Who?

  • 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

What?

  • 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

Where?

  • 1918-1919 series of strikes across Canada
  • Largest in Winnipeg

When?

  • 6 weeks in May-June of 1919

Why?

  • 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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