1919: The Winnipeg general strike

The year 1919 saw soldiers returning home after World War I to find high unemployment rates and inflation. They couldn’t get their jobs back and social tension was high.  Workers in various trades wanted fair wages: much like workers today, they just wanted to earn enough to be able to support their families in the changing economy. At 11:00 am on May 15, 1919, workers walked off the job and marched into the streets of Winnipeg, leading to one of the biggest labour actions Canada has ever seen. Strikers included both the private and public sectors, and ranged from garment workers to police officers. On June 21, 1919, the Royal North-West Mounted Police and hired union busters rode on horseback and fired into a crowd of thousands of workers, killing two and injuring countless others.

The infamous “Bloody Saturday” marked the end of the strike. This was the largest general strike in Canadian history and set the stage for future labour reforms.