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Biography & Autobiography Social Activists

Tranquility Lost

The Occupation of Tranquille and Battle for Community Care in BC

by (author) Gary Steeves

Nightwood Editions
Initial publish date
Oct 2020
Social Activists, Medical, People with Disabilities
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2020
    List Price

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In 1983, the BC provincial government announced plans to close Tranquille, a large residential institution for persons with intellectual disabilities located outside Kamloops. The announcement was made with no community placement plans for residents. The nearly six hundred employees of Tranquille, members of the BC Government Employees Union and the Union of Psychiatric Nurses, were alarmed by the lack of any Ministry of Human Resources planning for the future of the residents and the ministry’s stated intention to use newly tabled legislation to terminate Tranquille employees without cause and avoid any other collective agreement obligations to employees. Consequently, BCGEU members decided to sit-in and occupy the institution by expelling management, running the institution themselves and publicly advocating for quality community care for people with intellectual disabilities. They did so for nearly a month.

Tranquility Lost chronicles the political and public policy conditions leading up to the occupation, the day-to-day activities of the occupation itself, the challenges faced by the workers and negotiations leading to an agreement. Steeves’s account profiles the courage of Tranquille employees and their unprecedented use of collective bargaining as a tool to address conditions faced by government clients as well as government employees themselves.

About the author

Gary Steeves has worked for social and environmental justice all his adult life. A staff representative with the BCGEU from 1979 to 2004, he served as director of the union from 1993 to 2004. He also served on numerous government boards and agencies, including the BC Labour Force Development Board and the Industry Training and Apprenticeship Commission, and held various positions in the union movement, including executive council member of the BC Federation of Labour. From 2004 to 2014, he served on the Islands Trust Council, including six years on its executive committee as vice chair of the council.

Gary Steeves' profile page

Editorial Reviews

Tranquility Lost provides the compelling history of a truly pivotal moment in BC politics. The radical occupation of Tranquille in 1983 was an inspiration to thousands of other British Columbians fighting against callous government policies and was the beginning of an enormous groundswell of activism uniting community groups and labour unions—Operation Solidarity. It is not uncommon for politicians to make financial decisions without regard for workers. It is uncommon—and refreshing—to read a book written from the perspective of those workers. This book is an important addition to BC’s labour history and captures the spirit and determination of union members to protect their jobs and protect the services they provided to vulnerable citizens.

Glen Clark, former premier of BC

Tranquility Lost is a must-read for anyone interested in BC’s labour history. Steeves provides a fascinating firsthand account of the courageous occupation of the Tranquille residential complex for people with developmental disabilities by the workers at the site when government announced its impending closure in the summer of 1983. This dramatic action was an important rallying point for the emerging Operation Solidarity protest movement that took root throughout British Columbia that summer, and a heartfelt testament to the concern the workers at Tranquille had for the fate of the residents who lived there.

Ken Novakowski, former president of the BC Teachers' Federation and the BC Labour Heritage Centre

This book is an extremely important addition to B.C. history and a celebration of our effective self-management. It also celebrates a generously expansive understanding of the role unions can play in advancing social justice issues. All of this is timely today, and an important addition to our collective memory.

Calgary Herald