Trade Unions in Canada

June 21 was the “Bloody Saturday’ which the Citizens’ Committee had been predicting. It was occasioned by an illegal parade of returned soldiers organized as a result of Senator Robertson’s alleged conspiracy with the leaders of the Citizens’ Committee. The returned soldier supporters of the strike called a parade to form up near the city hall in order to march to the Royal Alexandra Hotel where Senator Robertson was ensconced.

Their purpose was to request, through this mass demonstration, an account of the minister’s plans with regard to the strike and of his actions since arriving in Winnipeg. However, the parade was illegal since the mayor had earlier promulgated his order banning such demonstrations. The leaders maintained that the ban was an unconstitutional denial of the civil liberties for which they had recently fought, and was unjustified by previous mass violence; with this attitude Woodsworth expressed his agreement.

On the morning of the parade Mayor Gray issued a proclamation warning that anyone taking part in it would do so at his own risk. As the parade itself was forming up the Mayor read the Riot Act. After that the machinery by which the parade was stopped was put into action. The procedure followed and the results obtained were outlined by Hon. N. W. Rowell, the President of the Privy Council and minister responsible for the Royal North-West Mounted Police.

By June 25, when the strike was abandoned, some at least of the workers felt that the threatened arrest of leaders who might vigorously replace those already apprehended had played too strong a part in this capitulation. Certainly all were disappointed with the outcome, particularly since there was no guarantee that strikers would be reinstated or that the Citizens’ Committee’s interpretation of the “principle” of collective bargaining would be at all satisfactory. For Woodsworth, the collapse of the strike steeled a resolution already formed to work for the prevention of another such social catastrophe.

If the utmost effort and self-denial on the part of the workers, expressed through exclusively economic action, could not achieve even their minimum demands it was more than ever evident that political action was essential. He knew that the purpose and conduct of the strike had been non-violent and was much impressed with the fact that in the federal police raids of the first and second of July (as well as in the local arrests of June) not a single firearm had been uncovered from one end of Canada to the other.

Much more vigour, he was now convinced, must be put into the attempt to capture control of the governmental machinery which, in the hands exclusively of business men and their representatives, could be used to such disastrous effect.

References

House of Commons, Debates, Canada, 1919, p. 3005. Public Archives of Canada. “Order-in-Council. ” Borden Papers, vol. 564 (1), p. 61751. Logan, H. A. Trade Unions in Canada. Toronto: MacMillan of Canada, 1948. pp. 301 One Big Union. “The Origin of the One Big Union: A Verbatim Account of the Calgary Conference, 1919.

” Winnipeg: One Big Union, 1919. Plewman, W. R. Toronto Star, May 23, 1919. Russell, R. B. Saving the World from Democracy: The Winnipeg General Sympathetic Strike, Winnipeg. p. 50. Smith, A. E. All my life. Progress Books, Toronto. 1949, pp. 470-8. Maclean, John. Diary of Rev. Dr. John Maclean. Victoria University Archives. Masters, D. C. The Winnipeg General Strike. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1950, p. 129 Western Labor News. Winnipeg, Man. , May 17, 1919 Winnipeg Enlightener, June 25, 1919.