Celebrating a proud heritage
For 75 years, Queen’s has been the national leader in the industrial relations field.
When the study of Industrial Relations started at Queen’s in the midst of the Great Depression, Canada’s labour relations and human resources management landscape looked a lot different than it does today.
In 1937, organized labour was on the march, and there was a growing awareness among unions, business, and government bureaucrats that there was a need to collect and analyze data on labour policies and practices. The IR Section was a true pioneer in that regard, being the first organization of its kind in Canada.
During the war years, the “IR Section,” as it was then called, gained even greater relevance when it began offering professional courses to managers in industry and business.
Seventy-five years later, the Industrial Relations Section has evolved into the Industrial Relations Centre (IRC) and its pioneering spirit endures. Unique in Canada, the Centre stands tall as a leader in teaching and practice-based research that helps business and labour leaders resolve disputes, champion change, and align human resources with organizations’ purpose and mission. “We train practitioners, people in the workplace,” says IRC director Paul Juniper. “It’s skill-based training that people can take back to their offices and immediately apply.”
Frederick Donald Reid, IR’50, one of the IRC’s earliest graduates recalls his time at the IR Section fondly, noting the practical training served him well throughout his 50-year career at Imperial Oil. In 1945, a one-year diploma course designed to meet the demand from veterans, saw 29 students enrolled, some with university degrees, but most with commissions from the armed forces.
“I came in with an arts degree from McGill, after having served with the Royal Canadian Air Force,” says Reid. “At the IR Section, I fine-tuned my concentration in business.”
He was particularly impressed by the IRC’s first director, James C. Cameron. “He had real vision for the IRC and was a good teacher. He made you dig in, made you think,” says Reid.
Appointed by then-Dean Mackintosh, Cameron directed the IRC until 1960. Under his leadership, Queen’s earned a national reputation for its scholarship in industrial relations and Cameron himself earned the well-deserved nickname, “Mr. Industrial Relations.”
Subsequent directors led the IRC through an evolution that has seen extraordinary change and growth in industrial relations and human resources management. Through the 1960s and 1970s, Dr. Donald Wood, bolstered research activities, oversaw the creation of a specialized IR library, organized and held countless conferences and seminars, and established policy-oriented relationships with industry and government. During his tenure, the School of Industrial Relations was formed at Queen’s, offering the Masters of Industrial Relations (MIR) program.
Wood’s successor, Prof. Emeritus (Law) Donald Carter, Arts’63. LLB’66, established a core, full-time faculty within the IRC to help meet the growing demand for human resources professionals. The 1990s witnessed changes in business and industry in an increasingly globalized economy while the late Bryan M. Downie in his role as IRC director sought to bridge the gap between academia and actual workplace practice. Under Carol Beatty’s directorship, 1996-2005, the IRC was characterized as “Canada’s people management finishing school.”
The IRC’s current director, Paul Juniper, is building on the proud legacy created by his predecessors and shepherding the IRC as it adapts to the industrial relations landscape that is changing at a dizzying pace.
Globalization in an electronically connected world has had huge implications in the workplace and in labour relations. For example, the membership and strength of manufacturing sector unions are in decline, while unions in the public and service sectors are growing. Juniper’s goal is to continue to offer the same high-quality teaching and practitioner-oriented research for which the IRC has become known and to make it as widely accessible as possible.
“Rather than having students come to Kingston, we run courses across the country now, from Victoria to St John’s,” says Juniper.
The IRC now offers four certificates, 14 open-enrollment programs, as well as customized programs tailored to fit the specific needs of students. Last year about 800 professionals took one or more programs.
An archival project that’s underway aims to make critical contextual and historical information available to IR professionals. The project involves digitizing published papers and research documents and making them accessible online.
The IRC will celebrate 75 years of industrial relations excellence at Queen’s in October. Please visit the Centre’s website for more details.