The Winnipeg General Strike
The Winnipeg General Strike
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The Mounted Police charging down Main Street during the Winnipeg Strike, June 21, 1919. (National Archives of Canada , C-37275)
This strike affected Winnipeg for several days, effectively paralyzing the city. Many of the events that took place during this time had nationwide repercussions.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT
With the expansion of a working class since the 19th century and the evolution of the union movement in Canada since the 1880s, the growth of a city like Winnipeg, ville champignon and highly multi-cultural, benefited enormously from its position as a railway crossroads in the settling of the prairie provinces by newcomers. Fearing the encroachment of Communism in Canada, government authorities were on the alert, especially since North America had experienced its first general strike in 1919, a strike in Seattle (USA) that lasted five days and briefly paralyzed the city.

SUMMARY
After three months of unproductive negotiations between the employers of the Winnipeg Builder's Exchange and the unions, grouped together under the Building Trades Council, a strike was launched on May 1, 1919. The next day, after refusing to negotiate with the Metal Trades Council union, the employers of the three leading metalwork factories also found themselves with striking workers. After being informed by the two unions of a refusal to negotiate, the Trades and Labour Council of Winnipeg decided to join the strike already in progress. The general strike officially began on May 15, 1919, at 11 o'clock and thousands of non-unionized workers joined the strikers. Faced with this problem, a committee of citizens was created to end the strike that was paralyzing the entire city. The strike committee met with the citizens' committee to try to agree on the continuance of certain essential services, such as milk distribution. On May 22, the Justice Minister and Labour Minister travelled to Winnipeg to meet with the representatives of the citizens' committee, but the strike committee was not invited to participate in the talks. When, on May 30, the police were asked to sign a contract to prevent them from joining unions, they refused, but declared that they would continue to maintain law and order. A few days later, the entire police force was fired. On June 1st, 10,000 soldiers back from the front converged upon the provincial Legislature and the mayor's office to announce their solidarity with the strike. The Federal Government then added amendments to the Law on Immigration in order to be able to deport anyone born outside of Canada accused of insurrection. It is believed that the strike was a pretext for the advancement of the communist movement. Many arrests were made in order to start deporting strikers under the cover of the new amendments. A storm of protest erupted across the country, and more than half of the people who had been arrested were freed. Riots broke out and one person was killed. The general strike ended on June 26 at 11 o'clock after the strike committee told its supporters that the next battle would be waged on a political level; this would begin with the dispatch of several labour representatives to all levels of government. While other strikes took place during that same year in Canada, there has been much debate since about the violent methods used to attempt to repress the Winnipeg strike.

Concepts
Communism
Political and social concept of a classless society, in which personal property would be abolished and all citizens would be equal, particularly in the distribution of wealth. An alternative to capitalism, which is based on the possession of goods, communism as it was developed in theory failed in practice, as it was unable to fulfill the ideological aspirations for which it aimed.

Strike
Work stoppage decided by workers in a bid to put pressure on employers for better working conditions.

Union
Representatives of a group of workers who negotiate working conditions that suit their interests.

Amendment
Modification made to a law.

Insurrection
Planned uprising to overthrow the government in power.