On this day in 1919…
Despite their attempts to silence rumours of socialist revolutions on the prairies, neither Federal Justice Minister, Arthur Meighen or the Labour Minister, Sen. Gideon Robertson are able to stop word of the Winnipeg General Strike from spreading.
Throughout Canada, workers in other cities hear of the events of Winnipeg through the press and begin to sympathize with the striking labour and government workers.
Residents in the western and eastern parts of the country form their own unions and demonstrate in the streets. Like those in Winnipeg, they too were impacted by the post-war economy and wanted to improve their working conditions, make collective bargaining mandatory, and have their workers’ unions recognized by employers.
On the morning of June 4, workers walk off the job in over 20 towns and cities including Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Port Arthur, Prince Albert and Amherst.
The biggest sympathetic strike takes place in Vancouver, where 10,000 workers from packing houses, refineries, breweries and logging companies go on strike to protest the work ultimatum given to Winnipeg police and government employees. The workers advocate for veterans as well, demanding that employers give proper pensions to men who served in the First World War.
Shipping on the coasts comes to a halt as marine workers stationed at different ports also join the sympathetic strike days later.
Similarly, the labour workers throughout the country are met with criticism from business owners and political leaders who accuse them of trying to usurp authority and spread radical foreign ideologies. The workers continue to strike throughout the month.
Meanwhile in Winnipeg, groups of pro-strike and anti-strike veterans remain divided. Both groups hold parades and rallies throughout the city trying to get the neutral public to take their side.
Led by a young lawyer and war veteran, Colonel F. G. Thompson, 2000 anti-strike members of the Loyalist Veterans’ Association march to the Manitoba Legislature and city hall, showing their allegiance to the Government of Canada.
Many of the veterans, believing that eastern-European immigrants had stolen their jobs and wages, carry banners with them. Some banners have slogans sprawled across them which label immigrants as “Bolsheviks” and “undesirable aliens.”
One large banner, carried by a group of men at the front of the march reads “We will maintain constituted authority, law and order. To Hell with the alien enemy. God save the King.”
The men urge the government to impose stricter laws against the strikers and to consider arresting and deporting any man from a foreign country who openly challenge the British status-quo. The Citizens’ Committee of 1000 support their cause in the Winnipeg Tribune, producing advertisements that openly advocate for immigrant supporters of the general strike to be apprehended.