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Kaplan, William.

Toronto, University of Toronto Press. c1987. 241pp. paper. ISBN 0-8020-2597-8 (cloth) $30 00, 0-8020-6623-2 (paper) $14.95. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Thomas F. Chambers

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May

It has been said that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Those who doubt the wisdom of this observation would do well to read Everything That Floats. It tells a tale well suited to fiction that would make an excellent novel. There is in it considerable drama and much violence.

Everything that Floats tells the story of the seamen's unions of Canada. What makes it so unusual is Hal C. Banks, leader of the Seafarersí International Union of Canada from 1949-64, was a hoodlum who would have been at home in the New York mafia. Banks came to Canada at the request of the Seafarers' International Union to challenge another union, the Canadian Seamen's Union, which had come under the control of communist leaders. A former convict, with three years in San Quentin behind him, and a history of run-ins with the law, Banks proceeded to apply Gestapo tactics to destroy the CSU and to make himself king of the Canadian inland waterways.

In a scholarly study, William Kaplan of the University of Ottawa faculty of law, retells the story in a compelling fashion. Using primary, as well as secondary sources, plus many interviews with those involved, he leaves no stone unturned to find the truth. In the process, he tries to answer all the questions surrounding Banks, union corruption, and government involvement.

The appearance of collusion on the part of powerful politicians is dismissed. "The government, already reluctant to interfere in the activities of private organizations such as trade unions, lacked the moral and political integrity the situation so urgently required." Kaplan's book gives the impression that this ostrich-like mentality was not good enough. Strong political leadership would have brought Banks down to size.

This book is a definite must for anyone interested in Canadian history. It reveals a lot about the struggle for union power and the weakness of Canadian democracy.

Thomas F. Chambers, Canadore C.C., North Bay, Ont.
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