Never Say Die!: The Life and Times of John Stanton, a Pioneer Labour Lawyer
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Index
Gerald J. Stortz is an assistant professor of history at St. Jerome’s
College, University of Waterloo.
John Stanton was for 40 years a labour lawyer in British Columbia. After his retirement in 1976, he decided to write an episodic account of his experiences as an espouser of union and left-wing causes. While such endeavours always face the danger of becoming polemics, that is not the case here. Certainly, because he picks particular incidents and cases, this is by no means an exhaustive history of the labour movement, but that can easily be found elsewhere. However, for those with the basic background knowledge, this is an invaluable primary source.
As one might expect, some sections of the work are infinitely more interesting than others. The Battle of Ballantyne Pier, for example, gives the reader a real feeling for the difficulties of the Depression. Stanton’s frustrations with the Canadian labour relations system, as developed by Mackenzie King, are fully appreciated when one reads of the struggle for recognition by one union which lasted from 1948 to 1974. Here, too, are insightful accounts of personalities, among them Arthur “Slim” Evans, the somewhat enigmatic leader of the On to Ottawa trek.
Stanton should also be congratulated for the statistical tables at the end of the work. Although standard fare in labour history works, in this case they are both understandable and useful. Finally, whether one shares Stanton’s biases or finds them distasteful, one would be hard-pressed to find a work of this nature so well written and eloquently argued.