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The Role of Social Movement and Protests In the History of Canada

Updated on January 28, 2022
Nyamweya profile image

Nyamweya is a Kenyan scholar who has done many years of research on a diversity of topics.

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Canadian history can be a lot of fun. There are triumphs, tragedies, heroes, villains, betrayals, great battles, and struggles for social justice and royal refuges. Canadian history may be interpreted in various ways, and in some times, it may be radical. However, there are core events from the county’s past each Canadian, and immigrants should understand. The country has over the ages inhabited by aboriginal people who have different beliefs, trade networks, and different social hierarchies. Some of these civilizations diminished by the arrival and colonization of Europeans. U.S economic, geographic and linguistic aspects in various ways have also influenced the country’s culture. Canadians have since the end of the Second World War, supported social-economic development domestically and multilateralism abroad. Presently, the country has three territories and ten provinces and is governed by a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth 11.

Canadian history can also be learned from the perspective of their rulers from the top down. This history can also be learned from the perceptive of ordinary people, from the bottom up. Whatever justice and liberty workplaces, communities and individuals in Canada are enjoying are due to many struggles as well as social movements in the countries’ history. However, the histories, and stories of these movements in overcoming sexism, racism and poverty for instance, has for instance remained untold for a long time. There have been human rights associations, or movements that have been concerned on protecting human rights since time immemorial. There have also been organizations that have been dedicated to defending various minority groups and aboriginal people such as prisoners, children, African- Canadian and so on. The purpose of this paper is to examine various protests and civil movements in the history of Canada.

The Winnipeg General Strike

The Winnipeg General Strike is a popularly known strike in Canada. This strike was experienced between 15th May to 25 June 1919. Among the causes of this strike were the increasing revolutionary industrial unionism, the success of the Russian Revolution in 1917, and massive inflation and unemployment in the country. It was coordinated by the central strike committee, which constituted delegates that were elected from each of the unions that were affiliated with the WTLC. This committee was responsible for bargaining with employers on behalf of employees, and coordinated the provision of the basic services. The strike led to several leaders of the strike being arrested and eventually convicted of the conspiracy to overthrow the government. Many of these leaders and organizers were also sentenced to jail terms that ranged from six to two years.

In March 1919, western labor leaders met in Calgary in discussing the creation of a larger union. In Winnipeg 15 May, negotiations between the labour and the management in metal trades and building broke down. This led to the Winnipeg Trades and Labor Council (WTLC) calling a strike. What were at stake were issues related to better wages, collective bargaining, and better working conditions. More than 30, 000 workers almost left their jobs within few hours. The unanimous response by employees led to a closure of the city’s major industries, including the transport sector, retail trade among others. Public sector employees including firefighters, police officers, telephone operators, postal workers and waterworks works joined the private industry workers as a display of solidarity.

The general impact of the strike to the Canadian history was that it left a legacy of controversy and bitterness among organized labor groups in the country. The strike also sparked a wave of increased militancy and unionism across Canada.

Indian Protest of Race Discrimination in Canada

In April 1914, Indians in East of Canada Boarded a Komagata Maru, ship that was headed to British Columbia. This was a move to challenge the Canadian laws, which had excluded non-white citizens from the British Empire. Arriving in Vancouver one month later, they were unsurprisingly met with the Canadian authorities who did not want them to move into the company. This meeting led to a lengthy standoff between these Indians and the Canadian authorities. It also led to the Indian nationalist sentiments back on the subcontinent. However, this only influenced the Canadian Immigration Law only to a small extent. Gurdit Singh, who was their leader, organized a protest match towards Calcutta. This was during the fall of 1914 when the monsoon winds had been over. Just a few months earlier, the Indian ship had cruised on the west coast of Canada. Onboard were 376 people, all from Britain who were forced to remain on the board for more than two months with no sufficient food and water. They were also subjected to several cases of abuse and threats by the Canadian authorities. However, they refused to leave and they were determined to claim and be given the rights that were accorded to other citizens in the country.

During the 1990s period, there were many kinds of dissatisfaction within the international Indian community. After many years of British rule, there was a national mood for independence. The status quo had failed to deliver equal rights strength to the independence movement. Secret revolutionary movements within the Indian communities had increasingly spread in Canada during the first decade of the twentieth century. This necessitated the Canadian government to establish an intelligent network to monitor the activities of these movements within the country.

This account of the Indian movements and protests is depicted differently by discover Canada guide to citizenship and responsibilities. Here, the document says that the British tolerated the Indians and changed their way of life pemenently. In my perspective, I think this document is a PR initiative, which is only interested in showing the positive side of things. Instead of showing the acrimony and intensity that was experienced during this time of colonization, the Discover Canada Guide states that the Europeans and Indians formed a strong bond, both economically, religiously and in the military in most of the 200 years they had coexisted in the country. Further, the guide depicts the Indian communities and the aboriginal citizens in general that they are currently enjoying renewed confidence, pride and significant development in agriculture, business, arts, environment among other sectors.

According to this “discover guide” the only mistreatment that had been experienced between the Europeans and the Indians was when the government placed their children in residential schools in order to assimilate them into the Canadian culture. The problem however, was not assimilation, but because the schools were poorly funded and abuse of children.


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