Ottawa’s ‘Reds’ and the 1919 Campaign for a General Strike

Tour Details

This tour examines how Canada’s 1919 ‘labour revolt’ played out in Ottawa.

Most people do not realize the famous Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 coincided with general strikes in 32 other Canadian towns and cities, including places like Toronto and Vancouver.

Ottawa came close to a general strike in July 1919. The city’s labour council, the Allied Trades and Labour Association, voted to poll its affiliates about solidarity action to save the jobs of strikers employed by the Ottawa Electric Railway. Tragically, the campaign for general strike action was defeated. As a result, 135 strikers lost their jobs to scab replacements.

To explain the context for those events, the tour examines key developments during the war years, including Ottawa’s socialist-led mass unemployed movement of 1914, the occupations and demonstrations by Franco-Ontarians during the fight against Ontario’s Regulation 17 (prohibiting the use of French in Ontario schools), mass anti-conscription protests by farmers and French Canadians, the 1918 protest by 5000 federal public servants, and the very successful May 1919 strike by Ottawa construction workers.


Peoples’ History Walking Tours also has three other labour tours available. Please contact us if one of them interests you.

The rise & fall of public service militancy in Ottawa-Gatineau, 1965-2023 (NEW in June 2023!)

This tour looks at recent labour history to show how federal public service workers were unionized in the 1960s, militant from the late 1970s through to the 1990s, but were demobilized by the neoliberal counter-offensive mounted by the state and capital. Key events discussed include the illegal postal workers strike (1965), opposition to Trudeau’s wage controls, the federal clerks’ strike of 1980, the PSAC general strike of 1991, resistance to the ‘common sense revolution’ of Mike Harris, and the 2023 general strike by PSAC.

Key labour struggles since Confederation

This tour examines seven major labour struggles in Ottawa-Hull history, from the 1870s through to the 1990s. Highlights include the 1891 strike by sawmill workers in the Chaudière District, the 1919 streetcar strike and the campaign for a general strike, the 1935 On-to-Ottawa trek by unemployed workers, the 1976 general strike against federal wage controls, the 1980 strike by federal government clerks, and the 1990s ‘Days of Action’ against Ontario’s Harris government.

Ottawa struggle against neoliberalism, 1975-1999

This tour offers a more intense examination of the 25-year campaign by capital and the state to impose neoliberalism on Ottawa’s working class. Covering the 1975-1999 period, it discusses the key moments of resistance by unionized workers and explains why the labour movement was defeated. Among the moments of struggle discussed are the 1976 general strike against wage controls; the 1980 strike by federal government clerks; and the 1995 budgetary assault by the federal Liberal government. The last section of the tour focuses on the fightback against the Mike Harris ‘Common Sense Revolution’ in Ontario. Included are discussions about the 1995-1998 ‘Days of Action’ strikes against the government, the ‘SOS Montfort’ campaign to defend French language hospital services, and the 1997 illegal strike by Ontario teachers.