July 2, 1935 (17th Parliament, 6th Session)

LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

No, I am not encouraging it. I think it is most unfortunate that we cannot rise in this house to advocate policies that we believe are in the interests of law and order without being accused of trying to discourage law and order. I firmly believe that I am advocating those policies which will ensure law and order in this country. I think it is a terrible tragedy that on July 1 of this year, a day that ought to be celebrated with rejoicing by all Canadians, some two thousand men should be forced into a position where they cannot very well maintain their respect for the government and where they are led to feel a sense of injustice, and further than that, where the twenty thousand young men like these, who are still in the camps, must be encouraged to feel that the government is indifferent to their situation.
That is the situation that has arisen. Now I come back to the alternative offered by the government. When the delegates of these men came here a few weeks ago each of their "demands" was refused. The proposals they made were not unreasonable. On Thursday evening last I took up this matter in detail; those demands were far more reasonable than I imagined they would be, yet the government turned them down flat and simply told them they must go back. Then the government made their counter-proposition; they proposed that the men should go to the camp at Lumsden and from there back to the camps, to the very conditions from which they had come, without the slightest indication on the part of the government that there Would be any improvement in those conditions or any change of policy. Do the members of this house realize how provocative action of that kind is? Surely it was no easy thing for them to come all the way down from Vancouver to Regina, hiking as they did, overcoming a great many discouragements and hardships, simply to be told to go back and forget all about it, which was practically what happened. It is quite true that at Lumsden they might have received food and clothing, but they had been getting that back where they had come from. It was against the kind of food and clothing they were getting and

B.C. Relief Camp Strikers
more than that against the lack of wages and the general policy of the government that they were making their protest.
I have no doubt the minister has put the best possible face on what happened yesterday; probably he is quoting from reports that have come to him. I have had reports from disinterested eye witnesses that do not correspond to the statements the minister made in the house to-day. I would say that these men were assembled in a perfectly peaceable way; there was no disorder whatever until the two forces of the police came upon them and ruthlessly drove into them. The minister gives us the impression that it was the strikers who started the difficulty. I say they were having a peaceable meeting, attempting to secure further funds with which to carry on their own work in their own way, because they were almost at the end of their resources, and at that legitimate meeting they had the police come upon them. That is not .altogether in keeping with the statement of the minister, and on this question I do not think we ought to take a mere departmental report. If ever there was a case for a thorough investigation by a royal commission surely it is in connection with a riot of this kind in which men lost their lives, men on the government side, the police side, who were ordered by their superiors to do this job, and a dirty job it W'as, while on the *other side some of these men were shot down.

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
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