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April 25, 2008

Local Man in New Book on Spanish Civil War

Last week I was reading a review chapter in the National Post of a new book on those 1500 Canadians that fought in the Spanish Civil War (1936-37).    As I read the sample chapter I saw the name Jules Paivio, formerly of Mattawa.  Jules clearly came across in the article as a highly principled man who put his life on the line.  The book is Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War.  UBC Press in association with the Canadian War Museum. 

Cover of Renegades: Canadians in Spanish Civil War (2008)

One story from the Post article tells of 15 men including Jules being lined up to be executed when an Italian Commander came by and decided to use them in exchange for Italian prisoners.  Jules spent a year in a POW camp.  When I tried to get him on the phone at Finlandia Village in Sudbury I had no luck and then discovered in a Sudbury newspaper article that 93 year old Jules was at the War Museum at the book launch that day. 

Photo of some of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion with banner that reads "Fascism will be destroyed". Library and Archives Canada

In previous articles on Mattawa and Cameron Township in Community Voices I have made reference to Jules Paivio the Finish architect who retired to live near the many Finns in Cameron.  He was the architect of the beautiful log Mattawa Museum.  While I was curator there in the late 80s he was active in its development.  He was present at the 20th anniversary of the Museum's opening in 2005 and we had a visit.  Suoma Luoma, Jules' wife's sister sparked the interest in a display on the Cameron Finns, which is now part of their permanent collection and Jules was at the opening

Some Finns clearly had socialist tendencies and for example Cameron Township had two meeting halls, one for the socialist political people and one for the more conservative side.  I also knew that Jules Paivio took a strong socialist stand when he was a teenager in Sudbury and volunteered as a part of a group of 1,500 Canadians who supported the elected Spanish government against rising fascism in 1936 as a part of the Macdonald-Papineau Battalion.  They joined thousands of others to fight the German and Italian fascists.  The Spanish government later offered all of the volunteers Spanish citizenship in honour of their help. 

 Jules Paivio to left of Suoma Luoma in wheelchair at opening of Cameron Finns display at Mattawa Museum.  D. Mackey photo.

There is some excellent material online under” Jules Paivio” who 70 years later is one of the few remaining volunteers.  It is interesting to note that the Canadian Government did not support the volunteers and they have never received any pension or compensation.  Many lost their lives.  Some Legions refused to recognize them. 

There is clear evidence that the Finns volunteers were not radical socialists but they were kept under surveillance by the RCMP until 1984.  The RCMP raided the Cameron Hall at one time.  When Jules joined the army in WWII they would not send him overseas because of his so called radical past and he became an instructor at Petawawa.See Macleans April 2008 for details. 

Jules as President of an Association of Veterans & Friends of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion was one of three Finns at the unveiling of a memorial to the group in Ottawa in 2001.  52 Stainless Steel panels list the 1546 Canadian Volunteers.  Other memorials have been built in Vancouver and Toronto.  Michael Petrou the author who writes for Macleans got access to Russian archives in 1990 and put the book together for current publication. 

Jules insists that what he did was a matter of principle and he has no regrets.  He loves the book except for the title.  He does not consider himself to be a renegade.  For more information on this remarkable story get a copy of the book at your local library or bookstore. You can also get further info online at www.ubcpress.com/renegades.   

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