Canadian Labour History

By David Buchanan and Andrea Hasenbank

This is a select chronology of Canadian labour history for the period 1872-1919, including important and representative instances of organization; agitation; industrial disasters; labour newspapers; historical, literary, philosophical, and government publications; acts of legislation; technological advances; national developments; and international events. Sections describing events before 1872 and after 1919 are included to provide extended points of reference. Suggestions for improvement are welcome (see Contact Information).

Before 1870   

  • The enclosure of common lands to promote large-scale agricultural practices in eighteenth-century Scotland depended on the forced removal of local people, many of whom later immigrated to North America.
  • In 1786, Philadelphia printers conducted one of the first successful strikes for higher wages. (Hillstrom 217)
  • In 1789, the French Revolution shook political establishments worldwide.
  • Tom Paine, The Rights of Man (1791).
  • French King Louis XVI was executed in Paris on 21 January 1793.
  • In 1794, shoemakers in Philadelphia founded the Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers (FSJC), cited by many historians as America’s first genuine trade union. (Hillstrom 217)
  • The steam-powered locomotive, and the application of steam to other industrial ends (including print), developed significantly in the early 1800s.
  • Dock workers of Saint John, New Brunswick, and Halifax organized the first unions in British North America around the time of the War of 1812. (Verzuh 3)
  • Temperance societies emerged in the 1820s.
  • The Mechanics’ Union of Trade Associations (MUTA), the first American union to bring together workers from more than one trade, was established in 1827. (Hillstrom 217)
  • The first harvesting machine was invented in 1831. (Macardle)
  • In 1836, the Communist League was founded in Paris. (Macardle)
  • The People’s Charter of 1838 began two decades of agitation in Britain, including strikes, protests, petitions, and newspapers.
  • Chartist leader Bronterre O’Brien invoked the trope of the “reserve army of labour” in an article in the labour newspaper Northern Star in 1839. The metaphor would later be used by Friedrich Engels in The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), and eventually become a standard phrase in Marxist rhetoric. (Denning, WL 84)
  • The 1841 Act of Union united Upper and Lower Canada to create the Province of Canada.
  • People’s Magazine and Workingman’s Guardian (Quebec City, 1842). (Verzuh 1)
  • Friedrich Engels, Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England (The Condition of the Working Class in England) (1845). This book was first translated into English in the 1880s.
  • The February Revolution of 1848 in France led to revolutions across Europe and had implications for many in British North America.
  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (Manifesto of the Communist Party) (1848). The first English translations appeared in the 1850s; it reached a wider circulation in the 1870s and 1880s.
  • Le Peuple Travailleur (Montreal, 1850). (Worldcat) As the industrial centre of Canada in the nineteenth century, Montreal was central to the development of the early labour press in Canada.
  • In the 1850s, logging began in what is now British Columbia. (Macardle) Early economic dependence on resource extraction, the related use of manual labour, and a population composed in part by immigrants from Britain led to strong working-class organization in towns specific to forestry as well as mining and other industries.
  • On 26 February 1851, George Brown founded the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada in Toronto. (Macardle)
  • In November 1856, the Grand Trunk Railway opened the Toronto-Montreal line. (Macardle)
  • Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species (1860).
  • In 1860, the first oil well was dug at Petrolia, Hamilton. (Macardle)
  • Canadian Illustrated News (Hamilton, 1862-64). (NEOS)
  • Workingman’s Journal (Hamilton, 1864). (Verzuh 11)
  • Many newspapers from the United States and Britain circulated in Canada in the 1860s. (Verzuh 7)
  • In 1864, the International Workingman’s Association (IWA), otherwise known as the First International, was founded at a labour meeting held in Saint Martin’s Hall, London. The organization disbanded in 1876.
  • In 1866, a transatlantic telegraph cable was laid between England and Newfoundland. (Macardle)
  • The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 facilitated international trade.
  • In December 1869, Philadelphia garment cutters founded the Knights of Labor. (Canadian Encyclopedia)
  • In 1866, the National Labor Union (NLU) was founded in Baltimore. (Hillstrom 217)
  • Karl Marx, Das Kapital. Vol. I. (1867).
  • On 1 July 1867, the British North American Act or Constitution Act created a federal union, the Dominion of Canada, uniting New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario.
  • In 1869, the Knights of Labor union was organized in Philadelphia. (Hillstrom 217)


