Centennial Park in downtown Kitimat was the original proposed location for a commemorative plaque for the 1976 wildcat strike.

Centennial Park in downtown Kitimat was the original proposed location for a commemorative plaque for the 1976 wildcat strike.

Council contemplates memorial location

After unexpected public comment, council to reconsider 1976 wildcat strike plaque location

After it was decided at the July 18 meeting that council would contribute to the commemoration of the 1976 wildcat strike by Unifor Local 2301, as part of a BC Labour Heritage Centre project, council is now reconsidering the proposed location of the plaque.

The strike occurred when workers at the then Alcan smelter walked off of the job on June 3, 1976, in protest of federal government wage controls. The commemorative plaque was planned to be located in Centennial Park, north of the pool.

However, council received a number of comments from community members asking them to reconsider the commemoration.

“Since (the decision to support the project,) I, and I believe all of council has received letters from a number of people who have taken the time to question what we have done,” said councillor Mario Feldhoff, who brought the issue forward as an item of new business at the meeting on August 2.

“Maybe this isn’t the right place and maybe we shouldn’t be supporting it,” he added. “I have some empathy with the memos we’ve been receiving.”

“I for one would like to see us reconsider our previous motion concerning the plaque and it’s location,” he said, before putting forward a motion to reconsider.

Under city bylaw, council can make a motion to reconsider a previous matter at the following council meeting, according to acting chief administrative officer Debbie Godfrey.

“I don’t mind reconsidering where we put the plaque, because it is a memorial and this signifies something that happened in the community, and I understand recognizing it, but maybe we should reconsider where we place the plaque,” said councillor Mary Murphy, addressing the concern that the plaque should not share a space with the cenotaph in Centennial Park, which honours fallen soldiers.

“I too see that as something we need to consider,” said Mayor Phil Germuth. “Of course all over the world you have plaques that commemorate something, something that you don’t want to see happen again, that’s not something anybody wants to see happen again,” he continued, noting that the plaque is to commemorate the event, not to celebrate it.

Councillor Larry Walker said that he was interested in hearing from all parties involved in the matter, including those for and against the commemoration.

“It would be totally unfair if the intent is to put the plaque in recognition of something that’s happened, good, bad or indifferent, without all parties coming before council expressing their concern… so that we can make a well-informed decision.”

“If we say we are going to reconsider, we do send the signal that possibly inadvertently, that we made a mistake,” said councillor Rob Goffinet. He wished to serve notice to the public that council is contemplating reconsidering the placement of the plaque, and wants people with differing opinions to speak to it.

Feldhoff said that he did not see need to serve notice, and that District procedure states that a motion to reconsider must come at subsequent meeting.

The motion to reconsider was passed unanimously after the proper procedure for reconsideration was clarified fully by Godfrey.