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May 2014

Snapshots in History: May 15: Remembering the Winnipeg General Strike

May 15, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)


(Credit: CBC Digital Archives – Remembering the Winnipeg General Strike - Medium: Radio; Program: Between Ourselves; Broadcast Date: May 15, 1969; Guest(s): Jim Walker; Duration: 3:11 – URL: - See also: )



(Credit: YouTube – Winnipeg General Strike (montage of past and more recent images from Winnipeg) – Uploaded on November 24, 2008)


On May 15, take a moment to remember the Winnipeg General Strike and its impact upon the history of Canada and its working people. Canada’s best known and largest general strike began on May 15, 1919 and concluded on June 25, 1919. The strike occurred amidst high inflation and unemployment (including unemployed soldiers) following the end of the First World War. Throw into the mix the success of the Russian Revolution, the rise of revolutionary industrial unionism as demonstrated by the presence of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) (also known as “the Wobblies”) and the One Big Union (OBU) movement, and a context was created that was ripe for some degree of worker unrest.  

Negotiations faltered between management and labour negotiators in the building and metal trades so the Winnipeg Trades and Labor Council (WTLC) called a general strike over the issues of collective bargaining, better pay rates and working conditions. Workers in other trades and jobs soon joined the strike in sympathy for a total of some 30,000 workers engaged in work stoppage action. Winnipeg was brought to a standstill with closed factories, suspended street cars, and various public sector employees (including: police, fire, postal workers, telephone operators, and other public utility employees).

The Central Strike Committee oversaw the strike’s operations with membership from each of the unions belonging to the Winnipeg Trade and Labor Council (WTLC), negotiated with employer representatives and coordinated the delivery of essential services to Winnipeg residents. As a counterpoint, business interests were represented by the Citizens’ Committee of 1,000 who were strongly opposed to the strike as a manifestation of revolutionary conspiracy controlled by foreigners. Evidence was lacking as to the charge of foreign control and revolutionary intent but the Citizens’ Committee continued to make these charges to thwart any attempts at compromise with workers.

Fearful of the spread of labour unrest, the federal government intervened by ordering federal employees to return to work or be dismissed from their jobs, by amending the Immigration Act to deport British-born immigrants as needed, and by amending the Criminal Code to broaden the definition of sedition. The government arrested 10 strike leaders and two representatives on June 17, 1919. On June 21, 1919, “Bloody Saturday” resulted in 29 injuries and one death when a contingent of Royal North-West Mounted Police charged into a crowd of striking workers. Six labour leaders were released by the Canadian government but Fred Dixon and James S. Woodsworth were arrested. Federal troops were brought in to occupy the city. The strikers discontinued their work stoppage and returned to work on June 25, 1919.

Sympathetic strikes occurred in places far removed from Winnipeg, Manitoba such as Amherst, Nova Scotia and Victoria, British Columbia. Seven strike leaders were convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the government. Fred Dixon was acquitted by a jury and the sedition charge against J.S. Woodsworth was dropped. Decades would pass before more robust union recognition was in place and collective bargaining became more commonplace in labour-management relations.

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Winnipeg's General Strike Reports from the Front Lines

Winnipeg's General Strike: Reports from the Front Lines / Michael Dupuis, 2014. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 331.8925 DUP

This book dealt with the issue of media coverage of the Winnipeg General Strike as the public turned to magazines and newspapers of the day for information to make up their own minds about Canada’s largest general strike. The Toronto Daily Star newspaper was generally sympathetic towards the strikers as people fighting for fair treatment rather than seeking to overthrow the Canadian political system. Listen to the radio clip below in which the author discussed this book:


(Credit: CBC Radio – Information Radio (Manitoba) – May 13, 2014; Duration: 7:31 – URL: )


Seeing reds the red scare of 1918-1919 Canada's first war on terror

Seeing reds: the red scare of 1918-1919, Canada's first war on terror / Daniel Francis, 2010. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 971.061 FRA

Historian Daniel Francis put the 1918-1919 period in Canada’s history into perspective with the Canadian business and political establishment fearful of a recurrence of the Russian Revolution in Canada. Francis compared the Canadian situation with similar activities in European countries and the United States. Legitimate labour leaders were labelled as “Bolsheviks” or “Reds”.  Move forward in time with a comparison to the more recent “war on terror” in which free speech and political differences have also been subjected to pressures in the name of national security.


