In this film, Paul Tomkowicz, Polish-born Canadian, talks about his job and his life in Canada. He compares his new life in the city of Winnipeg to the life he knew in Poland, marvelling at the freedom Canadians enjoy. In winter the rail-switches on streetcar tracks in Winnipeg froze and jammed with freezing mud and snow. Keeping them clean, whatever the weather, was the job of the switchman.
This 1996 documentary takes a nostalgic ride through history to present the experiences of Black sleeping-car porters who worked on Canada's railways from the early 1900s through the 1960s. There was a strong sense of pride among these men and they were well-respected by their community. Yet, harsh working conditions prevented them from being promoted to other railway jobs until finally, in 1955, porter Lee Williams took his fight to the union.
Claiming discrimination under the Canada Fair Employment Act, the Black workers won their right to work in other areas. Interviews, archival footage and the music of noted jazz musician Joe Sealy (whose father was a porter) combine to portray a fascinating history that might otherwise have been forgotten.
This short documentary is a delightful trip back to an era in which railroad was king. The small community of Melville, Saskatchewan, is a railroad town. Long-time CBC host Fred Davis visits with various railway workers and learns about the operation of one of the vital service stations which keep the Canadian National Railway running smoothly.
Over the course of a decade Brooks, Alberta, transformed from a socially conservative, primarily white town to one of the most diverse places in Canada as immigrants and refugees flocked to find jobs at the Lakeside Packers slaughterhouse. This film is a portrait of those people working together and adapting to change through the first-ever strike at Lakeside.
The filmmakers were given remarkable freedom to record the historic 1984 contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers and General Motors Corporation. Bob White, labour leader of the Canadian branch of the UAW, must also confront his American counterpart from Detroit and succeeds in arriving at a contract that is significantly Canadian. His members had already given him a mandate to fight for independence from the American union. This is an invaluable document for anyone interested in the complexities of United States-Canada relations. It's an extraordinary film about revolutionary events.
This is a short documentary about winter railroading in the Canadian Rockies and the men who keep the lines clear. The stretch between Revelstoke and Field, British Columbia, is a snow-choked threat to communications. The film shows the work of section hands, maintenance men, train crews and telegraph operators.
This short documentary shows the struggle that young immigrants have in a small community unaccustomed to cultural diversity, and their frustration at not having their skills recognized by the job market and their peers. Hanging On is part of the Work For All project 2006, an NFB and HRSDC-Labour initiative to combat racism in the workplace.
This short documentary from the Canada Carries On series celebrates the contribution of Canada’s railroads to the war effort. The film includes a sequence from Buster Keaton's 1926 silent comedy The General, as well as a re-enactment of Lord Strathcona driving the final spike into the Canadian Pacific Railway Line.
This short film from director Gerald Potterton (Heavy Metal) stars Buster Keaton in one of the last films of his long career. As "the railrodder", Keaton crosses Canada from east to west on a railway track speeder. True to Keaton's genre, the film is full of sight gags as our protagonist putt-putts his way to British Columbia. Not a word is spoken throughout, and Keaton is as spry and ingenious at fetching laughs as he was in the old days of the silent slapsticks.
For more background information about this film, visit the NFB.ca blog.
In 1992 a young Iranian student hanged himself on the outskirts of a small Ontario town. Having escaped the Ayatollah's regime and found a new home in Canada, he could not escape his past. In this film, Masoud Raouf documents the experiences of Iranian-Canadians - former political prisoners like himself - who were active in the Iranian democratic movement and continue to struggle with the past.
For more background information about this film, please visit the NFB.ca blog.
Ages 14 to 17
History and Citizenship Education - Culture and Currents of Thought (1500-present)
Social Studies - Communities in Canada/World
Social Studies - Social History
A snapshot of the immigrant experience in Canada in the 1950s, students can discuss the experiences of immigrants, and how they are similar or different today. Filmed during the era of McCarthyism, students of history can discuss the film's purpose and intended audience, as the protagonist alludes to Soviet atrocities, and expresses his gratitude to Canada and the new freedoms he now enjoys.