Honouring the MacPaps on November 11

Canada didn’t understand at first what you were doing, but understands now, and as time goes on, you will have more friends, more honour, because you have done one of the most gallant things done in history” Reverend Salem Bland Toronto Union station greeting returning International Brigades

This November 11th a Canada wide Remembrance Day tribute to the Mackenzie - Papineau Battalion (MacPaps) is being organized.  Last year, more than 25 volunteers from coast to coast helped pay tribute to the volunteers from Canada who were part of the International Brigades by laying a white rose at the known graves location.  Ray Hoff started this initiative in Canada last year after doing it for many years in the US.  He has done extensive research to map the known MacPap graves across the country.  

Last year, it was very emotional to be able to pay tribute to such incredible individuals -a group that travelled so far and gave up everything to fight fascism in Spain.  On November 11th, the MacPaps are not officially recognized at Remembrance Day ceremonies so for me this tribute  was very meaningful.   

I feel like I already know many of these men as part of the research for my documentary.  To be at their gravesides laying a white rose and International Brigade flag was an incredible honour.  To see so many of these men in unmarked and common graves was truly heartbreaking.   

More information about the MacPaps and the tribute is in this this Global news article.

We are hoping to build on this initiative this year and get even more volunteers involved.  It would be amazing to have someone visit all of the known graves and pay tribute.  

If you would like to participate this November 11, please contact themacpaps@gmail.com

These are just some of the comments from the volunteers who participated in Honouring the Mac-Paps in 2018.

"I feel grateful for the education this has brought me and the meaningful purpose on this upcoming Remembrance day."

"Thank you for inspiring us to join the movement to remember these good men."

" I found this very moving, and such a worthwhile way to mark Remembrance Day. "

Paying tribute to Frank Rutherford November 11, 2018

Paying tribute to Frank Rutherford November 11, 2018

Project update

I realized that I haven’t posted much on this blog this year so here comes a big update.

In February I travelled to Jarama Spain to film the annual Jarama March. Each year at the Jarama march, hundreds pay tribute to the International Brigades and Spanish Republican fighters who fought fascism in the Jarama valley. The march ended on top of a hill where there is a beautiful monument to the International Brigades. This was my third visit to the monument but on this day, on the top of that hill, I got emotional.

As one minute of silence was called, I was looking out on the road between Morata de Tajuña and Chinchón. I realized that from this vantage point, I could see the entire road between these two towns - somewhere on this road in this beautiful valley, my great uncle was killed by an aerial bomb. It was a pretty surreal and touching moment.

I was also able to revisit the cemetery where my great uncle is buried. On this visit, I was able to spend more time at the cemetery and really take in my surroundings. In the area where the International Brigades volunteers were buried, the are many new grave stones. So it is quite likely that the bones have been relocated. More investigation is needed.

In August, I interviewed Kaarina Mikalaon, project manager of the Canada and the Spanish Civil War project and Michael Petrou, author of the book Renegades about the Canadian volunteers. I also ilmed at the Ottawa monument for the volunteers from Canada who fought fascism in Spain. My great uncle’s name is there along with the 1500 plus volunteers.

Since my last posting, , I have also received generous donations from CUPE Metro, and CUPE Vancouver Island District Council Labour Orientated Cultural Bursary as well as ongoing support from my incredible Patreon monthly contributors

And finally here is an article about the documentary project which was published in the December Vancouver Island Catholic News. It's through articles like this that I hope to raise awareness about the Canadian volunteers of the International Brigades and connect with family members to interview for the project.

Ottawa Monument to the volunteers from Canada who were part of the International Brigades

Ottawa Monument to the volunteers from Canada who were part of the International Brigades

Funding support

I am thrilled to have received funding from trade unions across the Province. Last month I received my biggest donation to date - $1000 from IBEW local 213! Thank you to all those who have supported the project to date including CUPE Vancouver Island District Council Labour Orientated Cultural Bursary, CUPE Local 2081, CUPE Local 50, CUPE Local 951, Unifor Local 3019 and the Victoria Labour Council.

My incredible Patreon monthly contributors have allowed me to hire a camera and sound operator in Spain and have allowed me to dedicate time off of my regular job to focus on researching and producing this documentary.

Dama Hanks

Raymond Hoff

Kristen Cox

Thaddeus Cox

Pat Atherton

Almudena Cros

Lisa Ellis

Jennifer Ferro

Terri Van Sleuwen

Danika Ellis

Erin Brost

Michael Veronneau

Peter Eberhardt

Other lovely supporters have donated directly to the project.

Nola Williams

Janete Fors and Barry

David Yorke

Michael Harding

Irene and Matthew Sanderson

Island Catholic News

and other anynomous donors

All of this incredible support keeps the project moving forward. Knowing that others believe in this story enough to contribute to it means the world to me. Thank you all!!!!

Paying Tribute

Paying Tribute

It took 81 years to find the final resting place of Peter Johnson.  On May 31 (the anniversary of this death), I was honoured to visit the resting place of this brave and honorable man.   In these unmarked graves is the remains of International Brigaders from around the world. 

I can't know for any certainly that I was in the exact spot of his grave but if not, I was feet away.  I spent an emotional week in Spain - full of tributes to the International Brigades but on Thursday, as the first family member to visit this unmarked grave- well I just lost it.

“You are history. You are legend. You are the heroic examples of democracy, solidarity and universality. We shall not forget you, and when the olive tree of peace puts forth its leaves again, come back, and all of you will find the love and gratitude of the whole Spanish people who, now and in the future, will cry out with all their hearts, long live the heroes of the International Brigades”

~Dolores Iburri, La Pasionaria, to the assembled Brigadistas in Barcelona in 1938 as the International Brigade was disbanded

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Caspe, Spain

Caspe, Spain

Last month, I went to Caspe, Spain for the opportunity to speak with Virgilio Fernández, a 99 year old volunteer of the International Brigades.   Virgilio had just been released from the hospital but that didn't stop him from making his way to Caspe to be honoured by the Mayor and the State Governor.  it was a thrill and an honour to speak with such a great man.

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CUPE Vancouver Island District Council Labour supports project

So excited to receive the CUPE Vancouver Island District Council Labour Oriented Cultural Bursary.  

The story of the British Columbia Brigades is also one of British Columbia's labour history -   the struggle for better working conditions, a living wage and regular employment.   Many Brigaders were labour organizers and participants in the 1930's labour protests.  Their fight in Spain was the ultimate show of solidarity.