Angelus House 1985

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When Mary returned to Toronto in the fall of 1984 she became a Toronto contact for those interested in the Catholic Worker movement. In the summer of 1985 two young people, Brit Griffin and Chuck (Charlie) Angus, approached her for advice and help. They were interested in the Catholic Worker’s mix of devout Catholicism and political activism. At first Mary did not know what to make of them. Chuck played in a punk-rock band. Mary knew nothing about the punk-rock scene except that it was associated in her mind with hooliganism, military garb and outlandish haircuts. After a little investigation she realized the punk rockers were not much different from the draft dodgers of fifteen years earlier. Mary assisted Chuck and Brit as best she could. She endorsed their work and introduced them to individuals whom she knew to be friendly to the Catholic Worker. It wasn’t long before the two put their new ideas into practice by opening a house of hospitality in the Catholic Worker tradition. In October Chuck and Brit opened a Catholic Worker house near Queen Street East in the South Riverdale neighborhood of Toronto.

In 1985 Brit and Chuck were well known in punk music circles in Toronto. When they opened Angelus House Chuck was between bands. He had played in a punk group called L’etranger from 1979 until 1984 and in 1986 formed the Grievous Angels, a four-man band that he played with for the next twenty years. Both Chuck and Brit were active in a Toronto group called “Rock Against Racism” that attempted to stop native-born skin-heads from attacking Torontonians of East Indian descent.

The house of hospitality on Vancouver Avenue quickly filled to capacity and in February 1986 Chuck and Brit were ready to expand. They opened a storefront at 1182 Queen Street East from which they hoped to distribute food and clothing to poor people living in the area. A number of people lent a hand to furnish the store and keep it open. When they began to publish a newspaper, the Angelus, Mary drew the newspaper’s masthead.

In July 1986, when the leather shop was being moved to its new location on Queen Street West, Chuck and Brit assisted Bob Rauton with the initial renovation at the new location. The new storefront had been a butcher’s shop and it had to be gutted to the walls. Chuck and Brit continued to work on the renovations after Philip and Morley took over the work of finishing the interior. From November 1986 until July 1987 Chuck and Brit worked with Philip off and on doing building renovation. They worked on two properties owned by the Michael and Paula Letki in addition to the new Ragnarokr storefront. Philip, his wife Rosa, Chuck and Brit spent much of March, April and May 1987 renovating a house at 355 Clinton Avenue. Mary continued to supply the Catholic Worker Angelus house with donated food from a bakery and sandwich shop on Queen Street West. Chuck and Brit lived in the Catholic Worker house in Toronto until 1990. After their children were born they left the house and moved to northern Ontario where Chuck had lived with his parents before moving to Toronto as a teenager. He continued to play with the Grievous Angels band and he and Brit began publishing the “Highgrader Magazine”. The magazine was billed as “A Voice from the Northland”. When Chuck and Brit owned the magazine it focused on the politics and culture of northern Ontario. Chuck and Brit wrote articles and books that memorialized the work and culture of the hard-rock miners and Native Americans that inhabit northern Ontario. They also recorded and sold albums produced by the Grievous Angels band.

They became involved in regional political struggles, particularly in opposition to a plan to place Toronto’s garbage in a mine near Timmins. They became well-known as critics of the Ontario and Federal Government’s slid toward neo-liberal (conservative) policies. In the fall of 2004 Chuck (under his given name of Charlie Angus) was elected on the New Democratic Party ticket to the Canadian Parliament as the member from the riding of Timmins-James Bay. They turned the Highgrader Magazine over to others and found a second home in Ottawa.

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