Shirley Carr

Shirley Carr, the first woman to be not only President of the CLC but also of any national labour body, died in her 82nd year in June. Shirley was elected in 1974 as CLC Vice-President and later served as Secretary-Treasurer before serving as President from 1986 to 1992.

She originally became active in 1960 in CUPE Local 133 and went on to become President of the Ontario Division of CUPE in 1972-74 and serve on the National Executive Board of CUPE.

During her presidency, the CLC adopted the technique of fostering community alliances which has been a hallmark of successful labour campaigns ever since.

Sister Carr’s presidency saw the beginning of the CLC’s campaign against free trade with the United States. At a time when many supported the concept or claimed labour’s voice would be ignored on economic matters, the campaign succeeded in turning public opinion against the deal that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney made with the late US President Ronald Reagan.

Shirley first became active in the labour movement in 1960, when she joined the Canadian Union of Public Employees and served in various capacities at the local, provincial, regional, and national levels.

Alongside her work at the CLC, Shirley was an active participant in the international labour movement. From 1980 to 1985 she was a member of the governing body of the International Labour Organization, and acted as Chairperson for the Workers’ Group for the Committee on Discrimination and the Committee on Apartheid. She also served as Vice President of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Chairperson of Commonwealth Trade Union Council, and Vice President of the ILO United Nations Agency.

Shirley received numerous awards for her work. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1980, and an Officer of the Order of Ontario in 1995. She received the Centennial Medal for Exemplary Contribution to Vocational/Technical Education (1980), the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Canadian Federation (1992), and the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case (1994).

“We are all saddened to learn of the death of Sister Shirley Carr,” commented CLC President Ken Georgetti. “She was the first woman in the world ever to be elected as leader of a national labour body, and she was a pioneer in many ways.

“Shirley moved women’s rights to the top of the labour agenda and she was a determined opponent of apartheid,” Georgetti said.

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