CUMBERLAND—This year’s miners memorial event, an annual highlight on the Vancouver Island labour calendar, was busier than usual thanks to a large conference taking place at the same time this past weekend.
The graveside vigil, held each year to honour workers who died in the Cumberland mines as well as murdered labour activist Ginger Goodwin, was crowded with delegates from the Pacific Northwest Labour History Association Conference in Cumberland. CUPE BC’s community events trailer, sent on behalf of Vancouver Island District Council president Amber Leonard, thus became a gathering place for throngs of labour activists and union members who converged on the Comox Lake Campground to share stories and music between the various events in town.
For the graveside vigil on Saturday (June 14) at Cumberland Cemetery, president Andrea Craddock brought greetings on behalf of the Campbell River, Courtenay and District Labour Council while CUPE BC secretary-treasurer Paul Faoro and BC Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair spoke on the history and significance of the memorial. After a brief ceremony at the grave site of Ginger Goodwin, a procession of unions, labour organizations and individuals lay flowers at the graves of the many miners who had died while struggling to feed their families by working in dangerous conditions in the Cumberland mines. This moving ritual was accompanied by an aboriginal greeting, welcome song and dance. The music served to lift the spirits of all those present, who were moved by the solemnity of the occasion and setting.
The events at the miners memorial support the Cumberland Museum and the town itself, while funds raised through the sale of flowers and other events ensure that local labour history is not forgotten. Thanks to Cumberland’s rich labour history, conference delegates found a tour of the museum and surrounding area informative and enlightening.
Another graveside vigil was held at the Chinese and Japanese cemetery in Cumberland to honour and remember the many early immigrants who also gave their lives.