- WWI veterans returned to find jobs were gone or very low paying
- One Big Union (OBU) formed to represent all workers
- Employers create a militia
- 24 000 workers went on strike; later increased to 35 000
- Workers demanded a pay increase and that employers negotiate with unions
- Employers organized a militia force of 5000
- Immigration Act changed by House of Commons to allow deportation of anyone not born in Canada
- “Bloody Saturday” – thousands participated in silent protest march; violence developed when mayor read the “Riot Act” ordering the militia and police to charge the crowd; 2 killed and several injured; union leaders were arrested
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- 1918-1919 series of strikes across Canada
- Largest in Winnipeg
- 6 weeks in May-June of 1919
- Wages only increased 18% during war years while prices increased 80%
- Returning soldiers jobless – resented those who stayed home during war
- Influenced by Russian Revolution (communist threat)
- Employers were afraid to deal with unions because of what happened in Russia
How is this important? (Historical Significance)
- Largest strike in Canadian history (largest number of people on strike)
- Caused relations between labour groups (unions) and government to be difficult; many of the strike leaders went on to form their own political parties to work for workers’ rights; Conservative party traditionally shunned by labour groups
- Proved the power of the people to rise up to enact change – growing divide between rich and poor was not acceptable to many Canadians
- Discrimination against immigrants made legal by House of Commons amendment to Immigration Act
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