Vancouver East End moms who fought and won against City Hall, the Port of Vancouver, two railroads, the BC Housing Commission and the courts over half a century ago celebrate this victory Mother’s Day weekend.
On Saturday, May 7, the so-called Militant Mothers of Raymur will host a celebration of their daring direct confrontation with authority in the exact spot where it all happened.
“We’re going to have someone from City Hall read a proclamation,” said Carolyn Jerome, one of the action’s original organizers. Straight by telephone. “We will also honor the mothers who show up, I don’t know how many will be there.”
Jerome, now 79, said there will also be a heritage plaque presentation, live music, children’s activities, cakes and refreshments.
The site of the celebration, at the foot of a railway pedestrian overpass finally built after the moms’ three-month battle, is at 600 Raymur Avenue. Activities will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Militant Mothers—a group of mostly single mothers, including recent immigrants, who lived in the family’s Raymur Place high-rise at 400 Campbell Avenue in 1970-71—worried about the safety of their children to go to school every day.
The nearest school, Admiral Seymour Elementary School, was accessible to children crossing two sets of train tracks with no crossing signal or pedestrian overpass.
To make matters worse, Canadian National Railways (CNR) and Burlington Northern Railway (BNR) both ran their trains to and from the docks at the nearby Port of Vancouver during hours when children were coming and going. ‘school.
The mothers organized themselves, circulated petitions, contacted the town hall, the railways and their housing authority, but were blocked in their efforts to have an overpass built. Eventually they stood on the tracks to block the trains, then ended up pitching a tent and camping on the tracks themselves.
“We really had to stop them in their tracks to get the town hall noticed,” Jerome said. “It was very powerful, and I remember all [the mothers]because it was very scary.”
The protest began to attract media attention and support from Vancouverites outside the East End, many of whom came out to stand alongside the mothers in solidarity or to bring food and drink.
Promises were made and not kept by the railroads, which both ended up taking the mothers to court for an injunction.
Although the railroads won their injunction, after an initial rejection by a judge, the mothers eventually received a commitment from the city for the land and permission from federal authorities to build the overpass structure. The railways agreed and the viaduct was built two months later.
The pedestrian viaduct is still in use today.
After the struggle, organization and publicity received by the mothers, they decided to keep the momentum going by advocating for the construction of a community center. The RayCam Cooperative Center was established in 1976, along with a food cooperative for the residents of the 350 rental units in the housing project. She then provided child care and recreational services for all for over 40 years.
The main and most valuable thing that everyone connected to the original protest took away from the experience, Jerome said, was not the center and the food cooperative: “We have a community,” she said. declared.
For a much more detailed and personal story of this epic struggle, please read this account written by Jerome for the Straight on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the victory of mothers, in 2021.
To help cover the costs of the celebration and associated expenses, visit the Miltant Mothers GoFundMe page here.