John Jensen was a mentor for many with his blunt, plain talk, underpinned by humour and warmth - if he thought you were worth it. (photo supplied)

John Jensen was a mentor for many with his blunt, plain talk, underpinned by humour and warmth - if he thought you were worth it. (photo supplied)

Northwest labour leader memoir out in print

“We understood that the ruling class and the working class had very little in common.”

The life story of a northwestern labour leader and activist who got his start in Kitimat is now out in print.

No Compromise is the memoir of John Jensen who arrived in Kitimat in the 1960s and quickly became a key part of the carpenters union locals in Kitimat and elsewhere as well as participating in various social and environmental causes.

Jensen came to Canada from Denmark and never hesitated to call himself a socialist, as his convictions and beliefs were acquired from his early years during the Nazi occupation of his home country.

Jensen joined forces with environmentalists, women’s groups and First Nations through citizen groups like VOICE (Victims of Industry Changing the Environment) to fight corporations such as Alcan and Eurocan, questioning large-scale industrialization, the rush to export natural gas and opposing clearcutting of the regional forest.

His influence was felt from the coast into the Bulkley Valley and beyond in helping organize regional study conferences.

No Compromise has vignettes such as the time carpenters walked off-site from the Eurocan pulp mill in Kitimat when something went wrong and went to the Kitimat Hotel to drink beer.

After a couple of hours and a few pints, the owner of Bobsien Construction came to the pub begging staff to return to work.

Promising to pay the workers for the time they spent drinking beers, as well as paying for the beer, the owner finally persuaded them to come back to work.

The memoir also details the struggle to build Terraceview Lodge on the site of an old army hospital in Terrace which was built to care for casualties during a possible North Coast invasion during the Second World War, his fight for a Canadian carpenters union and his years as president of the Kitimat-Terrace and District Labour Council.

It also provides a glimpse of the people he encountered during his career and a chapter explains what it was like to salvage logs for a living in the waters near Kitimat.

And there’s a foreword by provincial environment minister George Heyman who describes Jensen as a mentor. Jensen died in 2019 at the age of 90.

No Compromise is available at the Kitimat Public Library and is at Misty River Books in Terrace.