Report 64 The Regina Riot
As I mentioned earlier, the North West Mounted Police moved into new quarters in Regina around the mid 1880's. The whole purpose was to allow them to be strategically deployed when needed.
Their first chance to be so came in the mid 1930's when the great depression had a strangle hold on the prairies which was much more severe on the working classes than any where else in the Dominion. It got so bad that a group of about 1,300 men boarded the freight trains in Vancouver with the intention of going to Ottawa and presenting their case of hardship to Prime Minister Bennett. As the trains made their way east, they gathered more demonstrators who were called "Trekkers". By the time they got to Regina, the trekkers numbered almost 2000. Bennet could see the problems they would be to him if they ever arrived in Ottawa after gathering who knows how many more across Canada. He ordered the N.W.M.P. to stop them.
It was in the evening, July 1 1935 at a public meeting at Market Square where the two groups met. Of the 2000 or so people present only about 300 were actually trekkers, the rest had decided to stay in for the evening at the exhibition grounds.
Three large vans concealing riot police waited at the side of the square and when a whistle was blown at 8.00 p.m. they charged into the crowd setting off hours of hand to hand fighting through the city's down town core. The crowd was so angry they started fighting back with stones, sticks and anything else at hand a part of which happened to be a road paving asphalt machine. They stripped and threw parts at the police. Then N.W.M.Police on horse back charged the crowds and this made them even angrier. The rioting continued all throughout the city all night with the police firing on the protesters and trekkers.. IN the morning over 120 rioters had been arrested, one police undercover agent killed, 39 officers wounded and hundreds of others from both sides taken to the hospital with injuries.
Saskatchewan's Premier Gardiner thought he could bring the affair to an end through negotiations but Bennet had destroyed the opportunity by prematurely bringing in the Police with force.
The cities exhibition grounds were surrounded by bob wire and police and the trekkers denied food or water. All this made the international newspapers. Gardiner sent off a wire to Bennett accusing him of precipitating a riot while he was trying to negotiate a settlement. Bennett's reaction was to lie. He falsely stated the trekkers fired on the police first. Considering they had no guns that was hardly believable. He also stated the intensions of the rioters was to usurp authority and destroy the government. None of that was true either He really wanted to teach the citizens of Regina a lesson for encouraging the trekkers and teach the trekkers a lesson about who really held the powers of politics in Canada. Well they learned fast because at the next election Bennett was ousted and he no longer held any power ..
That was twice in the history of this province up to that point that the Ottawa government had put down a group of people rebelling because of the misery that was inflicted upon them due of the lack of attention and protection from their own government. We could learn a lot about how to treat groups when they are minorities by the following saying " Remember that even some very little minnows grow up to be big sharks". The lesson has not been forgotten in Saskatchewan even to this day and conservatives have seldom made up the provincial government.
By the way, I thought Normand might enjoy the shot of the water mains and sewers. Because of the cold, they have to be at least 8 feet under ground. Sure not a happy looking group of diggers.
It's still cold but the forecaster says warmer days ahead this weekend.
I'm going to hang in here one more day to take current photos of Regina