VANCOUVER—June 3 marks the 75th anniversary of the 1935 ‘On to Ottawa’ Trek, in which thousands of young unemployed workers were inspired to climb atop box cars and personally deliver their demand for “work and wages” to the federal government.
Although the trek was violently crushed by the infamous police riot in Regina on Dominion Day 1935, the courageous protest led to a prime minister’s defeat and better conditions for working people. Legend has it that one of the trekkers was Jack Phillips, later an executive member of the municipal local that would become CUPE 1004.
“The On to Ottawa Trek was a defining event of the Great Depression and it still stands as a symbol of the quest for social justice,” says Joey Hartman of the On to Ottawa Historical Society. “Their protest was an important step towards things like unemployment insurance and welfare. The Trekkers helped to build the social safety net that is such an important part of the social fabric of Canada today.”
The On to Ottawa Historical Society will mark the 75th anniversary and unveil a plaque to commemorate the Trekkers at Crab Park in Vancouver on Sunday (June 6) from 1-3 p.m. The ceremony will include a send-off for the 2010 Homelessness Trekkers, who are travelling by train to Ottawa to take their call for a national housing strategy to federal political leaders.
“The On to Ottawa plaque will serve as a permanent reminder of the courage of the Trekkers back in 1935. We need to remember their determination when we fight against social injustice that we still see around us today,” says David Yorke of the On to Ottawa Historical Society.
The 2010 trekkers expect a resounding send-off from those attending the anniversary celebrations in Crab Park.