Since this essay was first written in 1996 (and published in 1997), the author has noted a number of positive responses to the suggestion that the role of workers and of unions be more prominently recognized on Canadian stamps. The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour has been particularly active in this area and sponsored a resolution at the 1996 convention of the Canadian Labour Congress calling for "a series of stamps devoted to the important events and people in the history of the Canadian labour movement". Several Members of Parliament have also indicated their support.

These efforts may have contributed to the approval of a commemorative stamp (#1657) issued in 1997 on the occasion of the world congress of the Postal, Telegraph and Telephone International which took place in Montréal that summer. This organization represents more than 250 unions from around the world, including several Canadian unions. The stamp includes the images of a letter carrier and a telecommunications worker. CLC executive vice-president Jean-Claude Parrot, a past president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, welcomed the issuance of this stamp by Canada Post: "It's nice to see that the Corporation has finally recognized workers, especially during an international conference of trade unionists". Nevertheless, the appearance of this stamp did not mark a significant departure from existing patterns in the representation of workers, as postal workers and international organizations in the postal sector have both been recognized in the past.

Canada Scott 1657
Stamp reproduced courtesy of Canada Post Corporation
Stamp: Canada Scott 1657

In the 1998 stamp programme, there continued to be allusions to the world of work, but the workers themselves remained for the most part out of the picture. The Bluenose trope was again in evidence, in this case on a stamp honouring the vessel's designer, William Roué. There was a stamp paying tribute to the health professions, represented in this case not by persons but by symbols. There was a stamp for the centennial of the Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum - an industrial association in one of Canada's most important economic sectors. A number of inland canals also received attention - for their significance as recreational sites today; a number of these canals are prominently remembered in labour history for the exceptionally difficult conditions experienced by the 19th-century immigrant workers who constructed them. Also this year a tribute to the innovative Quebec artists known as the "automatistes" included a work of art by Marcelle Ferron entitled "Syndicat des gens de mer"; but given the abstract nature of the style, the implied reference to workers was difficult to appreciate. Interestingly, the 1998 releases included a stamp featuring a prominent socialist political figure; this was again an indirect reference, as it appeared in a series on well-known provincial premiers; one of the ten provincial premiers included here was Tommy Douglas, who headed a Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) government in Saskatchewan (1944-61) and subsequently served as the first federal leader of the New Democratic Party.

At this writing, the announced stamp releases for 1999 contain no departures from the patterns that have been described. There will be stamps for Frontier College and for the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, organizations that occupy a place in the history of Canada's social reform tradition. There will be a series of low-value definitive stamps featuring artisans and their crafts. There will also be a stamp for the 150th anniversary of the Universal Postal Union, but as in the past, this should not be identified as a stamp recognizing the place of organized labour in Canadian society. There is still a need to make room for the workers.

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