When the state trembled how A.J. Andrews and the Citizens' Committee broke the Winnipeg General Strike

When the state trembled: how A.J. Andrews and the Citizens' Committee broke the Winnipeg General Strike / Reinhold Kramer and Tom Mitchell, 2010. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 331.8925 KRA

Read the captivating story of the Citizens’ Committee of 1,000 formed by leading business figures to combat the Winnipeg General Strike. Learn about the close strategic, co-operation between Citizen’s Committee lawyer A.J. Andrews and Justice Minister Arthur Meighen to undermine the strike and brand it as criminal activity, divide the working class, and lobby for the support of the middle class. Ultimately, the labour movement was defeated at this event and the trials of strike leaders on sedition charges demonstrated a fear of radicalism, although the charges against James S. Woodsworth were dropped after a jury acquitted fellow labour leader Fred Dixon. One strike leader was deported to the United States.


On strike: the Winnipeg General Strike, 1919 [1 videodisc] / National Film Board of Canada; Directors: Joe MacDonald, Clare Johnstone Gilsig; Producers: Joe MacDonald, Keith Packwood; narrator: Vlasta Vrana, 2008. DVD. Documentary. Adult Non-Fiction. 331.89297 ONS PPR. Public Performance Rights.

This short NFB documentary told the story of the Winnipeg General Strike through personal remembrances from people who experienced the events as they unfolded. Follow the timeline of events leading up to the strike, the issues and the personalities related to the strike as well as cleavages amongst the population of Winnipeg, culminating in the riot of June 21, 1919 (“Bloody Saturday”) when death and injury occurred.

This documentary is available for direct viewing from the National Film Board of Canada website through the following URL:

(Credit: National Film Board of Canada - On Strike: The Winnipeg General Strike, 1919; 1991, Joe MacDonald, Clare Johnstone Gilsig; 19 min 46 s)

(Those interested in National Film Board of Canada documentaries might find the following short one to be of interest, available for direct viewing from the NFB website: 

(Credit: National Film Board of Canada - Lost Dreams, 1999 - director: Daniel Frenette; Film (5:51))

Follow the story of Ukrainian-Canadian Kateryna Ewanchuck and her fight for social justice and against oppression and discrimination by participating in the One Big Union (OBU) and the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike. )


Bloody Saturday: the Winnipeg general strike [1 videodisc] / CBC Learning, 2007. DVD. Documentary. Adult Non-Fiction. 331.8925 BLO

This Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary special provided a 45-minute overview of the largest strike in Canadian history when 30,000 workers walked off the job in Winnipeg seeking better pay, working conditions, and recognition for organized labour. The strike lasted for six weeks and was called off by labour leaders following the events of “Bloody Saturday” on June 21, 1919.


Prairie fire: the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 [1 videodisc] / Filmwest Associates, 1999. DVD. Documentary. Adult Non-Fiction. 331.89297 PRA

This documentary used both eyewitness accounts and archival images to tell the story of the Winnipeg General Strike, including the social conditions faced by people at the time and the historical importance of the strike itself. Historians and labour leaders discussed the influence of the strike on shaping Canada’s labour movement to more recent times.

Snapshots in History: May 9: Remembering Hank Snow

May 9, 2014 | John P. | Comments (1)


(Credit: YouTube - Hank Snow - I've Been Everywhere In Color.AVI – Uploaded on February 3, 2010)



(Credit: YouTube – Hank Snow – I’ve Been Everywhere lyric – Published on May 21, 2012)



(Credit: YouTube – New Wave Entertainment – I’m Movin’ On by Hank Snow (1950) – Published on June 22, 2012)


