Subseries - Les McDonald papers

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Les McDonald papers

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20.5 cm of textual records
32 photographs : b&w

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Biographical history

Born in Newcastle-on-Tyne, Les McDonald immigrated to Canada in 1955 and settled in North Vancouver where he married his spouse, Monique, and had three children. He worked as an electrician, taking an active role in trade union activities with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 213, and was a member of the Canadian Communist Party from 1958 to 1968. McDonald’s leading of the Lenkurt strike of 1966, however, led to his 30-year suspension from the union; though he was able to secure employment again as an inside wireman, his inability to participate in the union had a profound effect on his later life.

An avid mountain climber and skier from his teenage years, he channelled his feisty spirit and talent for organizing into numerous other pursuits instead: founding the Alta Lake Sports Club, opposing the privatization of the Cypress Bowl cross-country ski trails and even embarking on a brief political career with the provincial NDP. Most notably, his involvement in triathlon – as a participant, but as an advocate especially – characterized his post-IBEW years. He won the Ironman Hawaii title in his age group (50 to 55) from 1983 to 1987. At the same time, he was founding or co-founding the British Columbia Triathlon Association, the Canadian Triathlon Federation and the International Triathlon Union, for which he served as president from its inception in 1989 to 2008. He was approached in the 1980s by the then International Olympic Committee president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, to spearhead a bid to introduce triathlon into the Olympic Summer Games, and is credited as the driving force for the inclusion of the sport in the 2000 Olympic Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.

Les McDonald was awarded the Order of Canada in 2013 for his role in advancing the sport of triathlon, both in Canada and internationally, and for his leadership in promoting the participation of women in sport. He was inducted with the inaugural lifetime achievement award into the International Triathlon Union Hall of Fame, and inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame as a “builder” in 2009.

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Scope and content

The subseries contains materials collected by and about Les McDonald including notebooks on his union activities and his participation at the Community Party Education Camp in 1964, newspaper articles he wrote, documents related to the appeal of his suspension from IBEW Local 213, personal correspondence and photographs of IBEW Local 213 members engaging in a job action in 1965. In particular, there are a large number of postcards that he sent to his mentor, Bill Stewart, while McDonald was traveling in his bid to get the sport of triathlon into the Olympics. The subseries also contains an article Les McDonald wrote about his ascent of the North Arete in 1962 and a notebook related to the Yukon Alpine Centennial Climb conducted in 1973.

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Most materials related more generally to IBEW Local 213 - that is, not related to Les McDonald directly - were arranged in their own subseries to aid their discovery. See 'IBEW Local 213 papers' in the same series.

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