Michael Dupuis has written two books on the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Victoria man pens novel on historic labour strike

Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 brought Western Canadian labour leaders together to demand rights

A Victoria contributes to Canadian history records with the release of his second book about the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.

Michael Dupuis is a retired history teacher and historian who’s been interested in the strike since 1973, when he did his masters thesis on the subject at the University of Ottawa.

The Winnipeg General Strike saw nearly 30,000 men and women walk off the job to demand higher wages, improved working conditions, a 44-hour work week and collective bargaining rights. The strike brought leaders together from across Western Canada, and while their efforts would ultimately fail at the time, Dupuis said it was a turning point in the country for labour and middle class rights.

“I realized this strike was a real good example of employers who had everything – they had money, they had power – and the workers were second class, a resource that was exploited,” he said. “The strike lasted six weeks. They held out.”

His latest non-fiction book titled, The Winnipeg General Strike – Ordinary Men And Women Under Extraordinary Circumstances, is a follow-up to his first book on the same subject. Published in 2014, Winnipeg’s General Strike – Reports from the Front Lines, focused heavily on journalists’ accounts of the event.

RELATED: Labour Day celebrated to remember workers’ rights

He said the powerful members of Canadian society – which often included the press – painted the workers as radicals and communists.

“There was a lot of fear of them.”

When asked how the impacts of the strike have lasted, Dupuis said the workers turned to political action.

They elected MLAs and mayors who supported their rights and some of the leaders in the labour movement formed a political party called the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), which in 1973 became the New Democratic Party.

RELATED: Canadian labour leader Bob White dead, instrumental in creating CAW

“Collective bargaining became more common after that too,” he said, although there was a period of negative ramifications for business and workers in Winnipeg.

Dupuis is headed to Winnipeg in May for the 100th anniversary of the strike. He was invited by the provincial government to do some few talks and promote his book.

“Once one of these big things loses legs, it kind of drops off the radar. I have a feeling the same thing will happen after the 100th anniversary of the strike,” he said. “I’m really honoured to have been invited. And the major force behind the commemorative activities is the labour movement.”

Since his second book was released in December, it has sold nearly 1,100 copies. The Winnipeg General Strike – Ordinary Men And Women Under Extraordinary Circumstances can be purchased at Munro’s Books and the Indigo at Mayfair Shopping Centre.

Dupuis has also done consulting work for historical movies and CBC television programs on subjects such as the Halifax Explosion and the Titanic.

RELATED: Victoria author pens biography on Emily Carr’s monkey, Woo



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sooke temporary homeless shelter packs up early

Occupants to leave facility by June 22

Greater Victoria transit usage sees gradual rise

Ridership still down 66 per cent compared to last year

Government Street becomes pedestrian-priority corridor

One block of downtown street closed to cars entirely

Name of victims ‘ripped down’ from Victoria display

Organizers feel the act is ‘malicious’

Saanich teen launches free online tutoring website

School Helpers matches volunteer tutors with students

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Cortes Island affordable housing project hangs by a thread

Regional decision makers resort to COVID-19 concerns despite virtual meeting option and push hearing to September

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Damage happens every year, forcing site manager to reallocate improvement budget to repairs

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Man found dead in his tent at Island homeless camp

Facebook posts tell of personal struggles and attempts to stay clean and sober

Most Read