‘A New Thing: Shall Ye Not Know It?’: On Living Metaphors in Transnational Labour Law
Archer Simon, et al. The Daunting Enterprise of the Law: Essays in the Honour of Harry Arthurs. McGill-Queen's University Press. 2017
Posted: 23 Feb 2020
Date Written: 2017
It was the first day of Black History Month. Sunday, 1 February 2015, I sat with my family in a not entirely familiar pew in Union United Church, founded in 1907. Union United was the first African- Canadian church in Montreal, founded by the families of black sleep- ing-car railway workers on the nascent Grand Trunk Canadian Paci c that is the iconic metaphor for the uni cation of Canada from east to west. Ironically, but not surprisingly, the work was segregated. Black men were recruited from the United States, based upon their reputation as sleeping-car porters in the segregated US railway system; descendants of black Loyalists from Nova Scotia, and men from the West Indies, also filled the ranks. Along with their families, they were housed in “quarters” established by the railways for their workers in the immigrant, working-class “St Antoine Area,” later to be called Little Burgundy. This community founded a church, a community centre, and a Montreal branch of the United Negro Improvement Association. The institutions were a basis for community organizing, economic and social support, workplace inclusion claims and collective-action strategies, and other forms of resistance for generations. But this Sunday morning in 2015, while the community was largely the same, and the songs encouragingly familiar, an aging congregation inhabited a temporary, “newer” building in a more middle-class but also struggling neighbourhood. In this transition period, when parishioners raised funds to renew the old, familiar, but uninhabitable building, a new thing was happening.
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