‘Trekkers’ from Louis Creek joined 1933 protest

Deplorable living conditions and pay for workers in ‘relief camps’ sparked action

The relief camp workers

By Carson Stone

Through my research of the Louis Creek region, every now and again I come across an event in Canadian history that has been tied to this North Thompson community.

One such event is about a “camp” that was situated here in the Louis Creek canyon location.

During the “Great Depression” of the 1930’s, The B.C government set up “relief camps” to give married and single men an opportunity to have an income.

These camps were usually out in a wilderness setting and the men were put to work repairing roads, bush work, and other types of labor employment.

When the “camps” started (1931 and ending in 1936) the wage was $2.00 a day. When the Federal Government got involved under Prime Minister R.B. Bennett, the wages were reduced to $7.50 a month. In 1933, the Department of National Defense took over and further reduced the pay to $.20 cents per day, eight hour shifts, forty-four hour work week.

The camps were deplorable for the workers, their living accomodations, food, and state of well being became a nightmare for them all. Protests began to happen as a result.

Many of these workers banded together and decided that things had to change.

Under the leadership of approximately 12  individuals, they began to rally the workers in these camps.

There were many public protests to get attention to their needs, and for the most part, the population of B.C. gave them as much support as they could.

To carry their message to the governments, the workers started a union, the RCWU (Relief Camp Workers Union) while being led by a left wing trade union run by communists. This union was achieved in Kamloops in July of 1933.

With the workers commitment to change things in these camps, a plan was set forth to travel to Ottawa by train to meet with the Prime Minister. Prime Minister Bennett, however, had other plans.

On June 3, 1933, the “Trekkers” as they became known, started their travel by train to Ottawa while being perched on top of the train box-cars.

Two of these trains left from Vancouver. The train then stopped in Kamloops, where still more boarded the train. It is believed that the total of these “Trekkers” was 1,600.

The trains stopped in Regina, Saskatchewan, but that would be as far as they got.

The Prime Minister placed the city under siege by the police and other enforcement departments.

While holding a massive support rally, the relief camp workers and the enforcement troops collided and an historical riot ensued.

There is much more to this story, and if anyone would like to read further on it, “google” the words “relief camp”.

It has been established that there was a relief camp here in Louis Creek, and the location has been researched.

To be positive of this, a historical atlas has this confirmed, as well as a “passage” from the B.C. Government Legislature in 1936, to which “Louis Creek” is mentioned of the relief camps.

The members of this camp worked on the “old” road through here, and the total “person days worked” were 17,543. The camp had been here for awhile it seems.

Carson Stone’s family are pioneers of Louis Creek, where he and other family members still reside today. He is currently collecting together the history of Louis Creek in the North Thompson Valley.  His Facebook page ‘Louis Creek BC’, is filled with information, interesting facts, and surprising revelations.  Stone welcomes all additions to the site that relate to the community.

 

 

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