 hours of hiking, the team started their second campfire to make dinner. They talked about the day, and were very proud of what they accomplished. Some of the village elders came to visit and were happily surprised to hear of their success. “No women, not even most of the men in this village, are able to get up to the lake!” they said. 

The next day the team packed up camp to return to Kabul, where they would get their first lesson in kayaking on a lake in the outskirts of the city. While the original plan was to kayak the Panjshir River, the authorities were worried about the girls’ safety due to the conservative culture of the valley. Free to Run found an alternative solution which was to kayak on a lake outside Kabul. 

Before the participants could get into boats and start practicing strokes, Joe had to teach all but one of the participants how to swim. “They were exceptional in their attitude, confidence, and willingness to try. Of all the non-swimmers I have taught to kayak, which is not many, they were easily the most fearless,” he said. 

A few hours later, the participants were gliding through the water in their own kayaks. Others practiced swimming nearby, waiting for their turn in the kayaks. Although Afghanistan is a dry landlocked country, it is also home to many rivers and lakes traversing thousands of Kilometers.

“Afghanistan has a huge potential for kayaking, both touring and white-water. It will take time, energy, patience, and a collective effort, but in the long run it is inevitable,” said Joe.

Our thanks to the entire Free to Run community for making it possible to have another ground-breaking sports program in Afghanistan. In the words of 21 year old Fatima, who participated in this expedition:  

"Girls who do sports can be an example for others who live in narrow minded places. We can encourage other girls to do sports on these trips."

Read More