Jack & Lillian Quenneville
Jack Quenneville On February 24th, 1932 when Jack was just 8 years old his father was tragically killed at a provincial paper mill. Jack mom was left to raise her family with no support from the employer or government and at that point Jack, at 8 year’s old Jack committed to social justice and fighting for justice. He learned early on that the Labour movement was the vehicle for the changes that working people needed everywhere.
In 1936 at the ripe age of 12 Jack walked in his first picket line at Silk Metal in Cornwall Ontario.
He moved to Sudbury in 1943 and started organizing for Mine-Mill Union at Inco.
At 17 years old in 1944 he was drafted into the war and off he went to serve his country. He served in Belgium, Holland and Germany in the height of the war and returned to Canada in 1946. As sorry as he was to leave his organizing activites he felt rightly that this was a bigger and greater need at that point in time. This military training did help Jack in his activism.
As a war veteran and life long legion member Jack wants to be very clear that he is opposed to any war especially those that support dictators, wars for religion, political or OIL interests. He is a firm believer of the Legion Motto ”never again.”
Upon his return from the war the Mine –Mill union had succeeded and organized and Jack became quite active in his new union at Inco.
When the infamous raids started in Sudbury where the Steelworkers were invited by the employer to try and replace the radical and progressive Mine-Mill and when matters turned very violently at times Jack joined the Night Fighters who protected their membership and took care of business the old fashioned ways and quite successfully. Not only did they have to fight the employers goons but also the Steelworkers, the police and goons hired by the employer.
When the CLC President came to town to convince the Mine-Millers to join the Steelworkers unbeknown to most the police were sitting by watching and waiting. When it was apparent that the CLC President wasn’t going to be successful the Police moved in barricaded the doors and the Deputy Chief of Police threw a tear gas canister at the Mine-Mill group trying to disrupt then attack them. As a former military man, Jack knew how to deal with if covered the canister with a cloth and lobbed right back at the Deputy Chief. To this day Jack states that the Police never forgave him for that incident as they were left scrambling as opposed to the Mine-Millers.
One of Jack many highlight’s that he is very proud of, was one of a few hand chosen as a bodyguard when Paul Robson, the great African American singer came to Sudbury on behest of Mine-Mill in 1952. Not everyone was as progressive as Jack and his colleagues and they knew that not everyone would welcome a black man with open arms. Needless to say there wasn’t a single incident.
Jack remained active in the union led many disputes and wildcats and in the famous 1967 wildcat strike at Inco, Jack was one of the “famous 7” that were casualties of the strike.
Jack was hired by Mine-Mill and worked as a bartender in one of the many union halls that Mine-Mill had at that time.
Upon his retirement Jack stayed active in the community and in the legion. He served on his legion executive and fought Ottawa successfully on many occasions fighting for WSIB compensation and pensions for widowers.
Jack was also recently profiled in the Sudbury media because in spite of any personal physical difficulties he was facing he was on the Steelworkers picket line everyday when a group of women took on the TD bank. Through rain or shine with his Mine-Mill coat, Jack was on that line till its successful conclusion.
Jack is here today for another reason. Jack now resides at the Copper Cliff retirement home in Sudbury with his partner Lillian and on speaking to the workers Jack found out that they had many issues in the workplace and no representation.
Jack contacted the Mine –Mill office met with CBO Anne-Marie MacInnis obtained all the literature and cards that he felt that he needed, he claims to stash them in various parts of his wheelchair so that management was not aware of his organizing and once again Jack went of to work.
Very quickly Jack convinced a majority of the workers to support the CAW and a short time later on October 26th, 2007 the workers voted 85% to join the CAW.
At a time when most of us stop fighting Jack just keeps going and there is no reason and Jack has no intention of stopping now. Jack has always believed in Labour because of its democracy and fighting for the little person. He felt he owed his Dad as much. Sadly Jack passed away Friday, June 27th, 2008.