You are on page 1of 6


The Winnipeg General Strike

Key Terms

Alien: A non-citizen resident of a country

Amendment: A modification made to a law

Arthur Meighen: The Minister of the Interior and the acting Minister of Justice during the
Winnipeg General Strike

“Bloody Saturday”: The final Saturday of the Winnipeg General Strike when the “special
police” clashed with the demonstrators

Bolshevist: A member of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party that seized power in
that country in November 1917. A communist.

Bread: Bread was delivered to people’s homes by the local bakeries

Business: A commercial enterprise or establishment

Canadian Pacific Railway: The railway was originally built between eastern Canada and
British Columbia between 1881 and 1885, fulfilling a promise extended to British Columbia
when it entered Confederation in 1871. It was Canada’s first transcontinental railway.

Capitalism: An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are
privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and
reinvestment of profits gained in a free market.

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.
Communism as it was developed in theory failed in practice, as it was unable to fulfill the
ideological aspirations for which it aimed.

Demonstrators: participants in a public display of opinion

Deportation: Expulsion of an undesirable alien from a country

Dismissal: the act of being fired from employment

Government: the organization that is the governing authority of a political unit (In Canada’s
case the government is elected).

House of Commons: The elected Lower House of parliament in Canada

Injunction: Law. A court order prohibiting a party from a specific course of action

Insurrection: Planned uprising to overthrow the government in power

Military exemption: Freedom from the law that required compulsory military service (or

Page 1 of 6
The Winnipeg General Strike
New Democratic Party: Canadian political party, founded in 1961 when the Co-operative
Commonwealth Federation (CCF) reorganized itself and joined with the Canadian Labour
Congress (CLC)

Picketing: act of patrolling a place of work affected by a strike in order to discourage its
support, to make public the workers' grievances, and in some cases to prevent strike-
breakers from taking the strikers' jobs.

Riot Act: A law providing that when 12 or more people unlawfully assemble and disturb the
public peace, they must disperse upon proclamation or be considered guilty of breaking the

Sedition: Conduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of a state

Solidarity: Unanimity of attitude or purpose between members of a group or class, captured

in the slogan, "All For one, and one for all."

“Special police”: A force hired by the Committee of One Thousand to replace the regular
police force

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

Telephone Operators: Many women worked as telephone operators. They were known as
the “hello girls”

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

Veteran: A person who has served in the armed forces

Wages: Payment for labour or services to a worker, especially remuneration on an hourly,

daily, or weekly basis

Western Canadians: People who live in the provinces west of Ontario - Manitoba,
Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia

Page 2 of 6
By the First World War, __________ __________ were generally suspicious of the federal
government, which seemed more interested in giving in to the interests of the more heavily

populated "Ottawa-Montréal-Toronto triangle" than other parts of the country. Prime Minister

Robert Borden granted a __________ ____________ to western farmers in 1917 and then
reneged on his promise several weeks later after he had won the election. This caused

massive protests in the west.

World War I ended in _______. Times were hard for Canadian workers. People were angry

that corporations had made huge profits during the war while others suffered. Prices were

rising faster than ________. Workers tried to organize by joining ________. Relations

between labour, ___________ and the courts had been poisoned over the years. Winnipeg

was know as "___________ City" because of the frequency that local courts granted

employers injunctions against and .

Workers / Labour

Workers demanded better , recognition, workday,

and better working conditions. Employers to negotiate. When no resolution to

the conflicts seemed possible, the Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council polled its members on

whether or not to launch a general .

There was an overwhelming vote for strike action, 11,000 in favour and 600 opposed.

Police, fire fighters, water works employees, postal workers, cooks and waiters and tailors, all

voted in favour of the strike.

Women also voted in favour of the strike. 500 female

walked off the job. Before they left, they pulled the switches, leaving much of the city

without phone service.