  • Manitoba joined Confederation on 12 May 1870.
  • On 15 July 1870, the Northwest Territories became part of Canada.
  • An insurrection against the French government from 18 March – 28 May 1871 known as the Paris Commune of 1871 was frequently referenced in the Canadian labour press.
  • British Columbia joined Confederation on 20 July 1871.
  • In 1871, free and compulsory schooling was introduced in Ontario. Most other provinces quickly followed suit.
  • By the 1870s, population and urbanization had increased dramatically in Ontario and Quebec. (Macardle)
  • The Toronto Trades Assembly (TTA) was founded in 1871. It lasted until 1878.
  • In January-June 1872, the Nine-Hour Movement, which was international in scope, began at Hamilton and soon spread to Toronto, Montreal, and elsewhere. The central issue was a shorter working day. (Canadian Encyclopedia)
  • The Toronto printers’ strike started on 25 March 1872. (Canadian Encyclopedia)
  • On 25 April 1872, thousands gathered at Queen’s Park to demonstrate in support of the Toronto printers. All 24 members of the strike committee were arrested. (Macardle)
  • The Trades Union Act and Criminal Law Amendment Act were introduced on 18 April 1872. Both were passed on 14 June of the same year.
  • The Ontario Workman (Toronto, 1872-75) was first published on 18 April 1872. The primary issue was the Nine-Hour Movement. (Weinrich 384)
  • In 1873, the North-West Mounted Police was founded. (Macardle)
  • Prince Edward Island joined Confederation on 1 July 1873.
  • Initiated by the Toronto Trades Assembly (TTA), the Canadian Labor Union (CLU) was founded on 23 September 1873 in Toronto. It was the first attempt to organize a national federation. It lasted until 1877. (Canadian Encyclopedia)
  • On 1 June 1875, the transcontinental railway was started at Fort William (Thunder bay). (Macardle)
  • On 10 August 1876, Alexander Graham Bell made the world’s first distance phone call from Brantford to Paris, Ontario.
  • A nationwide rail strike paralyzed the American economy in 1877. (Hillstrom 217)
  • In 1878, asbestos mining began in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. (Macardle)
  • The Provincial Workmen’s Association (PWA) was formed at Spring Hill, Nova Scotia in 1879. It was the first trade union to be legalized in the Canadian coal mines. (Canadian Encyclopedia)
  • The National Policy of protective tariffs was introduced by John A. MacDonald’s Conservative Party in 1879. (Macardle)
  • Henry George, Progress and Poverty: An Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth: The Remedy (1879). In this popular and influential work, George seeks the root cause of poverty and proposes a single tax on land values.


  • The Trades Journal (Spring Hill, 1880-91) was first published in January 1880. (Weinrich 385)
  • Electric lighting was developed in the 1880s. (Macardle)
  • In the 1880s, the number of factories increased significantly as the industrial revolution picked up steam in Canada. (Macardle)
  • The 1881 Census indicated a population of over four million in Canada. Ontario was the most populous province and Montreal the largest city. (Macardle)
  • The Canadian Pacific Railway was incorporated on 16 February 1881.
  • The Toronto Trades and Labor Council (TTLC) was founded in July 1881, taking over from the Toronto Trades Assembly (TTA). (Canadian Encyclopedia)
  • The Knights of Labor began to organize at Hamilton, Ontario in 1881. (Canadian Encyclopedia)
  • In 1883, the Knights of Labor organized 30 Local Assemblies of telegraphers from Winnipeg to North Sydney as part of the “National Trade District 45, United Telegraphers of North America,” which in the summer of 1883 conducted an international strike against the big telegraph companies in Canada and the US (Canadian Labour Congress).
  • The Trades and Labor Congress of Canada (TLCC) was founded in 1883 by the initiative of the Toronto Trades and Labor Council (TTLC). (Canadian Encyclopedia)
  • The Palladium of Labor (Hamilton, 1883-86) began publication. It started as The Labor Union, which was first published on 13 January 1883. (Weinrich 386)
  • Laurence Gronlund, a Danish émigré to the United States, published The Co-operative Commonwealth: An Exposition of Socialism (1884). The term “co-operative commonwealth” has resonance in Canadian leftist formations through to the 1960s, most especially through its connection to the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) from 1932 onward. (McKay, RO 55)
  • The Canadian Pacific Railway was completed on 7 November 1885 at Craigellachie in Eagle Pass, British Columbia. (Canadian Encyclopedia)
  • At their peak in 1885-86, the Knights of Labor organized 450 assemblies across Canada. They were strongest in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. (Canadian Encyclopedia)
  • In 1886, Charles H. Kerr established a radical publishing house in Chicago. Through the 1890s, Kerr’s publishing house “provided an entire generation of anglophone leftists with a remarkably diverse diet of international left theoretical literature.” (McKay, RO 35)
  • A gathering of 20,000 jobless building and dock workers at a Tory Fair Trade League meeting in Trafalgar Square in February 1886 turned into a violent public demonstration when the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) led the crowd down Pall Mall. Michael Denning notes that this event is considered the first time “the wageless began to meet and march as the unemployed.” (WL 83)
  • The first Workman’s Compensation Act was passed in Ontario on 25 March 1886. (Canadian Encyclopedia)
  • On 4 May 1886, the Haymarket tragedy erupted in the streets of Chicago. (Hillstrom 217)
  • The American Federation of Labor (AFL) was founded in December 1886. (Hillstrom 217)
  • In an 1887 report, Carroll D. Wright, chief of the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics, first used the term “unemployed” in English. The report attempted to count the number of unemployed, “triggering a statistical practice that became central to the modern state.” (Denning, WL 82)
  • The International Typographical Union (ITU; Local 266) was founded in Vancouver on 7 February 1888. (Canadian Encyclopedia)
  • Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward, 2000-1887 (1888). This popular novel led to the formation of Nationalist Clubs by so-called Bellamyites who sought the nationalization of industry.
  • Report of the Royal Commission on the Relations of Labor and Capital in Canada (1889). This government report documents the consequences of the industrialization of Canada and defends the unionization of workers.


