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THIS DAY IN VANCOUVER: August 2nd

August 2, 2012 | by  |  This Day In Vancouver

1918:

The city is taken completely off-guard when, in protest over the murder of labour martyr Arthur “Ginger” Goodwin, the Vancouver Trades and Labour Council organizes a 24-hour general strike, the first of its kind in Canadian History.

“Though the possibility of a ‘general strike’ was talked of yesterday,” reports the Vancouver Province, “few people imagined that it would actually occur. Today at noon, when the street cars faded off the street, and the facts began to be realized the city was literally thunderstruck. Many people waiting on the downtown corners refused to believe that the proposed strike had been carried out.”

Goodwin, a coal miner labelled a “socialist orator” by the newspaper for his repeated attempts to agitate for an 8-hr work day, has been involved in numerous unsuccessful strikes across the country for close to 10 years. Blacklisted in many provinces as a communist, and suffering from the black lung, Goodwin was forced to flee into the BC forest  when, after being repeatedly deemed unfit for duty, he was mysteriously (and some say suspiciously) drafted for the Canadian Army. Goodwin was tracked into the woods near Cumberland, BC, where, for reasons unknown, he was shot in the back by a special constable for the Dominion Police.

The General Strike will be received with considerable animosity by the public, with 300 men storming the VTLC’s headquarters on Dunsmuir Street, where the crowd will assault several individuals, force two labour agitators to kiss the Union Jack, and twice attempt to toss Secretary Victor Midgely out the window. By the following morning, the strike will be all but crushed, with the city’s newspapers glossing over mob involvement, and praising their actions against the city’s “undesirables.”

“This kind of thing will ruin the province,” gripes Minister of Parliament S.J. Crowe. “If a few Red Socialists with pro-German ideas are going to run the whole country, it is about time we gave up, and believe me, I for one am not prepared to accept that proposition just yet.”

 

IMAGE: Arthur “Ginger” Goodwin, in happier times. Image courtesy of the Cumberland Museum

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