View from Labour, January 16, 2009

The passing of Henry Nedegard brings to an end to an era for the Alberni Valley and the B.C. Labour Movement. I’ve known Henry for almost four decades. Many times his English was hard to understand, but his message was always the same. He was always standing up for workers and others who needed support. After fighting for benefits and wages for his IWA Crews he came up with a slogan “What we have ourselves we wish for others”. He often quoted some version of that to me right up to the end. Henry believed that slogan and was supportive of both union and non union workers getting a better deal. However he always invited non union workers into the “House of Labour”. Henry practiced the messages he preached as Labour Council President and in all his activities.
When he immigrated from his native Finland in 1951 and started working with MB he quickly got on the Camp Committee and became an advocate for fair treatment of workers. In 1974, Henry was elected to the executive of the IWA Local 1-85, and that’s when I first knew him. Until his retirement in 1992 Henry was responsible for Health and Safety in the Local. He became so well respected that WCB used to call him for assistance if there was a fatal in a non union operation. He maintained a “Roll of Honour” of all the fallen workers in our Local and that roll is maintained today. That list was a reminder to Henry and all of us that more work had to be done. I’m sure this concern led him to fight so hard for better health care in Port Alberni. Henry worked hard for Fir Park construction and for the new hospital. He served on many incarnations of the Hospital Board until the Liberal Government cast him and others off and “did it their way”. Henry never wavered in his belief that the WCGH was being gutted and worked hard with the SOS to try to stop laundry and other equipment from leaving. We have to carry on his work.
The long “Roll of Honour” never had the names of the permanently wounded and disabled on it. This must have weighed heavy on Henry as he started to work with wounded workers such as Wolfgang Zimmerman to start the Institute of Disability Management at North Island College. He became a founding member of NIDMAR (National Institute of Disability Management and Research) and sat on their board for the city and labour council until his passing.
In between all these accomplishments Henry found nine years to sit as a Councilor for the City of Port Alberni.
My prayers and thoughts are with Gunvor who has lost a life long partner and friend. I have lost a friend and supporter and the community has lost a strong advocate for health care.
Henry we’ll miss you----your job is done----Rest in Peace—Go with God.