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ON THE BOOKSHELF – The Badger Riot.

First and foremost, the reader should bear in mind that this book is not intended to give a factual representation of events that took place in the winter and spring of 1958, a mere 9 years after Newfoundland became Canada’s tenth province. There are, of course, a number of factual things recounted.

For instance, Joey Smallwood was premier of the newly minted province, and John Diefenbaker was Prime Minister of Canada. It is also factually reported that during these events, Smallwood, from his pulpit, flooded the airwaves with vindictive and vilifying comments about the IWA union, calling them slave traders and thieves out to rob Newfoundland of its riches.

But to call the book The Badger Riot is somewhat of a misnomer. Although the author witnessed the events as 14-year-old child, she does not set out to describe them.

This book is rather an offering of a glimpse into the everyday lives of ordinary Newfoundlanders in innumerable small communities from Francois to the Northrop Peninsula, from Ramea to Bonavista or from Port Aux Basques to Gambo. It is focused on the struggle faced by adult children helping their parents or in-laws achieve their dreams by abandoning their own. It is also a look at the misguided distrust between people and even pastors of various religious denominations for the others.

It should be noted that although we may think we live in a more enlightened time, some of it still lingers on and still resonates today.

For example I know of a man, raised in the Roman Catholic faith, married a Protestant woman, in the Anglican rites. However, after years into the union, and with 2 children, they had to renew the marriage in the RC church church in order for him to retain his post as a teacher in a Catholic school.

And so J.A. Ricketts lets us witness the ever-present conflicts that arise from inter-faith unions, of marriages between Whites and Aboriginal people, between family members who were for or against unionization.


Gerald J. Roy is a former Federal Canadian Human Rights mediator and educator. Hailing originally from Sherbrooke, Québec, he has retired to Port aux Basques to be near his family. His voracious book reading appetite trends towards westerns, spy novels, thrillers and mysteries. You can reach him via email at: info@wreckhousepress.com.

There are facts are reported as they happened. The police, both the Newfoundland constabulary and the RCMP were sent to Badger to break the strike.

And it is a fact that at least one person died in the aftermath and countless other were injured. All the doctors having fled the area at the first sign of trouble, the care of the wounded was left to family members.

Ironically, the Board of Mediation empaneled to settle the matter had recommended better living conditions and a salary increase of $1.22 per hour. After Smallwood decertified the IWA and forced the loggers to join his union, both sides agreed to those same conditions and wages.

As a historical document, this book would be a bust. But as a novel looking into the lives of small town Newfoundland during a particular time and around a specific incident, it is well worth the reader’s attention.

For this reason, I give The Badger Riot a high rating.

4 out of 5 stars.

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