The Joseph Mairs Memorial Committee will host the 21st Annual Joseph Mairs Memorial in Ladysmith on Sunday, Jan. 22.
The keynote speaker for this year’s event, which is themed “Our Common Condition”, is John Clarke.
In 1983, Clarke helped form a union of unemployed workers in London, Ontario, and seven years later, he moved to Toronto to become and organizer with the newly formed Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, and continued in that role for 28 years.
Clarke is presently the Packer Visitor in Social Justice at York University.
The theme of Clarke’s talk is Social Struggles at a Time of Global Crisis.
He said the leaders of the G7 told people that the post-pandemic world would be one in which they’d “build back better”.
“Instead, we are living in a period that is marked by war, climate disaster, a rampant cost of living crisis and deepening economic slump,” Clarke said.
“In the face of such volatile and dangerous conditions, how do our unions and communities build the kind of powerful and united movements that can prevent those in economic and political power from imposing the burden of this crisis on working-class people? How do we fight to win in this harsh and unprecedented situation?”
This year’s event, which will be held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church Hall beginning at 1 p.m. on Sunday, will have live music by local musicians Beverley McKeen and Lily Haythornthwaite who are linked to the labour movement.
After the indoor program, attendees will form a procession behind piper Neil Hewitt and walk to the Ladysmith Cemetery to place flowers at the graveside of Joseph Mairs.
Mairs was a trade unionist and a coal miner.
He died in 1914, a month short of his 22nd birthday, after being arrested by government troops during the occupation of Ladysmith.
This struggle, which coal miners on Vancouver Island waged was for the eight-hour day, health and safety regulations and union recognition.