  • Phillips Thompson, The Politics of Labor (Philadelphia, 1890). (NEOS) In this book, which was based in part on his previous work for labour periodicals such as The Palladium of Labor, Thompson provides an articulate and compelling critique of the labour movement in America and industrial society more generally.
  • Ignatius Donnelly, Caesar’s Column: A Story of the Twentieth Century (1890). This was a popular revolutionary novel later serialized in The Labor Advocate.
  • The Echo (Montreal, 1890-98). (Weinrich 388)
  • The Labor Advocate (Toronto, 1890-91) was first published on 5 December 1890. (Weinrich 388) It was edited by Phillips Thompson, a supporter of the Knights of Labor and one of the most articulate advocates of labour reform and socialism in Canada until his death in 1933.
  • In 1891, the population of Canada was nearly five million. (Macardle)
  • The Spring Hill Mine Disaster at Spring Hill, Nova Scotia on 21 February 1891 killed 125 miners.
  • The Klondike Gold Rush was underway in 1891.
  • Phillips Thompson, The Labour Reform Songster (Philadelphia: Journal of the Knights of Labour, 1892). (NEOS) This book contains 29 songs of worker uprising.
  • Pennsylvania’s Homestead Steel Strike ended in defeat for organized labour on 6 July 1892. (Hillstrom 217)
  • The Industrial Banner (London/Toronto, 1892-1922). (Weinrich 389)
  • The Peoples Voice (Winnipeg, 1894-97) was first published on 16 June 1894. (Weinrich 389)
  • The Socialist Labour Party (SLP) was founded in 1894.
  • In 1894, a major strike by American Railway Union (ARU) was carried out against the Pullman Palace Car Company. (Hillstrom 218)
  • Labour Day was celebrated for the first time in Canada on 3 September 1894. (Canadian Encyclopedia)
  • Liberal economist J.A. Hobson’s “The Meaning and Measure of ‘Unemployment’” (1895) included the first theoretical treatment of the concept of unemployment. (Denning, WL 82)
  • The Voice (Winnipeg, 1897-1918). (Weinrich 390)
  • The Yukon joins Confederation in 1898.
  • The Russian Socialist Democratic Workers’ Party was founded at Minsk on 1 March 1898. The party, which later became the Russian Communist Party, and more specifically the Bolshevik faction, was formed by a congress of nine representatives from local organizations at Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev, Ekaterinoslav, and Jewish Workers’ Union groups in Russia and Poland. Following the congress, the group issued the “Manifesto of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party,” written by Peter Struve. (Carr 15)
  • Citizen and Country (Toronto, 1898-1902). (Weinrich 390)
  • The Canadian Socialist League (CSL) was founded in Montreal in 1898. It was dissolved in 1905.
  • The United Socialist Labor Party of British Columbia (USLPBC) was founded in 1899.


