Labor History in 2:00

September 24 - Banned in Canada

September 24, 2020

On this day in Labor History the year was 1918. 

That was the day that the Industrial Workers of the World union was banned in Canada. 

The Industrial Workers of the World union had grown steadily in Canada reaching as many as 10,000 members by 1911. 

The union was especially strong in mining, logging, and the textile industry. 

But backlash against the radical union was mounting in the United States and in Canada.

Swept up in Red Scare hysteria, the governments of both nations targeted the IWW.

With the beginning of World War I, labor unions that dared to threaten strikes or to speak out against militarization were met with harsh reprisals.  

By 1914 the Canadian IWW had less than 1,000 members.

In May of 1918, eighteen Canadian IWW leaders were arrested while they attended a meeting in Ottawa.

Those arrested were immigrants and were sent to a labor internment camp. 

Then the Canadian government moved to ban the organization all together. 

The ban against the IWW would last until the end of World War I. 

Those found to be affiliated with the union faced up to five years in prison. 

13 other organizations were also banned in Canada, including the Chinese Labour Association and the Social Labor Party.

The act further read that it was illegal to attend “meetings, except religious services, during the present war at which the proceedings are conducted in the language of any country with which Canada is at war, or in the languages of Russia, Ukraine or Finland.” 

After the war, the IWW was allowed again in Canada, and slowly it began to rebuild. 

But the scars inflicted during the war years took a lasting toll on the union’s membership.


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