Looking into some of the early twentieth century history of Valleyfield (now officially known as Salaberry-de-Valleyfield), where I grew up, I began reading about Madeleine Parent, a pioneering labour union leader in 1940s Quebec. She championed the cause of textile workers in Valleyfield, many of whom were women, and helped bring collective bargaining to the province’s textile industry. Montreal Cottons Ltd., with spinning mills in Montreal and Valleyfield, was the target of several notable workers’ strikes and even riots. The 1946 strike eventually led to a first contract.
In February of 2004, Ms. Parent was back in Valleyfield again speaking to a regional meeting of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. As mentioned in the article the hotel where she was speaking, Plaza Valleyfield, was built in the late 1980s in and around the Gault Mill section of the former Montreal Cottons plant. One can only imagine how Ms. Parent felt being there again. Unfortunately – from an architectural viewpoint only – the much larger, older, stone castle-like buildings were demolished in the 1970s to make way for a rather ugly shopping mall. Behind those thick walls cotton mill employees worked in conditions that now seem almost Dickensian.
The hotel was, for a short time, managed by Delta Hotels, the parent company I worked for in Toronto between 1987 and 1990. I recall making a few reservations for visitors to Valleyfield’s hydroplane regatta which roars around Baie St. Francois every summer, bringing plenty of tourists and excitement.
I’m going to follow up on Ms. Parent’s ties to my home-town.