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Winnipeg General Strike Significance Essay

2169 words - 9 pages

The conflict over living conditions in Canada has been ongoing. Perhaps Canada’s most forceful movement towards change was the Winnipeg General Strike, during the summer of 1919. The strike was caused by the working class’ desire to rise out of poverty. The government hastily tried to suppress the strike by deporting the strike leaders, using gunfire to disperse crowds, and eventually ‘punishing’ the people by dismissing them from their jobs. The Winnipeg General Strike was ultimately detrimental to the wellbeing of working class Winnipeggers due to the government’s infringement of democratic ideals.
On June 6, 1919, after over a month of striking in Winnipeg, the federal government ...view middle of the document...

“More than 100 deportations were authorized”4 as a result of the strike. When the ‘aliens’ were deported, this left their remaining family with a dilemma. If the working husbands were deported, the wife and children were left without a source of income. Without money with which to buy food and pay bills, the rest of the family had no choice but to follow the husband back to their home country. This represented a huge step backward for the families. They came to Canada seeking better economic conditions, to find social equality and/or to escape persecution in their home countries. The family was uprooted from their home, and forced back to their previous country. The family, with very no money (no income for 2 months due to strike), was forced to find a new home and employment. As a result, the family was forced into poverty.
On June 21, 1919, approaching a duration of two months, the strikers held a ‘silent parade’ to protest the arrests of their strike leaders. The “special police and RNWMP”5 intervened, firing their guns at protestors6 (known as ‘Bloody Saturday’). At the time, the government and the “employers simply refused to negotiate”7. When the time came to deal with the issue, the government chose to use force instead of negotiating the terms of settlement. Democracies are to ensure that all members of society have an equal say in matters that affect them. The government ignored this fundamental idea, and tried to silence anyone who opposed them. As a result of the shootings, 30 protestors were injured and one was shot dead8. Government authorization to kill civilians is a horrifying thought. The government must protect its people, not kill them. It is likely that many people felt unsafe in their own homes due to the government’s violent response to their protest. During the strike, the government shifted political ideology. The government tried counteracting the public’s shift to the left (communism or bolshevism) with a shift to the right (fascism). Fascism stresses “unquestioning obedience to its leader …and harsh suppression of dissent.”9. The government began punishing anyone involved in the strikes. Leaders were imprisoned or deported, while the crowds were attacked with gunfire. The two opposite viewpoints created a great deal of tension, as each side rejected the other’s ideals. Once a political stalemate had been reached, the government resorted to violence instead of negotiations and compromise. The government began to think that violence was the solution to dissent among the people. Furthermore, Mayor Gray’s10 decision to hire “an untrained and hostile force”11 (known as the ‘special police’) displayed the government’s recklessness. Since the ‘specials’ were untrained, they did not know how to properly and safely carry out law enforcement. When faced with the task of dispersing crowds, the ‘specials’ did not act in the correct manner. The lack of training for the specials suggests a sloppy and...

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