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Labour Movements

1.) In Canada a very influential labour movement was the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. Workers in Winnipeg believed that many companies had profited extensively from World War I but had not raised wages or improved conditions. Men had no voice. This led to the creation of a branch of the “One Big Union” with a goal of mobalizing workers, class solidarity and aggressive leadership. This culminated in what became known as Bloody Saturday on June 21st with the death of two strikers and the city of Winnipeg under military control. Although the strike was unsuccessful it rallied many people who were unsatisfied and showed the big businesses that their labour pool could walk out at any moment.

2.) The first organized general strike in Canadian history took place in 1918 in Vancouver, after Albert Goodwin (activist) was murdered. Hundreds of men stormed the Vancouver Trades and Labour Council offices, though few people were hurt. However, the strike was violently opposed by police and soldiers that fought in the First World War.

3.) Toronto’s printer strike was part of the “Nine-Hour Movement” which was an international worker’s movement striving for shorter workdays in the 1870s. Nine hours was normally a reduction of two to three hours off a regular work shift. By having shorter workdays meant for more time with friends and loved ones. At this time, unions were still deemed illegal under Canadian law. The strike in 1872 led to many arrests and resulted in Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald passing the landmark Trade Union Act on June 14, 1872. This act legalized and protected union activity which inspired all union types to demand shorter workdays. The printers of Toronto played a pivotal role in fighting for shorter workweeks and became significant in the sense that it demonstrated solidarity between all people fighting for a similar cause.


During the abolition of enslavement in Canada, Africans had to deal with being dealt around to different slave owners and were doing their best to not give in but instead fight back. This resistance made slave owners think twice about the way they were treating the African people and used their status in society to change the way things were being done. The culmination of these resistance movements helped slowly garnered a lot of attention and support.

On August 1st, 1834, the Imperial Act passed by the British parliament freed 800,000 slaves in British colonies. However, on September 18th, 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was legislated in America. This act allowed supporters of the slave trade to arrest fugitives on the run in Canada, meaning that many free Blacks were kidnapped and sold as slaves once again.

Detailed timeline of the history of slavery in Canada:

First Wave Feminism

First wave feminism was very important in Canada. The Famous Five were a group of women that consisted of Emily Murphy, Irene Marryat Parlby, Nellie Mooney McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards. These women petitioned the Canadian Supreme Court to see if the word “persons” in the British North America Act of 1867 included female persons. The decision of the court would directly lead to whether or not women could be appointed to the Senate. The court ruled in 1928 that women were not “persons” and therefore could not be appointed. These courageous women did not let the ruling stop them and they appealed to the Judicial Committee of England’s Privy Council. In 1929 in an unanimous ruling, the five Lords of the Committee ruled that the word “persons” includes both genders.

A significant aspect of first wave feminism in Canada included the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). This women’s group was one of the strongest advocates for social change, especially the banning of alcohol sales, as they viewed drunkenness and alcoholism to be a large contributing factor the society’s greatest social issues. The group achieved Canada-wide prohibition from 1918-1920, however most provinces repealed the act later in the 1920s.

National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) was a huge umbrella organization that was the culmination of established women's movements across Canada. It made major strides in bringing these organizations to have their voices heard and making the leadership role as one that is united and together to represent all of Canada's values. This gave the chance for women to bring forth their ideas to the forefront about how society can be improved in in all its facets from education to research but more importantly be transparent and have firm about the issues that concerns all people from different backgrounds.

Indian Independence Movements and Canada

Many Indian people in the early 1900s with the majority being Punjabis were wanting to start a new life in Canada. They had hope to find jobs that would help them with their financial situations. Canada during this time refused to let anyone of colour enter because of the feeling that they would take over their occupations. Many unjust laws were created to drive Indian people away. The culmination of these things were made evident during the Komagata Maru incident where they were denied entry and the supplies needed for survival.

The Komagata Maru

In 1914, the S.S. Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver, B.C., full of Indian passengers who were discontented with their social status and living conditions in India. Due to the Canadian Asian Exclusion Act, and act that prohibited ships from docking in Canada unless they travelled directly from their home country (ensuring that countries such as India and other Asian countries had practically no chance of docking, Komagata Maru was denied entry into Canada. The ship waited 2 months before being forced out of Vancouver, being denied food and water, except for Asian immigrants that were already living in Canada (whom had arrived prior to the Asian Exclusion Act), who made efforts to sneak supplied on board the ship. When the ship returned to India, they were met by a British gun ship, and shortly after a confrontation broke out and 19 people were killed. The rejection of the Komagata Maru is very much seen as a “violation of human rights” today.

Indian Canadians hold massive celebrations to mark India’s Independence Day. This past summer in Toronto the defence and multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney made a speech and fired up the crowd. Another first was that the parade was led by a Canadian Military band. Relations between Canada and India are improving and the countries are welcoming each other’s leaders for visits.

South Africa and Canada

Interactions between Canada and South Africa have mostly been cordial. Canada, among other countries, called for the end of Apartheid. The Constitution of Canada influence in part South Africa’s constitution. Nelson Mandela visited Canada first in 1998 and then during his second visit he was made an honorary Canadian Citizen. Canada supports South Africa with government assistance regarding poverty, infrastructure, management of natural resources, and support of the government.

