This book is about work, belonging, and betrayal in Northern Ontario. It is a book that is a sign of the times with all the factory closings in Ontario. I am so partial to these poor people who spend a lot of their lives in factories that close.
This is a book about Sturgeon Falls, Ontario. It is located in northern Ontario. It is a mill town of six thousand people. It’s the author’s home. In 2002, Sturgeon Falls lost its century-old paper mills. Anything that could be sold was put on trucks and shipped out while the people of the region looked on with tears in their eyes. Everything else was pulverized into dust.
A century’s worth of production records and blueprints were also shredded. Today, there are only reminders of what once was. This book originated from the idea that Steven High wanted to preserve at least the memory of this paper mill that employed so many people for so long.
The mill closed shortly after he took a new teaching position at Nipissing University. He followed the story in the local newspaper and strongly identified with the mill workers, their community, and their struggle.
The story also hit home for a number of his students who were from Sturgeon Falls itself. Eventually Steven’s stance as an interested bystander shifted when several of his students encouraged him to investigate into why the mill closed.
With the help of local students David Hunter and Louise Bidal, Steven met Bruce Colquhoun, one of two worker-historians in the mill where those displaced could get help with their job search or just be together. They decided to interview some of the people who were affected by the mill closer. The interviews took a long time.
The closing of the mill in Sturgeon Falls was a microcosm of the economic and political crisis facing the whole of Ontario and North America for that matter. The politicians in Ottawa and Ontario didn’t acknowledge the crisis in a meaningful way.
Stephen High has roots in the area. He provides a lot of background to the closer of the mill and why it occurred in this book. It is a book that should be read by all Canadians, given the sign of the times. As I am reviewing this, I just heard that General Motors is closing its Oshawa plant in 2019. What a time this is for industry. I feel terrible for all the people displaced because of factory closures. This book brought the crisis home for me even more.