Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

'Moment of awakening': The impact of the Winnipeg General Strike on Canada's labour movement

Date 2019 05 19


On May 15th, 1919, the country — and the world — watched in astonishment as tens of thousands of workers walked off the job in Winnipeg. They demanded higher pay, better working conditions and the right to bargain collectively. Some 35,000 workers took over the running of Canada's third-largest city for six weeks. The Winnipeg General Strike was one of the most important labour events in Canadian history. It began months after the end of the Great War, which had demanded profound sacrifices. Husbands, sons and siblings died; soldiers returned from the front with profound physical and psychological scars. Back at home, unemployment and inflation were rampant. "The whole world was in ferment," said Ian McKay, L.R. Wilson Chair in Canadian History at McMaster University and the author of Reasoning Otherwise, Leftists and the Peoples Enlightenment in Canada, 1890 to 1920. "It was a very exciting but worrying time to be alive. The fall of the Czar was pivotal." --Introduction