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Canadian labour leader launches book

Stefany Harris/The Oshawa Express

Best known as a labour activist, Sid Ryan has now taken on the mantle of author.

The former president of the Ontario Federation of Labour and multi-time local federal NDP candidate was in Oshawa to launch his new book recently.

“A Grander Vision: My Life in the Labour Movement,” the book chronicles Ryan’s long journey as a labour activist and leader.

The book launch was hosted at Riley’s Pub by Durham Northumberland CUPE Council president, Tiffany Balducci, with remarks from CUPE Ontario secretary treasurer Candace Rennick.

There was also a Q&A session with Sid Ryan hosted by Oshawa MPP Jennifer French.

In “A Grander Vision,” Ryan draws on the experiences of his life to describe what he feels is right with the labour movement, what is wrong, and what has to change.

“This book is mainly about my life in the labour movement, but it’s also about growing up in Ireland during some very tough times in the 1950s and 1960s. My experience in Ireland helped shape the person I am today,” Ryan said.

Ryan was born in Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland.

The author says he grew up in poverty, but he still had a beautiful childhood. He has six brothers and three sisters and they lived in a tiny two bedroom house.

He chuckles as he said, “Do the math about where we all slept.”

Adding on his mother, father and grandmother, a total of 13 people lived in the house.

Ryan said there wasn’t an awful lot of money, so they had to entertain themselves in many different ways.

“I went back to Ireland to write that portion of the book, and it was extremely cathartic for me. I cried a lot when I thought about my parents, and how two of my brothers had passed on,” said Ryan. “Since then, two of my other brothers have also passed, so I thought about my family, I thought about my sisters and brothers and my childhood. That brought a lot of memories back.”

He came to Canada in 1975 and began getting involved in the labour movement. He worked his way up the ranks and eventually became the president of CUPE in Ontario and later president of the Ontario Federation of Labour for six years.

He also helped labour workers in public health care, education and public services outside the Canadian borders in South America, Cuba, Northern Ireland, El Salvador and Argentina.

Ryan said one of the main themes in the book is social justice and human rights issues around the world.

He also discusses how a labour union should operate.

The other half of the book is to send a message to the next generation of union activists, members, and leaders that there are ways of taking on the government.

“Getting into campaigns is where the labour movement needs to be, and appealing to the new generation of workers such as new immigrants, migrant workers and asylum seekers,” Ryan said. “That to me is the growth of the labour movement, and unless we’re out there working with these people, we’re never going to move forward.”

It took Ryan three years to complete the book, spread out over a nine year period. He wrote the first half of the book in Ireland, and the second half in Canada.