On this day in 1919…
In response to the unrest generated by the Winnipeg General Strike and sympathetic strikes across Canada, Federal Justice Minister, Arthur Meighen, asks the Federal Government to make an amendment to the Immigration Act. After deliberating, they pass the updated legislation.
Among other conditions, the revised act allows the government to deny any immigrant coming from an “enemy alien nation” entry into the country. Specifically, Eastern-European immigrants coming from communist and socialist states are perceived as a threats, after being labelled by the press and anti-strike groups as “Bolshevik rebels.”
The act also allows the government to arrest and deport any foreigner who openly opposes organized government, who advocates to teach unlawful destruction of property, or who advocates to overthrow the government by force or violence.
A.J. Andrews, the spokesperson of the Citizens’ Committee of 1000, is informed of the new legislation from correspondents in Ottawa. He writes to Meighen, requesting that the government make an additional amendment, allowing anyone not born in Canada who opposes authority to be deported as well. In his letter, Andrews declares that the British are the most dangerous group of all.
Many of the British-born leaders of the Central Strike Committee take these changes to legislation as a personal attack on their cause.
In Winnipeg, Mayor Charles Gray becomes fearful that the pro-strike and anti-strike veteran groups will become violent if they continue to hold public rallies in the streets. He issues a statement, banning all Winnipeg residents from participating in parades or congregating in crowds.
To ensure order from the striking labour workers and veterans, the City of Winnipeg equips 1800 hired “special constables” with wagon yokes and clubs. They are told by the mayor to exercise good judgment and restraint in keeping the peace.