On May 9 and beyond, take a moment to remember Canadian-born country music artist/singer/songwriter Clarence Eugene “Hank” Snow (Born: May 9, 1914 in Brooklyn, Queens County, Nova Scotia; Died: December 20, 1999 in Madison, Tennessee, United States). Hank Snow overcame a broken home with separated parents (who both displayed some musical talent, more so his mother), a loving mother unable to support Snow and his siblings financially, living with his paternal grandmother who subjected Snow to psychological and physical abuse, and subsequent physical and verbal abuse from a stepfather who married his mother.  Hank Snow first demonstrated his talent for music when allowed to play his mother’s mail-order Hawaiian steel guitar. Snow left home and went to sea on a fishing schooner where he earned enough money to order a guitar and a chord book from the T. Eaton mail-order catalogue circa 1927-1928. After surviving a sea gale in 1930 during which six vessels were lost, Snow vowed never to go to sea again. Returning home, he sold fish door-to-door and did odd jobs to raise money to buy another guitar from the Eaton’s mail-order catalogue. Snow lobbied Halifax radio station CHNS for an audition in 1933 and launched his singing career on radio without payment until a sponsor came along to endorse his radio program. He married Minnie Blanche Aalders in 1935 who subsequently gave birth to a son, Jimmie Rodgers Snow, named after a country music idol admired by Snow.

Hank Snow signed a contract with the Canadian division of RCA Victor label in October 1936, beginning a partnership that lasted over 45 years. His first record included “The Prisoned Cowboy” on one side and “Lonesome Blue Yodel” on the other side. Snow had a weekly radio show on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that gave him a national profile. He toured Canada until American radio stations started to play his records and performing south of the border beckoned. Hank Snow moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1945 and became “the Singing Ranger”, replacing his earlier moniker as “the Yodeling Ranger”. He first played at the Grand Ole Opry in 1950 and released his first of seven number one hits “I’m Moving On” the same year, setting a record for staying at the top for 21 weeks. He also had two other number one hits in 1950, “The Golden Rocket” and “The Rhumba Boogie”. His 1963 hit “I’ve Been Everywhere” was a North American reboot of Australian Geoffrey Albert McElhinney’s 1962 song (aka “Geoff Mack”), replacing Australian place names with American and Canadian ones, rhymed off at a tremendous pace.

Snow’s path crossed with younger, up-and-coming performers, including Hank Williams and Elvis Presley. Snow lobbied the Grand Ole Opry to use Presley as Snow’s opening act in 1954, and subsequently introduced Elvis Presley to Colonel Tom Parker with whom Snow established a partnership called “Hank Snow Attractions”. Snow left after a falling out with Parker. In 1958, Snow became an American citizen but never forgot his Canadian roots, producing the album My Nova Scotia Home, in 1968.

Hank Snow was recognized for his talent for singing and songwriting with memberships in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. Snow never forgot his experiences with child abuse by establishing the Hank Snow International Foundation for Prevention of Child Abuse.

Canada Post is scheduled to unveil a new Hank Snow commemorative stamp at the Hank Snow Home Town Museum in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, on May 9, 2014 during the afternoon. The stamp will be available for use as of July 31, 2014.


Hank Snow commemorative stamp

(Credit: Canada Post; Queens County Advance – URL:


Consider the following items for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


I'm moving on the life and legacy of Hank Snow

I'm moving on: the life and legacy of Hank Snow / Vernon Oickle, 2014. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 782.42164 SNO ORI

Consider this biography of Hank Snow whose release was timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of his birth. Read about Snow’s humble beginnings and challenges facing child abuse but admire his perseverance in launching his music career in Canada before shifting to the United States for wider recognition and fame and fortune.

Read the article in the Queens County Advance about the book and the author.


I've been everywhere the Hank Snow story [2 sound discs] / Hank Snow et al., 2000. CD Set. COUNTRY SNO

Originally recorded between 1950 and 1974.

Reading Toronto: The Scarborough Bluffs

May 2, 2014 | Winona | Comments (0)

The Scarborough Bluffs are one of Toronto's most beautiful natural features. Created from layers of sand and clay that were deposited during the last ice age, some 70,000 years ago, the Bluffs have been eroding steadily ever since. (So much so, in fact, that erosion from the Bluffs travelled westward and settled to form the Toronto Islands.)

