This Day in History – Feb. 20, 2009
BRAMPTON, ON. (Feb. 18, 2009) Feb. 20, 2009 marks the 50th anniversary of Black Friday, the cancellation of the AVRO Arrow supersonic jet program, and a day that forever changed the lives of 47,000 employees. The AVRO Arrow; A Dream Remembered exhibition continues at the Peel Heritage Complex (PHC) and tells the story of this two-year project and its abrupt end.
The A. V. Roe Canada (AVRO) and Orenda Engines plants in Malton, Ontario were producing a supersonic jet interceptor for the Department of Defence. On Feb. 20, 1959, the men and women who worked at the plants heard an announcement over the PA system they would never forget – the House of Commons had just cancelled the AVRO project. Later that day they discovered they had been laid off for an indefinite period. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker indicated cost over-runs and outdated technology as the reason for ending the project. AVRO unsuccessfully tried to pressure the government into reversing their decision by threatening the massive layoffs. The threat was unsuccessful. The project was terminated and in the months that followed, all remnants of the Arrow program, including the planes, were destroyed. Fear and anger swept the country.
“Over 3,500 Peel residents were affected by the termination of the project,” says Maureen Couse, Curatorial Assistant at the PHC “The Brampton Conservator was full of employment-wanted ads from ex-AVRO workers and people had no way to pay their mortgages or car loans. It was a different time; there were no ‘bailout’ packages or special help from the government. Ex-AVRO workers had no choice but to use their savings, get help from family members or sell their assets just to get by.”
Eventually, most AVRO workers found employment with other companies and many of the senior AVRO engineers were recruited by American aerospace companies. Several went on to have prominent jobs at NASA.
The PHC is made up of the Region of Peel Museum, the Art Gallery of Peel and the Region of Peel Archives. Together they collect, preserve and display a variety of materials related to Peel's heritage.
The PHC is operated by the Region of Peel and is located at 9 Wellington St. E. in Brampton. The Complex is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; weekends from noon to 4:30 p.m., and Thursday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission fees are $2.50 for adults; $1.50 for seniors; $1 for students and $7 for families.
For more information about the PHC, call 905-791-4055 or visit www.peelheritagecomplex.org.