The aerospace industry is one of the largest manufacturing industries remaining in Toronto. During the Second World War, the federal government developed and owned three major aerospace production plants to supply Canada’s war efforts: Victory Aircraft (later A.V. Roe Aircraft Company of Canada, and then renamed Avro Canada) in Malton, Ontario; DeHavilland in Toronto; and United Aircraft in Montreal.
A significant contract in the early ‘50s was the development of the CF-105 AVRO “Arrow” jet interceptor. At the time of the first NORAD agreement with the United States in 1958, Canada had emerged, through government support, as a strong military and industrial force. However, in February 1959, the Conservative Diefenbaker government scrapped the Avro Arrow, throwing 14,525 IAM (International Association of Machinists) workers out of work.
In the 1960s, DeHavilland purchased the Avro facilities, recalled many former employees, and began production. CAW won a vote to represent the workers, and played a significant role in the fight for health and safety legislation in the 1980’s. CAW Local 112 led the province’s first mass work refusal, which resulted in WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) and the right-to-know legislation regarding hazardous materials, ultimately for all workers in Canada. The Toronto plant was purchased by Bombardier in 1992.