A tribute to Joy Langan
BURNABY -- It was standing room only as hundreds of people filled the Operating Engineers’ Hall Sept. 9 to pay tribute to Joy Langan and to remember her many contributions.
The crowd included rank and file workers who she stood with on the picket line, leaders of the labour movement, as well as dozens of current and former MPs and MLAs.
“Joy was a true working class hero,” said Angie Schirra, secretary-treasurer of the B.C. Federation of Labour.
As a friend, mentor and mother, she was inspirational, humanitarian, passionate, and unselfish, said Schirra. She had “an acute sense of right and wrong” and was dedicated to her family, including her labour and NDP family.
Schirra recalled that as a young worker, Joy Langan was a leader for women’s rights who stood her ground and rose to positions of leadership within the movement.
As the first woman vice-president of the BCFL, “Joy took me under her wing when I became the second woman vice-president.”
“She worked tirelessly to strengthen the labour movement and the party,” said Schirra.
As a Member of Parliament, “she struck fear into the hearts of many cabinet ministers in Ottawa.”
“Right up to a week before her death, she was chairing meetings of BC FORUM.
“The unyielding spirit Joy showed us all will not fade,” she said.
Wendy Sol, administrative Vice-President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union who flew in from Winnipeg to participate, said Joy was “an invaluable mentor” for many.
“She encouraged others to see the potential in themselves,” said Sol.
Sol noted that Joy supported her campaign for vice-president, even though it had the potential to be “a career stopper” since Joy was a CEP staff rep.
“I have a feeling there’s one more star in the sky tonight.”
Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, participating by video, described Joy as “tenacious and stubborn” – a true advocate for women’s rights, workers, and the marginalized in our society.
“She just never quit.”
Georgetti recalled that in Trail, Joy was often his babysitter, so “she was used to cleaning up my crap from an early age.”
“She has a special place in the hearts of everyone she touched.
“Joy, we miss you as an activist and friend, but we’ll never forget what you taught us,” said Georgetti.
John Webster and Susan Scott were part of the long and bitter strike against the Calgary Herald, then owned by one of Conrad Black’s conglomerates. Joy was their CEP staff rep.
“Joy would be happy to see us all here today,” Webster said.
“But she would also ask us, ‘Isn’t there a picket line, a protest or a demonstration you should all be at?’”
Recalling the extraordinary difficulties the strikers faced, Webster said, “Joy gave a damn about all of us.”
And as for Conrad Black: “We kicked his ass. Joy was our leader.”
Scott described the aggressive police tactics, helicopters and truncheons that were evident during the strike.
Joy met it all with “amazing good humour, compassion and extraordinary courage,” said Scott. She embodied the belief that “real change must come through personal action.”
Scott also recalled that Joy frequently wore a necklace engraved with the words, “Live, Love, Laugh.”
“That’s what Joy would want us to do.”
Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, said, “Joy deserves a medal for who she was and what she did.”
“She spent her whole life getting stronger and more courageous.”
And with her activism for women’s rights, she helped to change the course of history.
“Business, parliament and the labour movement needed that change and voice,” said Sinclair.
While Joy was an inspiration to many, it was not a one way street, he added.
“She was inspired by the people she met.
“The Calgary Herald strike was a big struggle and she was proud to be part of it.”
Sinclair announced that the BCFL is establishing a new award in her honour.
“The Joy Langan Social Justice Award will be presented at every constitutional convention of the Federation,” he said.
Audrey McLaughlin, former leader of the federal NDP, said Joy brought passion and principle to politics and every aspect of her life.
Watching Joy in the House of Commons and in the NDP Caucus, McLaughlin said she often thought, “Am I ever glad she’s on our side.”
“Joy was a leader and a teacher.”
She was kind, supportive, and committed to the belief that every individual matters,” said McLaughlin.
“I have the deepest love and respect for all that Joy has contributed,” she said.
“The best celebration of Joy’s life is to continue what she believed in. It will make Canada a better place, a place that recognizes the importance of working people, equality and social justice.”
Carolyn Rice, secretary-treasurer of the New Westminster and District Labour Council, said she first met Joy when she was working at an Unemployment Action Centre food bank in the 1970s, the beginning of “a true, life-long friendship.”
“Joy was always calm, reassuring and unflappable. She had a great way with people, and a real sense of what’s right and wrong.”
Rice, like other speakers, noted that Joy never quit, even though she was very ill. “She came in and worked every day in the 2008 federal election.”
She announced that the NWDLC is establishing a CLC Winter School scholarship in Joy’s name.
“Thank you Lisa, for sharing your mother with us. She will be in our hearts forever.”
Joy Langan, 1943 - 2009
President, BC FORUM
Our community is in mourning on the loss of Joy Langan. It is with great sadness and deepest regrets we are sharing the news that Joy passed away at the end of July.
A long time labour leader and political activist, former NDP Member of Parliament, an amazing mother, sister and friend, Joy had been battling cancer for many years with a courage that characterized her whole life.
In a statement made by New Democrat Leader Jack Layton, "Joy served the people of Mission-Coquitlam between 1988 and 1993 with passion and distinction and served our party with a lifetime of involvement. She fought tirelessly for the equality of women and unflinchingly for the eradication of poverty. While the country has lost a great social democrat, the party an advocate, her legacy will carry on as a testimonial to her commitment to build a fair and just Canada."
BC FORUM joins with Jack Layton to express our deepest sympathies to Joy's family and many friends.
In lieu of flowers, a donation can be made to:
The BC Cancer Society
The Tri-City Women's Resource Centre
If you would like to send a letter of condolence to Joy's daughter, Lisa Candlish, please address it to: Lisa Candlish, 1630 Mary Hill Road, Port Coquitlam, BC, V3C 2Z6.