It’s the 1930s. In Montreal, tensions are running high. French vs. English. Jew vs. Christian. Have vs. have-not. The city is swirling with unrest. From Outremont to St. Urbain Street, people are struggling to lift off the yoke of strife and despair caused by the most devastating economic depression the world has ever experienced. For young, single men with no jobs, the only option is to ride the rails. Perhaps go to Vancouver. Or maybe Spain, to fight the fascists. What have they got to lose?
That’s the question Terrence Rundle West asks in his latest book, Not In My Father’s Footsteps, a historical novel that follows two young men from the bread lines and hobo jungles of Canada to the battlefields of the Spanish Civil War.
Although Canada remained neutral during this conflict, more than 1,700 Canadian soldiers fought to defend the reform-minded Spanish Republic against Franco’s fascists. In fact, the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, or “Mac-Paps,” comprised the second largest foreign contingent in Spain, yet its members were shunned on their return to Canada. Forgotten, for the most part, until now.