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Based in Thunder Bay, Ontario, the Friends of the Finnish Labour Temple takes its name from one of Canada’s most recognizable symbols of working-class and immigration history in Canada. Not only was the Finnish Labour Temple the location of the founding meeting of the Social Democratic Party of Canada, which was the foundation for what is now the New Democratic Party, it also served as an Industrial Workers of the World headquarters and has a long history of connection to the working-class. In 2015 the Finnish Labour Temple was designated a National Historic Site.

The Friends of the Finnish Labour Temple


With 2018 on the Horizon, the Friends of the Finnish Labour Temple will be embarking on three new ventures in Canada’s labour and immigration history.

The first is support for a film project that looks at the Lakehead Region during the Great War. This will be a docu-drama featuring the Fighting 52nd Battalion and the individuals from the Lakehead region who participated in the war.

The second is a project focused on the operations of Canada-Car and Foundry in Fort William during the Second World War. Can-Car labour force provides glimpse at a cross-section of Canada’s immigrant population at the time. Of particular interest are the thousands of women who worked in the factory building airplanes during the war. The outcome will be a book based on the oral histories of many of the men and women who worked in the plant.

The Friends are also supporters of an academic conference to be held in Thunder Bay in March. The conference looks at immigration to the region as the result of wars abroad. From “Reds” fleeing “White” agression after Finland’s 1918 Civil War, to the more recent arrival of refugees from Africa and the Middle East, this conference seeks to highlight the struggles of new comers and their contributions to Canadian society.


2016 was a successful year for the Friends of the Finnish Labour Temple and 2017 looks like it will be another banner year for our organization. 2016 saw the Friends work with the Finnish Canadian Cultural Organization, Keskipohjalaisten Kerho, (KP Club) and other local organizations support Finn Festival 2016 in June. The Friends were also active in supporting the Bay Street Film Festival with workshops and the screening of SISU: Family, Love and Perseverance from Finland to America directed by Marko Albrecht and Finnish Blood Swedish Heart directed by Mika Ronkainen. The Friends has also completed work on Lakehead Finns: The Working Class 1867-1962, a website in English, Finnish and French dedicated to the immigration and settlement of Finns in Canada.

You can follow us on Facebook to keep up with our activities and announcements on a regular basis.

Finland 100 and Canada 150

In light of our mission to celebrate and promote the history and cultural legacy of Finnish immigration to Canada through education, research, creation and dissemination, the Friends of the Finnish Labour Temple is currently supporting a number of projects to commemorate Finland’s 100 years of independence and Canada’s 150 years as a nation in 2017. The most enduring historical contributions of the Finnish community in Canada have been in shaping Canadian politics through activism. In addition to their political activities, the Finnish Canadian community has also devoted a great deal of attention to the Arts.


The Friends, in partnership with the Keskipohjalaisten Kerho, (KP Club), and the Lakehead University Department of History, are engaging in an oral history project focused on the history of Finnish community cultural organizations in Thunder Bay. The recordings will be added to our LakeheadFinns website on the history of Finnish-Canadian immigration and settlement. This is an initiative led by Ulla Ahokas of Thunder Bay.


Is a forthcoming book on Finnish immigration and settlement in Canada edited by Michel S. Beaulieu, David K. Ratz and Ronald N. Harpelle and published by the University of British Columbia Press.  Here is a list of the chapters:

Table of Contents
Finnish Kanadalainen Sosialismi: The Finnish Contribution to Early Canadian Socialist Organizations, Michel S. Beaulieu
Matti Kurikka and the Utopian Socialist Settlement of Sointula, British Columbia, J. Donald Wilson
Finnish Canadian Soldiers in the First World War, David Ratz
Wrestling, Immigration and Working Class Culture: The Finns of the Thunder Bay District before 1939, Charles Nathan Hatton
“I Won’t Be a Slave!”: Finnish Domestics in Canada, 1911–30, Varpu Lindström
“Dear Jussi-Seta…”:   Generation, Language and Community in the Youth Page of Vapaus, 1945-1960, Tanya Tuohimaa
“Terveisiä: A Century of Finnish Immigrant Letters from Canada”, Samira Saramo
Cookbooks for Upstairs: Ethnicity, Class and Gender in Perspective, Hanna Snellman
From Bush to Bay Street: The Finnish Community of Thunder Bay as Memories Narratives and Experiences, Antti Häkkinen

“A brave, hospitable and altogether admirable people”

The Friends are providing financial support and its board of directors is providing content for a forthcoming commemorative book in collaboration with the Embassy of Canada to Finland and the Finnish-Canadian Society in Helsinki. The book celebrates the contributions of Canadians and Finns to each other’s growth as nations. The book serves to articulate the rich bilateral relationship between Canada and Finland. It consists of short essays on history, immigration and literature. It will be available in early 2017.


The Friends are pleased to partner with the Keskipohjalaisten Kerho, (KP Club) and Bay Street Film Festival in screening recordings of a series of summer theatre plays performed by the Teatteri Eskola in Eskola, Finland in recent years. Find us on  Facebook to get updates about the showing dates, times and place.

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