Though not directly connected, the Canadian Indian Act is known to have been the basis of the apartheid system in South Africa, as it seemed that Canada had successfully oppressed a racial minority within a democratic state. Specifically, the Indian Residential schools are what links the oppression and violence between Canada and South Africa’s apartheid system

There has been a decline in the relationship between South Africa and Canada because of many reasons. This is evident in the early 2000s where South Africa began to demonstrate a more middle-class power structure and wanted to branch out with development plans for other countries. As a result, Canada did not focus as much of their resources towards supporting the country that has been affected by Aids/HIV, lack education and many more issues.

Civil Rights Movement within Canada

In Canada, the civil rights movement, while important, did not reach the same level of tension as it did in the United States. As early as World War I black Canadians were filling in for jobs of the soldier’s overseas and raised funds for the war effort. In World War II, they were accepted as volunteers and could move up the officer ranks. Ontario passed the Racial Discrimination Act in 1944, and other provinces followed suit. It prohibited any publication or display of anything that could be deemed discriminatory. The first black Canadian to be elected to provincial legislature was Liberal member Leonard Braithwaite in Ontario. Although the government of Canada was becoming stricter about discrimination some citizens still displayed racist tendencies and the Ku Klux Klan had a few branches in Canada. Overall the civil rights movement in Canada was nonviolent and very effective and successful.

While Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X and other activists were promoting the civil rights movement in the United States, Canada was undergoing its own movement. In 1962, Canada’s discriminatory immigration policy against African Americans was revised. However, between 1964 and 1970, residents of Africville’s “American-style ghetto” were relocated and the Halifax City Planning Commission took over, after some resistance.

Canada was the hope for many Black people to go to but it did not turn out the way they expected. Prejudice and discrimination was apparent on both social and political fronts. Black people were segregated into small communities and strict policies were being put into place to keep them away. It was not until Martin Luther King Jr. led the charge for the civil rights movement in the United States, that Black Canadians began to have a sense of reassurance which led them to be part of society.

Sexual Revolutions

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s famous statement, “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation” in 1967, was a symbol of success for the same-sex movement in Canada. Trudeau proposed a revising of the Criminal Code to relax laws that prohibited homosexuality. In 1969 homosexuality was officially decriminalized, and in 1977 Quebec passed Canada’s first gay civil rights law.

LGBT rights gathered a lot of support especially in the 1980s in Canada. There were a few notable victories such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms established in 1982 which not only gave equality rights but sexual orientation rights years later. Progress was being made on a federal level but also on a provincial level with provinces making amendments to human’s rights codes such as Ontario.

Indigenous Peoples in Canada

The Calder Case in 1973 became known as a significant case that paved the way for Aboriginal groups to be entitled to their territories. What started as more of a provincial matter in British Columbia, it garnered a lot of attention as it made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Nisga’a People along with Frank Calder who practically led the movement, argued that their land was not being recognized as their own ancestral and traditional grounds. Now this case was groundbreaking in a few ways. First, in the sense that the Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged the fact that Aboriginal People were entitled to their land based on the Royal Proclamation of 1763 meaning the first time the Canadian legal system has done so. The other point being that the court itself was split in their decision on whether the Nisga’a land claims were valid. Now this may seem like nothing important but it led to more progress in terms of Aboriginal groups finally getting the recognition and the respect towards their territories. More treaties and discussion on Aboriginal title were a result of this case across Canada that inspired other parts of the world too.

Idle No More has become one of the biggest Indigenous movements in Canada that is still growing and continuing to gain massive support overtime. The issues ranging from exploitation to colonization of Indigenous lands and much more are being addressed by this movement through teachings, rallies and protests with the list going on. This was sparked by the Conservative government passing down omnibus bills such as Bill C-45 which threatened the protection of certain forests and waterways that pass along Indigenous lands. The key thing to note is the fact that Indigenous Peoples were refusing to let the government dictate the way the environment should be which has has gone on to inspire people from all backgrounds through media outlets in order to gain attention about the collective rights of all Canadians that branches off to other issues like the safety of the environment itself.

In 2007, the UN released the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. All countries in the United Nations signed and ratified the declaration, except for four nations, including Canada. In truth, although Canada claims to be a country of universal human rights, Canada always receives negative reports on their treatment of Indigenous people, especially in regards to land treaties.

Modern Environmentalism

Greenpeace is an environmentalist group founded in 1971 out of Vancouver. The group was particularly concerned with nuclear testing in the Pacific, but gained international recognition for activism towards several different issues. The group wanted to combat climate change through an energy revolution, and attempted to gain as much media as possible. Greenpeace successfully cancelled future nuclear testing in the pacific, and actively promotes “Save the Whales” campaigns.

Many non-profit organizations, most notably the Canadian Environmental Grantmakers’ Network continue to play an important role in dealing with pressing environment issues like water supply and land use. These types of collaborations helps bring effective discussions that would result in new ideas to protect the environment.

Democracy Redux

During the recent Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister declared Canada’s support for “continued freedom of speech and prosperity”. A member of the New Democratic Party strongly urged Canada to show full support for the movement.

In the Umbrella Movement last year, UBC’s Hong Kong Student’s Association (HKSA) held “Operation Yellow Ribbon,” a campaign designed to support protesters of Hong Kong. Yellow ribbons were handed out and poster boards with students’ thoughts were displayed all around campus. This demonstrated how students were willing to unite and stand up together for democracy and how media plays an important role in getting the message across.