Anti-strike banner, Winnipeg, May 15, 1919. Public Archives of Manitoba

1919: A Year of Strikes in the Canadian West

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"In May of 1919 a heat wave crossed the province. Edmonton had reached temperatures of 85 degrees. Like the heat wave a mood of union militancy was in the air across Alberta, indeed across Western Canada. A strike wave would soon erupt sweeping the West like a prairie fire.

"The press of the day was full of stories about the Armistice with Germany. In editorials and front page stories the press railed against the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, denouncing radical unions and alien workers, infected with Bolshevik ideas. The government and the editorialists agreed that the solution to stopping radical ideas was to deport foreigners; especially Hutterites, Mennonites, Dukhbours and those damn radicals in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

"The Mathers Royal Commission on Industrial Relations was going across Canada trying to fathom the unprecedented series of strikes that had been happening, since January, from Nova Scotia to Victoria. Many of these strikes were short lived, but as soon as one was resolved another would spring up. They affected all industries and all levels of society. Miners struck in Nova Scotia and in the Rockies. Street Car workers in Toronto and Windsor went on strike. Even housemaids held a week long strike. The issues were the same; workers wanted an eight hour day, one day off in seven, and recognition of their unions."

Eugene W. Plawiuk, The Edmonton General Strike of 1919


Sources for Further Study



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Last update: 1/26/99