The Hungry
Relief Camp
Workers' Union
On to Ottawa!
Police Riot
Keeping the Trek Alive

On to Ottawa Trek


In the severe economic depression of 1929-39 Canadian labour engaged in many fierce battles. One of the highlights was the general strike of young unemployed single men in work camps in the province of British Columbia on Canada's west coast in April,1935 where they laboured six and a half days a week for the paltry wage of 20 cents a day. The strikers abandoned the camps and congregated in the city of Vancouver. After two months of valiant but unsuccessful struggle for union wages, they decided to take their case direct to Ottawa, the nation's capital, three thousand miles to the east. Their journey was enshrined in history as the On To Ottawa Trek.

They left Vancouver on June 3. "Riding the rod" (on and in railway freight cars) across mountains and prairie they reached Regina, still only half way to Ottawa. Here they were stopped by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on orders from Ottawa and a month later the strike was brutally smashed on July 1 in a police-inspired riot and its leaders arrested.

Their epic strike and trip captured the hearts and minds of Canadians.

While the strike was suppressed, it wasn't lost. In the federal election a few months later, the hated repressive Conservative government of Prime Minister R.B."Iron Heel" Bennett went down to resounding defeat. The new Liberal government felt compelled to abolish the camps.

The sound on the splash page is "Hold the Fort" by Tom Hawken and friends. Click here to hear the full version.

It is featured on the On to Ottawa video, based on the play written by Tom Hawken. It was directed by Sara Diamond and produced by The On to Ottawa Historical Society and the Women's Labour History Project.

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On to Ottawa Historical Society
Ph: (604) 254 0703

This page updated 15/02/2013