On to Ottawa Trek
The historic On To Ottawa Trek made a great contribution to Canadian labour and to Canada.
- The Trekkers galvanized the spirit of struggle in the dark days of the Hungry Thirties when he future held little hope for working people. Their courage and resourcefulness and their
self discipline won the admiration of Canadians from coast to coast.
- They compelled the government to abolish the 20 cents a day slave camps.
- They compelled the government to repeal the notorious Section 98 of the Criminal Code which was used to suppress political opposition and labour militancy.
- They helped to expose and defeat the hated government of "Iron Heel" R.B. Bennett.
In the years that followed many of the Trekkers continued to play leading roles in their communities.
Hundreds of them volunteered to go to Spain in 1937 to help fight fascism, recognizing that a victory for General Franco would bring a world war that much nearer. Among those who volunteered
were Paddy O'Neil, Peter Neilson, Tony Martin and Red Walsh, all four of whom had been on the Trekkers delegation to see Prime Minister Bennett. Neilson and O'Neil were killed in Spain.
"We went to Spain" said Perry Hilton, another volunteer, "because we knew what the people of Spain had gone through, how they had suffered and starved, the same thing
we were going through in Canada, and we decided if at all possible we would get to Spain to help defend democracy and their elected government. From what we learned in the unemployed
movement, it was only a step to understanding the situation in Spain."
In 1939 with the outbreak of World War 11, many Trekkers enlisted in the armed forces, and many died in action.
On the home front, many Trekkers distinguished themselves as union activists and union leaders.
As a reporter of the Regina Leader-Post had observed on July 5, 1935, "They have a gospel which they will now spread no matter where they will go, where they are scattered."
Arthur Evans continued to play a leading role in the B.C. labour movement.
In 1937 he undertook a speaking tour of B.C. on behalf of the Communist Party that covered 53 localities. Its purpose was to raise funds for an ambulance for the people of Spain, then
fighting off an invasion by General Franco, Hitler and Mussolini.
His last big labour effort was in the hard rock mining community of Trail in 1938-39, where he took on the powerful and virulently anti-union Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company.
He helped the miners establish branches of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, an affiliate of the Congress of Industrial Unions (CIO) led by John L. Lewis.
Evans died in Feb.1944 in Vancouver, run over by a motorist after he alighted from a street car.
Read the summaries for each section