Victory Square has a long and proud tradition of serving as a physical and symbolic rallying point for workers and social causes. From annual May Day celebrations of workers’ struggles to the Remembrance Day ceremonies, Victory Square plays a unique role in the City of Vancouver.
Of particular significance to Victory Square Law Office are the events which occurred in April and May 1935 in Victory Square. In 1931, during the Great Depression, the British Columbia Government established work camps for single, unemployed men throughout the province. In these isolated camps, workers laboured for 44 hours a week, 6 days a week, for 20 cents a day plus room and board, often in substandard conditions. Frustrated with the work conditions, these workers organized and formed the Relief Camp Workers’ Union in 1933, which struggled for the rights of the workers.
In April 1935, approximately 2,000 workers left the camps and congregated in Vancouver, beginning a general strike to protest the low wages and camp conditions. Throughout the General Strike, Victory Square was a frequent rallying point for the workers. On April 23, 1935, workers demonstrated at the Hudson’s Bay store and were dispersed and arrested by police. The workers assembled in Victory Square.
From the steps of the Daily Province Building at 198 West Hastings Street (where Victory Square Law Office was located until 2010), Mayor Pat McGeer read the Riot Act to the crowd to disperse them. The workers’ show of solidarity during the General Strike is immortalized in the photos on our website as a tribute to the struggle for workers’ rights.
Following the General Strike, the workers sent a delegation to Ottawa as part of the “On to Ottawa Trek” to petition the federal government to improve working conditions.
Read more about the On to Ottawa Trek.