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Prehistory | 2 Worlds Meet | New France | England Arrives | Clash of Empires | Revolution | British America | Reform/Revolt | Responsible Government | Confederation | Nation Building | Laurier | The Great War | Roaring 20's | Great Depression | WWII | The Peace | Cold War | Trudeau | PC's in Power | Modern Canada

1929 Crash | Economic slump | Bennett in Power | The Ottawa Conference | Praire Drought | Relief | The Regina Riot | Alberta & Bible Bill | Statue of Westminister | Woodsworth & CCF | The Union Nationale | Relief Camps | Bennett's Conversion | King's Return | European Unrest | Royal Visit

The Depression had driven unemployment to over 40% in some areas of the country and working conditions had been deteriorating as the economic conditions grew worse. Some men accepted placement in the relief camps as a last resort, some rode the rails, and some lived as best they could as homeless tramps in the cities.

The union movement had lost a considerable amount of it's power and ability to influence business due to the desperation of men to take almost any work at almost any wage.  The other side of this coin was that as business and economic conditions squeezed the works from both sides, the labour movement and non-mainstream political parties found more and more fertile conditions for support among the population.

In April 1935 word spread through the relief camps in British Columbia that a gathering of works from the camps in Vancouver was being organized and over 1400 men left the camps and made their way to the city. The Workers Unity League and the WUL organised and led the strike with the intent of getting Ottawa to take more action in providing additional compensation, better work options and improved camp conditions.

The actions and organizations of the workers grew quickly and in short order they were conducting meetings with the T Dufferin, premier of the province, and the mayor of Vancouver. The actions and demonstrations gather steam and by the second month of the action, on May day, over 20,000 strikers and associates marched from the downtown area to Stanley Park.

As the action continued, the strikers began to despair at the inaction of the municipal and provincial authorities. They were pointing at Ottawa and telling the union, the workers, the strikers and their supporters that the Federal Government were the ones responsible for taking action and that was where the appeals should be directed. Ottawa was not reacting the overtures of the strikes and on June 3rd, over 1000 of the men decided that they would have to take their action to Ottawa and confiscated trains from the rail yards and began to travel east.

As word spread of the Trek to Ottawa, additional support waited to join at each city the trains arrived at. By the time the trains rolled into Regina, the word had come down form Ottawa that the railway companies were not to permit their trains to go any further east. The strikers and the government negotiated a standoff in which 8 representatives of the workers were allowed to continue onto Ottawa to meet with the government and the remainder of the trekkers moved into the Regina Exhibition Grounds.

The local people and government showed their support of the strikers and the process of negotiating by supplying them with food and supplies. In Ottawa the negotiations broke down with the Bennett government not willing to concede on any substantial issues. As the trekker's representatives came to the conclusion that a deal could not be negotiated, they decided to end the trek and returned to Regina to disband the strikers. On July 1st a rally was organized in Regina to help raise food and supports for the strikers so that could make their way back to their homes or relief camps.

Bennett and his government had gained confidence from the negotiations and decided to put an end to the trek with force if necessary. They order that the leaders of the Trek be arrested even though the movement was dispersing.  Groups of local police and RCMP officers penetrated a group of about 300 of the men looking for the leaders and the speakers of the movement. The reaction to the police action was violence which was met by violence and a riot broke out. Violence and assaults raged back and forth on the streets of Regina late into he evening resulting in the death of one policeman, dozens on both sides being injured and the arrest of 130 of the trekkers.

The rest of the trekkers were assisted in leaving Regina and within a few days the city returned to normal but a bitter memory was created in the minds of labour and their supporters and R.B. Bennett had given the voters another reason not to give him their support in the upcoming election.

 

 

The Regina Riots




Source:
Reference: www.canadahistory.com/sections/eras/eras.html