  • Iskra (The Spark), a popular weekly workers’ paper, began publication at Stuttgart on 11 February 1900 under the editorship of a board of Russian socialists, including Lenin, Georgi Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod, Vera Zasulich, Aleksandr Potresov, and Julius Martov. (Carr 18)
  • The Independent (Vancouver, 1900-04) was first published on 31 March 1900. (Weinrich 391)
  • Dominion Fair Wage Legislation established a sub-department of Labour, a monthly Labour Gazette (Ottawa, first published September 1900), a labour library, and the beginnings of a statistical service for industrial relations and conditions were created in 1900.
  • In 1901, the population of Canada was 5.4 million. (Macardle)
  • The Socialist Party of British Columbia (SPBC) was founded in 1901.
  • Zarya (The Dawn), a theoretical journal of Marxist and socialist writing, began publication at Stuttgart on 1 April 1901, again under the editorship of Lenin, Plekhanov, Axelrod, Zasulich, Potresov, and Martov. (Carr 18)
  • The writer and revolutionary Vladimir Ilich Ulanov first used his more famous signature, “Lenin,” in an article published in the journal Zarya in December 1901. (Carr 18)
  • The Revolutionary Socialist Party of Canada (RSPC) was founded in 1902.
  • The Socialist Party of Manitoba (SPM) was founded in 1902.
  • The Canadian Socialist (Vancouver, 1902-03). Formerly Citizen and Country, it was edited by George Wrigley and endorsed by the American Labor Union (ALU). (Weinrich 391)
  • In 1902, Lenin published his analysis of worker and party organization and declaration of revolutionary doctrine, What is to be Done?. (Carr 19, 32)
  • In mid-1902, the workers’ weekly Iskra published a draft programme for the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party (later the Communist Party of Russia), written by Plekhanov and Lenin. (Carr 19)
  • On 23 October 1902, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) achieved a landmark victory over coal companies in the Anthracite Coal Strike on after President Theodore Roosevelt refused to side with industry in the dispute. (Hillstrom 218)
  • The National Trades and Labour Congress of Canada (NTLC) was founded in 1902.
  • The Socialist Party of Ontario (SPO) was founded in 1903.
  • The Western Clarion (Vancouver, 1903-25) was first published on 12 May 1903, carrying on the numbering from Western Socialist. It became the official newspaper of the Socialist Party of Canada. It was banned on 8 October 1918 but continued as The Red Flag and then The Indicator before resuming publication on 10 January 1920 as The Western Clarion. (Weinrich 392)
  • The Bond of Brotherhood (Calgary, 1903-04?) was first published on 30 May 1903. (Weinrich 392)
  • In 1903, a violent two-year clash between the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) and mine operators erupted in Colorado. (Hillstrom 218)
  • The Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party (later the Communist Party of Russia) took place in July-August 1903, during which the party began to split into Bolshevik and Menshevik factions. The groups were completely and formally separated after 1912. (Carr 38)
  • The Socialist Party of Canada (SPC) was founded in 1904.
  • A massacre of protesting workers by guards at the Czar’s Winter Palace in St. Petersburg on 9 January 1905, known as “Bloody Sunday,” became the catalizing event for the 1905 Russian Revolution. Following a wave of strikes and protests, Czar Nicholas II promised a liberal constitution as well as the formation of the first Soviets, or Workers’ Councils, in major industrial centres. (Carr 58-59)
  • Labour activists established the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in Chicago on 27 June 1905. (Hillstrom 218)
  • Alberta and Saskatchewan were created on 1 September 1905 as part of the Dominion of Canada.
  • Lenin published Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution (1905). Centrally, this analysis argues first for the alliance of the industrial working-class (proletariat) with rural agricultural workers (peasantry) in order to throw off the power of the aristocracy. The second stage is the formation of a “revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat,” which further divides the peasantry into proletarian (poor, landless farm workers) and bourgeois (landowners) elements in order to smash the control of the bourgeois and to win the poor peasants over to the cause of the united proletariat. (Carr 66-67)
  • Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (1906). The final section of this novel is essentially a socialist tract.
  • On 23 November 1906, about 10,000 people riot in Hamilton, Ontario to protest strikebreakers running the streetcars. (Macardle)
  • Saskatchewan Labor’s Realm (Regina, 1907-1908) was first published on 31 May 1907. It later became Labors Realm (Regina, 1909-10). (Weinrich 393)
  • The Social Democratic Party of British Columbia (SDPBC) was founded in 1907.
  • The Canadian Industrial Disputes Investigation Act (1907) outlined a period of conciliation required before a “legal” strike could take place.
  • In August 1907, the Quebec bridge collapsed, killing 30 Mohawk ironworkers. (Macardle)
  • Cotton’s Weekly (Cowansville, 1908-14). (Weinrich 393-94) It later became the voice of the Social Democratic Party of Canada (SDPC).
  • The Lance (Toronto, 1908-15). (Weinrich 394)
  • The Canadian Federation of Labour (CFL) was founded in 1908.
  • Jack London, The Iron Heel (1908). This revolutionary novel was reprinted in The Western Clarion (Vancouver, 1903-25) in 1913.
  • The Western Wage-Earner (Vancouver, 1909-11) was first published in February 1909. (Weinrich 394)


