There was a formal diplomatic ceremony last week, in a community hall in Saint John, New Brunswick. The Ambassador of Argentina addressed the crowd of local and provincial dignitaries. He then took a gold medal with a red ribbon and pinned it on the chest of longshoreman, Pat Riley.
The Ambassador was awarding the Order of May, the highest honour the government of Argentina can bestow on a foreign citizen, and one rarely given out.
This was the first time a Canadian ever received it. And he received it on behalf OF all the dock workers, trade unionists, church members, environmentalists and activists who came together to make a bit of history 31 years ago.
In 1979, a brutal military regime ruled over Argentina, torturing and killing tens of thousands of its opponents. Thousands more were languishing in jails as political prisoners. To protest against the Argentine dictatorship, and to seek the release of political prisoners, the longshoremen of Saint John refused to load a cargo of heavy water bound for a Candu reactor in Buenos Aires.
The protest brought together some unique forces - the courage of dock workers, the strategic savvy of Canadian activists, the vulnerabilities of a billion-dollar nuclear industry, and a new minority Conservative government in Ottawa. And it made a difference - in lives saved, and lives changed
Bob Carty's documentary is called, No Hot Cargo.