They Died for Peace

 Headstone of Albert "Ginger" Goodwin at the Cumberland Municipal Cemetery in Cumberland, British Columbia.

(Antifascistferret, 2017, CC by SA 4.0)

In the month of May a coincidence of birthdays has led me to reflect on the story of two individuals from different time periods who died in the cause of peace: Albert Ginger Goodwin and Fernando Pereira. Both were born on May 10th, in the years of 1887 and 1950 respectively, and both were martyred as a result of their activist work for peace.


Albert Goodwin, (who was nicknamed Ginger for his ginger-coloured hair) was born on May 10th 1887 and was a labour leader in B.C. in the early years of the twentieth century. Born in Britain, he immigrated to Canada in 1906 and worked as a coal miner, first in Nova Scotia and then in B.C. By 1917 he was active in both the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union in Trail, and on the executive of the B.C. Federation of Labour.

In 1917 he was conscripted to fight in World War One. Initially he was given a medical examination which concluded that his poor health made him unfit to fight. Following this medical exemption in November 1917, he called a strike of smelter workers in Trail, calling for an eight hour day. After he called the strike, the Borden government reopened his conscription file, gave him another medical examination and this time concluded he was fit to fight. Many suspected that the Borden government had deliberately overturned his medical exemption in order to get him out of the way as a strong labour leader and send him off to Europe to die in the trenches.

Ginger Goodwin had a strong sense of global solidarity with the working class and saw the war as an example of the capitalist ruling class using masses of  workers as pawns to fight a territorial war which would ultimately only benefit the rich. He did not wish to go to Europe to kill his fellow members of the working class for the sake of benefiting the rich. In the spring of 1918, Ginger Goodwin, along with other conscription resisters, went into hiding, hiding out in the wooded hills near the town of Cumberland on Vancouver Island. The Dominion Police, (which was the name of the police force in Western Canada at that time) placed a bounty on Goodwin’s head, meaning that anyone who caught him dead or alive would receive a financial reward.

From April to July 1918, Goodwin hid out near Cumberland. Then on the morning of July 27th 1918, a Dominion Police officer spotted him in the woods near where he was hiding out and shot and killed him on sight.

When news of Goodwin’s assassination reached Vancouver, it touched off the first general strike in Canadian history. The workers of Vancouver were outraged that a dedicated labour leader had been hunted down by forces of the Borden government and the Dominion Police. The labour movement in Vancouver held a one day general strike on August 2nd, 1918. The Vancouver General Strike is not as well remembered as the Winnipeg General Strike that occurred the following spring, but the Vancouver strike was indeed the first general strike in Canadian history, preceding the Winnipeg strike by some nine months.

Today Ginger Goodwin is remembered by a mountain near Cumberland named after him, Mount Ginger Goodwin, and a stretch of highway that goes through Cumberland, Ginger Goodwin Way, and there have been various other tributes over the years.

 Headstone of Albert "Ginger" Goodwin at the Cumberland Municipal Cemetery in Cumberland, British Columbia.
(Antifascistferret, 2017, CC by SA 4.0)

Fernando Pereira was born in Portugal on May 10th 1950, and by his late twenties had become a freelance photographer, taking pictures of various celebrities and public events.

In 1985, the activist organization Greenpeace decided to lead a flotilla of ships to protest nuclear weapons testing by the French government in the South Pacific. Their flagship Rainbow Warrior was the ship chosen to lead the flotilla, and Fernando Pereira joined the crew of the Rainbow Warrior as a cameraman to take photographs of the action.

If all had gone well, the action would be remembered today as having consisted of a beautiful flotilla of ships peacefully protesting French nuclear weapons testing on the fortieth anniversary of the first atomic bomb test in 1945.

The French government, however, decided to bomb the Rainbow Warrior, presumably to demonstrate its level of intolerance toward those who choose to protest French nuclear weapons testing.

Late in the evening of July 10th 1985, when the Rainbow Warrior was docked in Auckland harbour New Zealand, crew members onboard heard an explosion from under the ship. They initially abandoned ship, but returned a few minutes later to retrieve items left onboard. Fernando Pereira went below deck to retrieve camera equipment, and then the second explosion occurred, the result of a larger bomb which did more substantial damage to the ship, causing it to flood and begin sinking. Fernando Pereira drowned while trying to retrieve equipment below deck.

In the weeks and months that followed, the French government admitted that the French secret service had planted the bombs on orders which had come from the French president and minister of defence. France had chosen to violate the sovereign territory of a friendly nation, New Zealand, and explode two bombs to sink a ship owned by a nonviolent activist organization, to prevent non-violent protests against French nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific.

Today, as the drums of war sometimes call us, it is worth remembering those who have chosen to listen to the songs of peace. They include Ginger Goodwin and Fernando Pereira, who died for the cause of peace.

As a party which honours principles of peace as well as social justice and ecological wisdom, we remember both: Ginger Goodwin, whose commitment to workers’ rights led him to a global sense of solidarity and a refusal to kill workers in other countries in a war for the interests of the capitalist ruling class; And we honour Fernando Pereira, whose love of photography led him to join the Rainbow Warrior's crew, seeking to participate in a flotilla for peace protesting French nuclear weapons testing.

Let us all live for peace, social justice and ecological well-being with the same commitment that these two gentlemen showed the world in their day.

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