Panoramic view from the Bluffs_Wikipedia_May2014
Panoramic view of Lake Ontario from atop the Scarborough Bluffs. Image from

Today, the Bluffs span 15 km (9 mi) of the city's eastern waterfront and rise more than 90 metres (300 ft) above Lake Ontario. Imagine the things those Bluffs have seen, the stories they could tell...

Scarborough Bluffs point City of Toronto Archives Fonds 1244 f1244_it537
City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1537. Image from the Canadian Encyclopedia online.

If you haven't been to the Bluffs in a while (or ever) there is a terrific opportunity to explore them this weekend as part of Jane's Walk. Jane's Walk is a series of free pedestrian events led by volunteers in cities around the world and is named for Toronto's own urban visionary and activist Jane Jacobs. This year there are are two guided walks featuring the Bluffs:

Photo by Grant MacDonald
Photo by Grant MacDonald from

If you're more of an armchair traveller you may prefer to borrow a book about the Scarborough Bluffs from the library. Here is a selection of fiction and non-fiction books in which the Bluffs make an appearance:


Soucouyant by David Chariandy

Soucouyant by David Chariandy


"She has become an old woman. She looks out from the doorway of her own home but seems puzzled by the scene, the bruised evening sky and the crab scurry of leaves on the shoreline below. These are the bluffs at the lakeside edge of Scarborough. This is the season named fall."

FICTION print | ebook


Photo by Peter Power
Photo by Peter Power from


Writing Home by Barry Dempster

Barry Dempster“Walt is looking down now, across the shadowy backyard. A moonbeam perches on the edge of the Scarborough Bluffs as if it were a floodlight. He too is perched on the edge of his life, a bright man beginning to fade. There is only a backyard between himself and the Bluffs. Almost nowhere left to go. Considering erosion and gravity, it will be no time at all before this very house stumbles on its own foundation, falling over a moonbeam into the great devouring lake below. Shivering, Walt wraps his arms around himself, feeling sharp and empty. The palms of his hands long for something to grasp: a chimney, a ladder, a child.”

FICTION print reference

Photo by defkreationz
Photo by defkreationz from


Mrs. Simcoe's Diary by Elizabeth Simcoe

Mrs. Simcoe's Diary by Elizabeth Simcoe

"Sunday August 4th 1793...It was not much larger than a Canoe but we ventured into it & after rowing a mile we came within sight of what is named in the map the high lands of Toronto [now Scarborough Bluffs]. The Shore is extremely bold & has the appearance of Chalk Cliffs but I believe they are only white Sand. They appeared so well that we talked of building a summer Residence there & calling it Scarborough."


The Bluffs as Viewed by Elizabeth Simcoe c. 1793
The Bluffs as Viewed by Elizabeth Simcoe c. 1793 by Mural Routes. Image from


A History of Scarborough edited by Robert R. Bonis

A History of Scarborough by Robert Bonis

“Accordingly, shortly thereafter the name of Glasgow, which had been assigned to the township east of Toronto when it was first laid out by Surveyor Augustus Jones in 1791, was discarded... On August 27th [that township], with the great gray cliffs like those of the English Yorkshire town, henceforth became Scarborough.”



Along the Shore: Rediscovering Toronto's Waterfront Heritage by M. Jane Fairburn 


Along the Shore by Jane FairburnFrom the introduction: "While running high above the lake on a frigid midwinter afternoon, I slipped on black ice on the first step down to the Scarborough Bluffs, an extremely steep incline known locally as Killer Hill. Below the hill, the Scarborough Bluffs plunge to the water some 250 feet below. As I lay there stranded, my cries were blown away by the gusts of wind that swirled around me. With my right ankle hanging from my leg at an unnatural angle, I could do nothing but wait to be discovered. Far below me the ice fog swirled along the surface of the lake, weaving its intricate patterns over the grim grey water. Despite being on the outskirts of Canada's most densely populated city, it seemed as though I had tumbled into a wilderness that remained raw and uncivilized. It was a lake I had never known."

NON-FICTION print | ebook

Artist Andrew Horne painting underpass mural
Artist Andrew Horne painting Warden underpass mural. Image from

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