Plan - Student
Worksheet - Bibliography/Resources
EPISODE 33: A Glowing Dream:
The Story of Jacob & Rose Penner
Director Cathy Gulkin takes
us on a personal journey exploring the lives of her maternal grandparents
Jacob and Rose Penner. Jacob was born into a Mennonite community in Southern
Russia, while Rose was Jewish and born into poverty in the Ukraine. By
different paths, both Jacob and Rose ended up living in Winnipeg. They
shared a vision that the world could be a better place. Together they
worked, through the socialist and Communist Party of Canada, to try to
make their vision a reality.
They gave a voice to the poorest and least privileged in our society.
They worked towards the formation of unions, unemployment insurance, and
universal health care. Jacob was one of the key organizers of the Winnipeg
General Strike. For over sixty years, their voices reminded Canadians
that: "as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,
ye have done it unto me." (Bible, King James Version, Matthew 25:40).
- Working towards basic human
- Making sacrifices for the
- The importance of community
to the early Mennonites in Canada
- Winnipeg General Strike
- To explore the plight of
the poor and working poor in Canada in the early 1900's
- To examine the fight to
get the social safety net in place in Canada
- To consider the sacrifices
that people are willing to be true to their ideals
- As Canadians, we pride ourselves
on our social "safety net." Investigate some of the government
programs set up to help not just the poorest Canadians, but all Canadians.
Trace the history of at least one of these programs and explain who
fought for it and why.
- During the "Depression"
there were work camps set up, where single men on relief were sent to
work. What projects did these men work on and how long did they have
to stay there? Find out whether or not in your province there is a type
of "Work for Welfare" program. Talk to a welfare recipient
or welfare advocate, and learn about the pros and cons of such programs.
- Pretend you are Jacob Penner,
one of the organizers of the Winnipeg General Strike. Write a strong,
rousing speech to give to your class, pretending they are dissatisfied,
poor workers. In your speech, try to convince them that conditions are
unjust, that a strike is necessary, and why they should participate
in such a protest.
- Many people in Canada are
worried about our social "safety net." During the 1990's,
especially, cost cutting became the order of the day for all three levels
of government because the government was spending more money than it
had. Pretend you are budget chief, and your government is in debt. You
have to reduce costs or raise taxes. Where would you cut costs, and
where would you not cut costs in your budget. If you choose to raise
taxes, explain how you would convince people who are already complaining
of paying too much tax that raising taxes is the only answer.
- Invite a labour union representative
to speak to your class. If they can, ask him or her to talk about the
importance of the Winnipeg General Strike and what affect it had. Also,
ask them to talk about present-day working conditions and what changes
they would like to make for workers in Canada. How are they trying to
make these changes?
- Jacob Penner's childhood
in Russia and belief in socialism fueled him to fight for workers' rights
here in Canada. Research what happened in the 20th century to socialist
ideals in Russia, and what the dream of a Communist state was all about.
Why did it fail? Are things better now without a Communist union (look
at an old map/globe and a new one to see how things also changed geographically).
- Pretend you work in a car
wash, are poorly paid, and the working conditions are awful. Meet with
some of your fellow washers and form a union. What will you try to change,
and how will you convince your employers to improve things for you.
Set up a drama where your union negotiates with the boss.
- Many Mennonites today are
still working for social justice (like Jacob and Rose) through their
Mennonite Relief Committee. Contact them (website or mail) and find
out what they are doing around the world. Find a project that moves
you and see what you can do to help them, including some possible fund