October 13, 2012

Ukrainian Labour Temple plaque unveiled.

Workers of the World Unite says the main sign

On September 29, Winnipeg's Ukrainian Labour Temple finally received a plaque marking it as a National Historic Site. Close to one hundred people attended the unveiling ceremony which included performances by the hall's orchestra and choir.

The ULT and its manor continue to play an active role in Winnipeg's progressive community, including as a venue for meetings of the Communist Party's Mathew Popowich Club. (On this point, the plaque has an error.)

The ceremony was postponed for a year after Parks Canada officials received a communication from Ottawa forbidding the choir from singing the Internationale as part of the program.

The text of the plaque is:

"Constructed in 1918‑1919, this imposing building was at the centre of a radical left‑wing movement committed to improving the lot of Ukrainian workers and farmers. Housing a printing shop and the headquarters of several national organizations devoted to education and mutual aid, it also served as a base for the promotion of Ukrainian performing arts. It was a gathering place for strikers during the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 and for the Communist Party of Canada until the 1950s. Continuing to serve a cultural function, this neoclassical building is one of the grandest and largest labour temples in Canada."

The Temple was built primarily by volunteer labour and financed by donations and served as a key hub for Ukrainian culture and political activism at the time. The Ukrainian Labor News and other Ukrainian language publications were prepared and distributed from the temple.

In addition to being an important gathering place for the CPC, the building holds an especially historic place in the Canadian labour movement, having served as a rallying centre for trade unionists during the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike. The temple was raided by authorities searching for evidence of alleged sedition and conspiracy.

The structure was designated a provincial heritage site in 1995 and it remains the only surviving labour hall associated with the turbulent events of the general strike. To this day it serves as national headquarters for the Workers Benevolent Association, established within its walls in 1922.

"I believe that proclaiming the Winnipeg Ukrainian Labour Temple a national historic site also quite rightly pays tribute to the founding members," says Myron Shatulsky, a member of the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians and chair of the board of directors of the Ukrainian Labour Temple Foundation.

"These socialist-minded Ukrainian immigrants, some of whom had yet to receive their naturalization papers, and facing the possibility of arrest and deportation, sought and established a path along which they could achieve a better life for themselves, their children, their descendants, and for all Canadians. It is truly a historic event."

With files from the Peoples Voice Manitoba Bureau and the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)

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