The Spirit of the Strike

A digital exhibit commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike

June 21, 1919. Thousands gathered at Market Square for what was intended to be a silent parade protesting the arrest of strike leaders. The day, however, was far from silent; instead, chaos reigned. In the midst of the gathered crowd, a streetcar, operated by strikebreakers, approached. This streetcar – a moving emblem of defiance against the strike and what it stood for, became the target of the strikers’ grievances. The strikers rushed the streetcar, attempting to overturn it, and set it ablaze. The riot act was read; the Mounties charged; shots were fired; and the silence of the parade rapidly escalated into what became known as Bloody Saturday. 

Scenes from the Winnipeg General Strike. Pathé News No. 57 : [excerpt]. Source: Library and Archives Canada/Astral Bellevue Pathe fonds/ISN 220304.

This event has become the most iconic scene of one of the most significant events in Winnipeg’s history and the most famous strike in Canada’s. Yet, despite this notoriety, the full story of the Winnipeg General Strike is somewhat less clear. The true order of events and how they unfolded on that day were lost in the chaos and the biases of those who described it. As a socially and politically charged conflict, the documentary heritage through which we remember the strike is rife with subjectivities, misrepresentations, and propaganda.

Before, during, and after the events of June 21, the strike involved numerous players, converging in different places and spaces throughout Winnipeg, all with their own motives, sympathies, and biases, resulting in conflicting narratives and accounts of events. Unbreakable: The Spirit of the Strike places the events of Bloody Saturday in this greater context and examines the rich history surrounding the Winnipeg General Strike, its catalysts, and its aftermath.

Unbreakable invites you to explore the context surrounding the strike through a digital exhibit and draw your own conclusions by undertaking your own research and delving further into the events of 1919 through primary and secondary sources available in Manitoba and online.

Click here for a list of strike-related resources

Click here to view the digital exhibit

The Spirit of the Strike

Twenty-five thousand, 27,000; 28,000; then 30,000 workers came on strike. It was a wonderful sight. 

…there is the radiant hope of high idealism in every face. Every voice thrills with the passion of noble resolve. Every motion is inspired by the spirit of a holy cause. And every act is prompted by the determination to help the cause of brotherhood.

Their spirit is unbreakable.

Western Labor News, May 19, 1919