  • In 1911, the population of Canada was over seven million. Montreal was still the largest city with over half a million inhabitants. (Macardle)
  • The British Columbia Federationist (Vancouver, 1911-25) was later amalgamated with BC Labour News in June 1922. (Weinrich 395)
  • Social Democratic Party of Canada (SDPC) was founded in 1911.
  • O.D. Skelton published Socialism: A Critical Analysis (1911), the first major Canadian book on socialism. Skelton was highly critical of Canadian socialist formations, and was “pleased to note the unlikelihood of the political tendency ever becoming a serious force in Canada.” (McKay, RO 38)
  • In 1911, Britain enacted the National Insurance Act, the first government program to address unemployment as an insurable risk. (Denning, WL 84)
  • In 1911, Western Canadian farmers angered by the Liberal government’s abandonment of free-trade principles began the first of many On-to-Ottawa treks. (McKay, RO 24)
  • The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire on 25 March 1911 claimed the lives of 146 workers in New York City. (Hillstrom 218)
  • From January-March 1912, the successful “Bread and Roses” Strike was waged against the textile mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The strike brought together many immigrant workers and was led by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
  • Canadian labour papers published in 1912 include The Canadian Labor Leader (Truro/Sydney, 1912-18) and The Labo(u)r News (Hamilton, 1912-55). (Weinrich 395-96)
  • William Davenport published the “pungent” pamphlet Why Not Enjoy What You Produce? (1912) in a series of leaflets produced by the Socialist Party of Canada. (McKay, RO 53)
  • The Bolshevik newspaper Pravda (Truth) was first published in St. Petersburg on 22 April 1912. It remained the dominant paper of Soviet Russia and became notorious for its promulgation of Communist Party propaganda. (Carr 76)
  • The Great Coal Strike on Vancouver Island began on 16 September 1912. The key issues were safety and union recognition. (Canadian Encyclopedia)
  • Socialist Eugene V. Debs won six percent of the vote in the U.S. presidential election on 5 November 1912. (Hillstrom 218)
  • The Ford Motor Company announced on 1 January 1914 that all workers who could pass the criteria set by its Sociological Department for the “clean and wholesome life” would receive a five-dollar, eight-hour workday. (Denning, CF 28)
  • The Ontario Workmen’s Compensation Bill was introduced in 1914.
  • The Ford Motor Company opened its Highland Park assembly line in 1915, marking the beginning of the Fordist labour process. (Denning, CF 28)
  • International socialists gathered to protest the “imperialist war” at the Zimmerwald Conference at Zimmerwald, Switzerland in September 1915. (Carr 78)
  • The pamphlet Gems of Socialism (1916) was issued by a group of socialists in Lindsay, Ontario. The pamphlet was a compilation of aphorisms, axioms, prophecies, and definitions. (McKay, RO 38)
  • The Canadian Labour Party (CLP) was founded in 1917.
  • In 1917, the Proletarian Cultural and Educational Organization (Proletkult) was established by the Bolsheviks. (Doyle 62)
  • In Russia, the March Revolution of 1917 deposed Czar Nicholas II. (Carr 81; Kort 460)
