Lesson Plan No. 6: Hot Cargo, 1979

What can we learn about worker protest in the
global community from the story of the Hot Cargo
incident in Saint John in 1979?

Orden de Mayo (Order of Merit)
In March 2010 Saint John longshoremen received a special award from the government of Argentina - the Orden de Mayo - an award given only to foreigners who are considered worthy of the highest honour and recognition of the Argentine nation.

Why was this particular group of New Brunswick workers chosen to receive such a prestigious award?

From evidence provided on our website feature Hot Cargo, 1979 students will learn how actions spearheaded by New Brunswick workers were able to help fellow workers in Argentina.

This Lesson Plan is designed to help students understand Canada's participation in global trade and how New Brunswick workers can have an influence on government decisions, both within Canada and in other countries. The story raises questions about Canadian trade with countries that abuse human and civil rights and shows that worker solidarity can be international in scope.

This Lesson Plan offers information about where this topic can fit into the New Brunswick curriculum. This includes Grade 6 - World Issues; global citizenship; Grade 7 - economic empowerment; Grade 8 - Atlantic Canada in the Global Community - economics, technology and interdependence; Grade 9 - Canada as a global citizen; and Grade 12 - Canada in the World after World War II.

This Lesson Plan is based on one of the features on our website. On our home page, go to Provincial Solidarities and choose Hot Cargo, 1979. Teachers will note that a number of illustrations and documents are presented as part of the feature, including a song by Nancy White.

Canada's economic success has been carefully linked with international trade. In the past our natural resources have contributed the most to this trade, but many of our more recent exports have been related to the newer technologies used in space exploration or mobile communications. Since the 1950s Canada has been involved in producing and exporting technology in the form of nuclear reactors designed primarily for the production of energy. These were very expensive to build and very profitable for the Canadian Crown corporation, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, which produced the CANDU reactors. The Canadian nuclear industry was recognized around the world for its products, and the Canadian government sold CANDU reactors to Pakistan, South Korea, Romania, the People's Republic of China, and Argentina. The CANDU reactors operate on heavy water, a product that was produced in Atlantic Canada. The Hot Cargo incident occurred in 1979 when shipments of heavy water destined for Argentina were to go through the port of Saint John. The longshoremen, with support from many organizations, refused to load the heavy water. The focus of this Lesson Plan is on the workers' protest and the reasons for this protest, the involvement of both the Canadian and Argentine governments in the episode, and the issue of Canada's role in international trade today.

Credits: Ian Andrews.

Provincial Solidarities | Le travail en Acadie | Contested Territory | Women's Work | Labour Landmarks

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