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The depression that hit at the end of the 1920s sent Canada into a tailspin. The Bennett government set up relief camps in British Columbia and Ontario to provide work, food and shelter for the growing numbers of unemployed men. Many camp residents thought the conditions were dismal and began to believe that the government was not doing enough to help. One group in B.C. started the Relief Camp Worker's Union to try and combat the situation. In 1935, they went on strike.
Strikers from unemployment relief camps en route to eastern Canada during the "On to Ottawa Trek," June 1935
Riding the rails during the Depression
By that time, it had become practice among some of the unemployed to jump on trains undetected and go from place to place in search of work. This was known as "riding the rails" or "riding the rod." This was how the strikers set out for the nation's capital after their demands had gone nowhere. The journey became known as the "On to Ottawa Trek", but the trekkers never reached their destination. The RCMP met their trains in Regina and the ensuing riot ended with one policeman dead and many wounded.
Excerpt of video Hard Times (1978) outlining the 1935 "On to Ottawa Trek".
(running time: 1m, 12s; in English)
Visit the website ARCHIVED - The Kids' Site of Canadian Trains