  • Vapaus (Liberty) (Sudbury, 1917-74). The most significant Finnish workers’ paper in the period began publication by the Finnish Socialist Organization of Canada (FSOC) on 6 November 1917. (Weinrich 398-99)
  • Lenin led the nearly bloodless revolution against the Provisional Government on 7 November 1917, through which the Bolsheviks seized power over the Petrograd Soviet. (Kort 461)
  • In 1918, labour papers appeared across Canada, including The Beaver (Montreal, 1918-19); The Eastern Federationist (New Glasgow, NS, 1918-19); Labor (Montreal, 1918-19); The Marxian Socialist (Toronto, 1918); Semi-Weekly Tribune (Victoria, 1918-19); The Social-Democrat (Toronto, 1918); and Western Labor News (Winnipeg, 1918-23). (Weinrich 399-400)
  • Future Liberal Prime Minister of Canada William Lyon Mackenzie King published Industry and Humanity: A Study in the Principles Underlying Industrial Reconstruction (1918).
  • In 1918, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) established its Workers University in New York City under the directorship of Fannia Cohn and with the participation of local college teachers. The Workers University was a pioneer in the urban night school movement among American labourers in the early-twentieth century. (Denning, CL 69)
  • The Bolshevik regime officially renamed itself the Communist Party in March 1918. (Kort 123)
  • In July 1918, Russia was officially renamed the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. (Kort 123) In the same month, the former Czar Nicholas II of Russia and his family were executed in the night by Bolshevik forces. (Kort 124)
  • The full run of the Vapaus issue for 8 October 1918 was destroyed the same day. Two bundles of the paper were all that were preserved for review by the Public Censor, following Privy Council Orders 2381 and 2384 (coming under the War Measures Act), which banned all publications in enemy languages. The paper resumed publication in April 1919. (Weinrich 399; Keshen 89)
  • On 18 November 1918, Labour leader Eugene V. Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison and disenfranchised for life for violating the Espionage Act. (Hillstrom 218)
  • The Communist Party of Germany was founded on 31 December 1918.
  • In 1919, a “Great Strike” of labour unions in numerous industries took place across the United States. (Hillstrom 219)
  • The Winnipeg Trades and Labor Council (WTLC) called a general strike on 15 May 1919. The key issues were collective bargaining, better wages, and working conditions. 30,000 workers went on strike. (Canadian Encyclopedia)
  • The first non-stop transatlantic flight was made from St. John’s to Clifden, Ireland on 14 June 1919. (Macardle)
  • On 21 June 1919, “special police” attacked 6,000 demonstrators in Winnipeg—several died and many were injured. (Macardle)
  • Until 25 June 1919, the Winnipeg General Strike continued with the support of thousands of workers across the country. (Canadian Encyclopedia)
  • One Big Union Bulletin (Winnipeg, 1919-34) began publication on 12 August 1819 under the auspices of the Winnipeg Central Labor Council (WCLC) of the One Big Union. (Weinrich 402)
  • In 1919, new labour papers emerged, including Canadian Labor Press (Ottawa/Toronto, 1919-63); The Labor Leader (Toronto, 1919-54); The New Democracy (Hamilton, 1919-23); The Searchlight (Calgary, 1919-20); Socialist Bulletin (Winnipeg, 1919); and The Soviet (Edmonton, 1919). (Weinrich 400-03)

