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Monument lifts the burden


September 4, 2013
By Dannette Dooley

HEAD: Monument lifts the burden

Some say the granite monument unveiled in the Town of Badger on July 31 has lifted a cloud that’s hung over the central Newfoundland town for more than half a century.

Others say the monument and its storyboard tells, for the first time, what actually happened on that fateful day of March 10, 1959. Just after 6 pm, 66 officers from the RCMP and Newfoundland Constabulary marched along Church Road. They confronted a group of loggers, who had been lawfully on strike against their employer, the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company, since New Year’s Day.

The two groups clashed and harsh words turned to violence. Police used their 18-inch long night-sticks and the loggers hit back with sticks. William Moss, a young constabulary constable, was fatally injured in the melee.

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The Badger Monument consists of two granite pieces, one in memory of Moss and the other to note a major turning-point in the history of labour relations in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Moss’s monument, with a depiction of his likeness, reads: “We remember and honour the memory of Constable William Moss, a member of the Newfoundland Constabulary who was fatally injured in the line of duty on 10 March 1959.”

The second piece of granite reads: “We remember and honour the courage and strength of the men who took part in the 1959 loggers’ strike. They made Newfoundland a better place for themselves, their families and for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Chief Robert Johnston says, as the storyboard suggests – the Badger Riot, as the clash became known, was a turning-point in labour relations. The striking loggers won substantial improvements in their wages and working conditions. They and police forces alike developed mutual respect learning how to preserve the balance between public order and safety on one hand and the rights of those lawfully on strike on the other.

“The monument is an opportunity for us to reflect on how far we’ve come and how important it is that we get it right when we’re involved in such things as collective bargaining and crowd management,” Johnston said.

Having the monument erected will boost the town’s tourism and make a huge difference to its residents, he noted.

“The story is now being told and told correctly. The tragedy that took place in Badger wasn’t the fault of Badger. There were errors made by government, labour and police that created the moment where William Moss lost his life. Now, out of that incident, we’ve come a long ways today.”

Johnston says while the Town of Badger, provincial government, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, RNC Police Association and many other supporters came together to make the monument a reality, one of his officers played a pivotal role.

“Cst. Georgina Short provided the leadership, the continuity and the drive to make this happen, and the day we unveiled the monument, the town’s mayor made Cst. Short an honorary citizen because of the work she put into the project. As chief of police I give her a great deal of credit for the success of July 31 and that beautiful monument.”

Badger Mayor Mike Patey said the constabulary’s police chief and the veteran constable were instrumental in the success of the project.

“Georgina came in and helped us… She followed all the protocols and she did a wonderful job putting it all together.”

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale also participated in the unveiling.

“For all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Badger will forever be recognized as the place where, from one of life’s greatest tragedies, we learned one of life’s greatest lessons. We must always find ways to work through differences whenever they arise, because life is fragile and precious… Let this profound lesson be the enduring legacy of Constable William Moss.”

In commenting on the second plaque the premier said while the strike resulted in significant improvements in the loggers’ working conditions, the death of Moss also had a much more profound effect on the people of the province.

“It came to signify the beginning of a new era – an era where health and safety and fair benefits for all workers became a priority for employees, employers and administrators,” she said.

Two signs were also unveiled. One names the town’s walking trails “Logger’s Way” and the other names the ball field “Constable William Moss Memorial Softball Field.”

The town’s mayor summed up well what the monument means to his residents and the province.

The death of a young man wasn’t something anyone could ever envision happening, he said. Yet it did happen, he said, and the town’s residents have been carrying the burden ever since – “but when we unveiled that monument that burden was lifted.”

dooley@blueline.ca


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