BC Organization to Fight Racism protesting outside of the office of Social Credit Premier Bill Vander Zalm MLA, c. 1980. SA2004.004.17, courtesy of Surrey Archives.

The BC Organization to Fight Racism (BCOFR) emerged directly from the work done by the Canadian Farmworkers’ Union. Charan Gill was the President.

“We also formed BC Organization to Fight Racism. Because when we are talking about farmworkers issues from ’73 onward, you know, the issue of racism was still there every day, every moment of the day, and we were facing lots of calls from people. They were talking about how they were harassed or beaten or their homes or, you know, people are throwing eggs. Those kind of issues of racism was front and center. So at the same time, when we talking about farmworkers, we were also talking about fighting racism. So it happened almost simultaneously. BC Organization to Fight Racism was very broad based organization. We didn’t want to focus just on the South Asian aspect of it. We wanted to talk to be sure racism in the broad side. So as a result, we were able to reach out to the First Nations, Indigenous people, the Chinese, the Filipinos, the blacks, you name it. And most of those communities were also part of the overall group, executive group of BC Organization to Fight Racism. And Charan Gill was the president of that organization when we started it, and earlier same year when we formed the Canadian Farmworkers Union, I’m the founding President of the CFU. [1]


The BC Federation of Labour shared a front page image of a local Ku Klux Klan rally. BC Federation of Labour files.

In the early 1980s, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) white supremacist organization established an active chapter in BC. The KKK was accused of leaving burning crosses on lawns, attacking South Asian homes and temples, and more. The KKK might have thought they had an ally in white, male, working-class organized labour, attempting to capitalize on economic anxiety around immigration that had existed since colonization. In this case, they were wrong.

When leaflets were distributed at a Vancouver steel fabricating plant, the Marineworkers and Boilermakers Industrial Union was having none of it. Chief shop steward Chris Brown issued his own flyer declaring “Hate literature not welcome in this plant”, urging workers to “reject in no uncertain terms the garbage propaganda of the KKK gangsters in this plant or anywhere else”.[2]

On January 3, 1981, the family home of Gurdev Sidhu in Delta, BC was firebombed after multiple previous attacks, which had prompted them to install plexiglass in their windows. Labour speakers at an anti-racism rally organized by the East Indian Workers Association in January 1981 came from the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union, Boilermakers and Telecommunications Workers unions.


Pacific Tribune, January 23, 1981, 1.

In 1982 The BC Federation of Labour announced the launch of a campaign against the rising incidents of racism in BC. “We have become increasingly alarmed at the amount of racist reaction occurring throughout the province,” said [BC Federation of Labour] Seretary-Treasurer Mike Kramer.

“During the past twelve months, we have sponsored a Conference on Racism and have distributed thousands of leaflets exposing the abhorrent policies and bigoted aims of the Ku Klux Klan…We intend to tell people that racial and cultural minorities cannot be held responsible or made the scapegoats of inept government planning and economic policies.[3]

In light of these concerning events, it was even more shocking when the Social Credit provincial government chose to eliminate the Human Rights Commission in July 1983.

  1. Raj Chouhan, interview by Anushay Malik, May 21, 2021, Union Zindabad! Interview Collection, BC Labour Heritage Centre.
  2. "Steward hits KKK pamphlet in plant," The Pacific Tribune, May 8, 1981, 11.
  3. "BC Fed to Launch Anti-Racism Campaign," On The Level, British Columbia Provincial Council of Carpenters, June 1982, 7.


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