The Conservative origins of Labour Day in Canada can be traced back to December 1872 when a parade was staged in support of the Toronto Typographical Union's strike for a 58-hour work-week. The Toronto Trades Assembly (TTA) called its 27 unions to demonstrate in support of the Typographical Union who had been on strike since 25 March.
George Brown, Canadian Liberal politician, violent anti-unionist, and powerful editor of the Toronto Globe hit back at his striking employees with strongmen, pressing police to charge the Typographical Union with "conspiracy."
Although the laws criminalizing union activity were outdated and had already been abolished in Great Britain, they were still on the books in Canada and police arrested 24 leaders of the Typographical Union. Labour leaders decided to call another similar demonstration on 3 September to protest the arrests. Seven trade unions marched in Ottawa.
Canadian Conservative Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald promised to repeal the "barbarous" anti-union laws supported by the Liberals. Parliament passed the Trade Union Act on 14 June the following year making unions legal in Canada and shortening the work week even further.
The Liberal media baron, George Brown was shot and killed by one of his employees in the newspaper’s offices in March 1880.
Later, John Sparrow Thompson, another Conservative Prime Minister (from Halifax!) made Labour Day a national holiday in 1894. If you'd like to visit and thank him this Labour Day week end he's buried in Holy Cross Cemetery.
The point of the story is that cherry-picking history to define the people, ideas, and institutions of the future is unhelpful and wrong-headed. The use and abuse of historical record by old crows picking at the remains of history to support hatred for whatever they are against is time wasted.
Instead of shouting "which side are you on" and screaming about the conservatives this, the liberals that, we should recognize that these institutions, these parties, are empty vessels inherited by us from our ancestors to fill and use as we choose. I had a chamber pot inherited from my grandmother that became a flower vase and eventually a coin collector. Let's put our efforts first and foremost into re-defining and sharpening our tools to suit our current purpose.
Let's begin again with a new end goal in mind.
Writing about life, citizenship, and Nova Scotia.