UPDATE - It is with heavy hearts we have to tell you about the passing of our dear friend Gary Steeves, a true champion of working people, human rights and social justice.
The devastating news comes as we and Gary were celebrating another great achievement of his, the recent printing of his book, Tranquility Lost: The Occupation of Tranquille & Battle for Community Care.
We are feeling Gary’s loss deeply and send our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.
BCGEU members have always stood in solidarity with the communities we serve - especially when government cuts have threatened to hurt people.
A new book by retired BCGEU staff Gary Steeves, Tranquility Lost, provides a dramatic first-hand account of BCGEU members at Tranquille, a Kamloops mental health facility, who took direct action when budget cuts threatened the lives of vulnerable residents.
In the early 1980s, governments were phasing out institutions like Tranquille. The promise of "de-institutionalization" was that supportive services would be replaced with community-based care models. Our union supported this new approach, but the Social Credit government's massive budget cuts in July 1983 meant that Tranquille – home to 325 residents and 600 staff – would be closing in just five months, with neither a community care plan for residents, nor collective agreement options for severance and alternative job placement for staff.
Steeves was sent to Kamloops to deliver the dire news to Tranquille workers. He ended up staying for longer than expected: staff decided to fight back by staging a dramatic takeover and occupation of the facility. They put up signs declaring that the facility was "Under New Management". Sentries guarded entrances, and they established a workers' council with representatives from every department to coordinate running the facility themselves.
More than 30 years later, Steeves recounts the full, exceptional story of worker power and initiative in his new work: Tranquility Lost
Click here to order a copy of the new book
Learn more about the Tranquille occupation and Tranquility Lost:
- The worker occupation at Tranquille - A BCGEU video on the occupation
- Tranquille - from the BC Labour Heritage Centre - listen to their podcast and view the commemorative plaque at the BCGEU's Kamloops Area Office
- Vancouver Sun book review: Kamloops care facility revolt an important moment in B.C. history