Striking Back
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Striking Back
Social unrest and new political visions emerge during the Great Depression

"I shall not forget the denunciations of capitalism hour after hour and the raging thunderous applause afterwards" - Frank Scott, a CCF founder

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Striking Back


Co-operative Commonwealth Federation
Canada's first socialist party emerges from the prairie Dust Bowl
Social Credit Party
William "Bible Bill" Aberhart combines salvation with economics - and a new political party is born
Communist Canada
Ottawa clamps down when Canadians find hope in the Communist movement
"On to Ottawa Trek"
Thousands of jobless protesters head to Ottawa and become part of the worst riot of the Depression
The Great Depression called the established order into question. Everywhere people searched for answers to resolve the anxiety and the problems of the times.

Saskatchewan socialists
The political landscape in the prairies underwent the most profound change. The Canadian west was one of the hardest hit areas in the worldwide economic crisis. Two-thirds of Saskatchewan families received relief after the Dust Bowl left prairie farmers with parched, dead fields.

But from the prairie dust, two new political parties emerged. On July 31, 1932 labour and socialist groups and political activists gathered in a Calgary legion hall and formed the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, Canada first socialist party. In the years to come, the CCF, later the New Democratic Party, would plant the seeds of Canada's social welfare system.

"Bible Bill"
In Alberta, a Baptist minister named William "Bible Bill" Aberhart was also planting seeds of change. Aberhart was one of the first preachers in Canada to use the radio to spread the word of God. His Sunday afternoon broadcasts were a beacon of light for Albertans in the first grim years of the Depression.

In 1932, Aberhart began combining salvation with economics when he was inspired by an obscure monetary theory called "social credit." The doctrine argued that capitalist governments should distribute money or "social credit" to increase spending and stimulate economies.

The grassroots movement grew into the Social Credit Party. In 1935 the party won the provincial election and Aberhart became premier.

During the darkest days of the Great Depression, an established political party was also finding more converts. The Communist Party of Canada represented salvation to some Canadians. Communism was an alluring idea because it spoke of dignity and equality for the working class.

Rising tensions
Indeed, Communist Party members helped organize one of the biggest protests of the Depression. In April 1935, one thousand, five hundred jobless men went on strike and congregated in Vancouver.

By early June, discouraged by their lack of progress, strike leaders decided to move the protest to Ottawa. One thousand strikers peacefully commandeered freight trains and began the "On to Ottawa Trek"<

The "On to Ottawa Trek" eventually culminated in the Regina Riot on July 1. When it was over, one policeman was dead, 40 protesters and five citizens were wounded, and 130 men were arrested.


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Rise of the Fascists

Canadians Suffer
Desperate times settle over Canada during the Great Depression
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Calls for Help
Canadians turn to Ottawa for help during an economic crisis
read more...

Rise of the Fascists
Hitler rises to power and draws Canada closer to another world war
read more...

The Regina Manifesto
From Leo Zakuta's "A Protest Movement Becalmed: A Study of Change in the CC"

The Montreal Jazz Festival
Official site for the Montreal Jazz Festival

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