After 1919

  • In 1920, the first All-Russian Conference of the Proletkult took place, and the All-Russian Association of Proletarian Writers was founded. (Doyle 62)
  • In 1921, the Canadian and Catholic Confederation of Labour (CCCL) was founded in Quebec.
  • In 1921, the Internationale Arbeiterhilfe (IAH) was founded in Berlin in connection with Comintern. The IAH was formed to provide famine relief in the Volga region of the USSR, and continued as an international support force for victims of natural disasters and for the relief of striking workers and their families under its motto, “Not Charity, but Solidarity.” Under the leadership of propagandist Willi Munzenburg, the IAH launched a particularly active publishing program as well. (Campbell 29)
  • The Workers’ International Relief (WIR) was founded in 1921 as the American affiliate of the Internationale Arbeiterhilfe (IAH). It was initially formed as the Friends of Soviet Russia, and underwent a number of name changes through its existence in the 1920s: Friends of Soviet Russia and Workers’ Germany (1923); Workers’ International Relief (1924); International Workers’ Aid (1926); and back to WIR (1927). (Campbell 32)
  • The Contrast (1921), a pro-labour documentary about coalfield workers directed by Guy Hedlund, was released. It was produced by the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and distributed by the Socialist-aligned Labor Film Service. The film was one of the first identifiably proletarian films shot in the United States. (Campbell 34)
  • The Communist (Toronto, 1921) was first published on 1 May 1921 by the authority of the Third Communist International in Canada. Although the paper claims to be the official organ of the Communist Party of Canada, it predates the semi-official founding of the CPC. The paper appeared as The Workers World on 17 August 1921; nearly all copies of this issue were seized by the police. The paper later reappeared under the title Workers Guard. (Weinrich 405, 406)
  • On 28 May 1921, the (illegal) Communist Party of Canada (CPC) was founded in secret at a meeting in a barn outside of Guelph, Ontario. (Doyle 62)
  • In 1922, the CPC organized a youth wing, the Young Workers League (renamed the Young Communist League in 1924). (Doyle 70)
  • The first issue of The Worker, declaring itself the “official organ of the Workers Party,” was published in Toronto on 1 March 1922. At the time, the Workers Party was the legal front for the CPC. When the Workers Party was eliminated by the Comintern in 1924, The Worker became the official organ of the CPC until 1936. (Weinrich 407; Doyle 61)
  • Trevor Maguire, a WWI veteran, became the first member of the CPC to be charged with sedition following a speech at a May Day demonstration in Queen’s Park, Toronto on 1 May 1922. (Doyle 74)
  • The formal creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) occurred on 30 December 1922 as non-Russian citizens were incorporated into the Soviet state. (Kort 157, 461)
  • In 1923, the early Soviet cultural organization Proletkult (abbreviated from Proletarian Culture) was disbanded in favour of a cultural policy more integrated with the state bureaucracy of the USSR. Proletkult was guided by a militant ideology of literary theory and artistic practice that aimed to create a fully proletarian culture (that is, not derived from earlier bourgeois forms). However, when it began to demand independence from Communist Party apparatus, the regime determined that Proletkult was no longer a “useful tool of the state.” (Kort 155)
  • In 1923, the Main Repertoire Committee (MRC) was established by the Communist regime of the USSR as a bureaucratic watchdog for the country’s remaining private theatres and printing houses. The MRC focused on rooting out anything it deemed reactionary or bourgeois in Soviet cultural life, including the Moscow Art Theatre’s performance of Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and a production of Oscar Wilde’s (Kort 155-6)
  • Douglas Durkin, The Magpie (1923). This novel details the struggles of a Canadian WWI veteran against economic inequality and social disruption in Winnipeg following the General Strike. (Doyle 45)
  • Der Kampf (The Struggle) (Montreal, 1923-25). This Yiddish labour periodical was retitled Der Veg (The Road) and moved to Toronto for 1 January 1926, where it was published until 1939. (Weinrich 408)
  • In June 1923, the Young Communist League of Canada (YCLC) began publishing a monthly newspaper called Young Worker. The paper ran until 1936. (Doyle 70; Weinrich 408)
  • Robitnytsia (The Workingwoman) (Winnipeg, 1923-37). This Ukrainian periodical began publication on 15 June 1923. It was the official organ of the women’s section of the Ukrainian Labour Farmer Temple Association. (Weinrich 408)
  • La vie syndicale (Union Life) (Montreal, 1923-41). The organ of des Syndicats Catholiques Nationaux (the National Catholic Unions) began publication in November 1923. It was later retitled Le Travail and continued as such until 1941. (Weinrich 408)
  • The International Labor Defense (ILD) was founded in the United States, combining campaigns of mass protest with legal action on behalf of jailed protestors, union organizers, immigrant workers facing deportation, and black prisoners subject to racist proceedings. Through the 1920s and 1930s, the ILD published a photomagazine, Labor Defender, which transformed strikes and local conflicts into matters of national concern. (Denning, CL 13, 66)
  • In 1925, Yakov Protazanov’s Breaking Chains, produced by the IAH subsidiary Mezhrabpom-Russ, became the first openly agitational Soviet film. (Campbell 31)
  • Railways lines were extended to the north of Canada in the 1920s.
  • The 1926 general Strike in the United Kingdom lasted from 3-13 May. Organized by the council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), nearly two million transportation and industrial workers went out to fight for wages and conditions.
  • The All Canadian Congress of Labour (ACCL) was founded in 1927.
  • The Old Age Pension scheme was set up in 1927. (Macardle)
  • On 29 October 1929, the stock markets crashed, leading to the Great Depression.


Campbell, Russell. Cinema Strikes Back: Radical Filmmaking in the United States 1930-1942. Ann Arbor: UMI Research P, 1982.

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