Earlier this year Madeleine Parent passed away, leaving behind her a legacy of inspiring activism for feminists, the trade union movement and Native Women’s Rights in Quebec, Ontario and across Canada. As a trade union activist she played an integral role in democratizing of the management of Canadian unions, making them something truly Canadian for the first time in a generation. In Quebec, she fought against the Duplessis government and the overall climate of anti-organizing during the early years of the Cold War, and lead and participated in marches from the 1940s right up to the 2011 G20 protests in Toronto. All the while, she worked by visiting people in their homes, speaking to their specific concerns and frustrations, and giving voice to them to all levels of government. This May Day, as we celebrate the continuing struggle of unions against privatisation, outsourcing and the erosion of worker’s rights for both Canadian citizens and migrant workers, we can look to Madeline Parent, an activist whose footsteps we would do well to follow in.
In 2001, a symposium was held at McGill University, outlining the many achievements that Parent made throughout her career. Sumach Press collected these talks into the book Madeleine Parent: Activist, which you can read more about here.
We attended a recent memorial for Madeleine in Toronto, where her life was celebrated amongst friends and supporters, and some of the new leaders in the labour movement in Canada. We hope this great woman will continue to inspire all who agitate for fair representation and justice in our civil society.