From the equality of rights springs identity of our highest interests; you cannot subvert your neighbor's rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own. Carl Schurz

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Looking Back At The Roots Of The Labour Movement In Canada For Inspiration

Whenever my energy flags and the struggle to build a better society seems lost, I like to go back in time and revisit the birth of the labour movement in Canada, this invariably recharges my batteries and I get back in the fight.

This week I revisited once more the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 and as I've said before there are many similarities between then and now. The bosses wallets getting fat from the profits of war and off the labour of working women, men and children, yes children even today much of what we wear has been touched by child labour at some point in it's manufacture. Among the other similarities are high unemployment and poverty, gross wealth and prosperity gaps and of course governments that governed solely in the interests of the bosses.

The Winnipeg General Strike while inspiring wasn't unique for it's time in fact it wasn't even the first of it's kind that honour as near as I can tell goes to the Vancouver general strike of August 1918 which was sparked by the murder of labour activist Ginger Goodwin.

Goodwin originally ruled "unfit" for duty during WWI by the conscription board due to Black Lung Disease saw that decision reversed after leading a strike in 1917 at a Trail, B.C, lead/zinc smelter for an eight hour day. Being opposed to war he went into hiding upon being found he was  murdered  by a company hired Special Constable.

But the Vancouver general strike isn't Goodwin's sole legacy his death inspired the formation of the Ginger Group a loose coalition of Progressive and Labour Party members who would later play a role in the  formation of the CCF, the precursor to today's NDP.

Another labour action of note is the On to Ottawa trek Some 1600 men fed up with the conditions in the forced labour camps of the depression set out to Ottawa to press their demands for fairer treatment and for get this the right to vote in Federal elections.They made it as far as Regina where they met a violent response from the government of R. B. Bennett and were then penned into city's exhibition grounds, surrounded by machine guns and denied food and water. Bennett's actions in putting down this march proved to be his downfall seeing his party reduced from holding 134 seats to just 39 after the following election

Anyway this is how I motivate myself.Seeing the sacrifices made by these brave men and women force me to demand better of myself and hopefully that is true of others.

Timeline of labour issues and events in Canada

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