Page 3 of 6
The Winnipeg General Strike
The Winnipeg General Strike

Beginning promptly at 11:00am, Thursday May 15, 1919, between 25,000 and 30,000

Winnipeg workers walked out on a general . Work stopped quickly at the big

Canadian Pacific _____ ______ shops and yards across the city, while factory production

ceased. Winnipeg had no mail, streetcars, taxis, newspapers, telegrams, telephones,

gasoline or milk delivery. Most restaurants, retail stores, and even barber shops closed. The

, and employees of the water works shocked and frightened many

in Winnipeg by joining the strike. Thousands of war ___________ demonstrated in favour of the

strikers. Many strikes and demonstrations took place in other cities in Canada.

The strikers elected a group they call the Central Committee, composed of

delegates from each of the unions affiliated with the Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council.

This committee had to determine which were going to be offered to the public.

The strike leaders did not want to be accused of trying to starve the city, so they wanted

continued delivery of _______ and . The dairies and the bakeries were worried

that people might attack their delivery wagons if they thought that they were operating in

opposition to the strike. For this reason, the strikers agreed to issue signs that read “

by Authority of the Strike Committee”. These signs raised questions about who was in

charge. The strikers always maintained that they were not trying to take over the

of the city, but by its nature a general strike challenges a community’s existing power


played a key role in making sure that businesses that were struck stayed

closed. Under the leadership of Helen Armstrong, the Women’s Labour League played a

central role in organizing women’s activities throughout the strike. Armstrong established a

dining hall where ________ were free for women strikers, while men were expected to pay

or make a donation. During the strike, Armstrong was arrested several times.

Page 4 of 6
Another of the Strike Committee’s main concerns was ensuring that the strikers did not

provide the government with an excuse to use to end the strike. For the most

part, they urged people to stay off the streets or attend the large open-air meetings held in a

park near the Red River. While the strike leaders kept their troops in line, the business

community took the initiative.

Employers / Business / Government

Shortly after the start of the General Strike, the leaders of the Winnipeg

____ community and local government officials established the Citizens’ Committee of One
Thousand. It had far fewer than a members, but it did have access to the

government power in both Manitoba and . It organized volunteers to replace

and worked to ensure that the strike ended in a defeat for the unions. In its own paper, it

attacked the strikers and their supporters as revolutionaries and implied that

the strike was largely the work of Eastern European immigrants.

The of One Thousand met with the Minister of Labour,

Gideon Decker Robertson and the Minister of Interior (and acting Minister of Justice) Arthur

_________ . The committee told the politicians that the strike was a revolution in the

making. Robertson ordered federal government employees back to work threatening them

with if they refused. Meighen had the Criminal Code of Canada

to broaden the definition of _________ and amended the Immigration Act to target foreign-

born radicals for _____________. The two federal ministers ____________ to meet with the
Central Strike Committee to consider its grievances.

The Committee forced the City Council to fire the entire Winnipeg police force for

refusing to take an oath promising not to participate in general strikes. The police force was

replaced by 1,800 “________ ” police officers recruited by the Committee.

Page 5 of 6
The Winnipeg General Strike
On June 17, 1919, the federal government ordered the arrest of twelve strike leaders

(including J.S. Woodsworth, and A.A. Heaps). Four days later, on a day later named “

Saturday” strikers assembled at Market Square and the panicked Mayor read the

Act. Veterans and other supporters of the strike clashed with the “Special” police force and

the Royal North-West Mounted Police. By the end of the day, two men were dead and at least

thirty of the ____________ were seriously injured. On June 25th, after six weeks, the

Winnipeg General _________ was over.

The returned to work without contracts. Hundreds, possibly thousands of

workers were for their participation in the strike. Others only got their jobs back

if they signed agreements promising not to join in the future.

Later a Manitoba government commission of inquiry concluded that the ___________

_________ was essentially a labour dispute, not a revolution. The federal government and

the Committee of One Thousand did not agree with this and put many of the strike leaders on

trial for sedition and conspiracy.

Many of the jailed strike leaders ran for office in the Manitoba provincial election of

1920. Even though they could not leave their cells during the campaign, three

of them won election to the legislature. In 1921, J.S. Woodsworth, who had been arrested but

was never tried for his support of the strike, was elected to the House of as

the leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, which would later become the

_________ _________ _________ or N.D.P.

Page 6 of 6