Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Reflections on the "Regina Riot"

By David Murray
Abbotsford Today

Last week when I was involved with the On to Ottawa Trek Historical Society’s celebration of 75 years since the Trek started in Vancouver. I came to realize just what my father was doing back in 1935.

When he boarded the trains to go to Ottawa to protest “Iron Heel” Bennett and his unfair practices against the unemployed and marginalized people of that time. He set forth on a path that even he could not realize what was about to happen to him and who he was about to meet.

My father “Bud” Murray was born in Qu’Appelle Saskatchewan and was very familiar with the landscape when he arrived in Regina June 30th 1935. He was 24 years old and had been riding the rails for 6 years during the “Great Depression”

He played hockey for the “Flin Flon Bombers” the “Regina Pats” and the “Nelson Maple Leafs” so going from coast to coast looking for work was part of what he had to do at that time.

When the “Regina Riot” broke on July 1st 1935 my dad witnessed some of the darkest moments of our Canadian History.

He was offered a train ticket back to Vancouver after the riot. This was “Iron Heel Bennett’s” way of dispersing the protesters . A “Free” ticket back to where they came from.

There was work in Saskatchewan at the time and farmers needed help so my dad who grew up on a farm , stayed around to make a few dollars.

In October he heard of a 31 year old gentleman in Weyburn named Tommy Douglas who was running for the CCF (Cooperative Commonwealth Federation ) party. He was so impressed with him that he hung around and helped get Tommy elected . He worked tirelessly on that campaign.

Tommy tried to get elected as a Saskatchewan provincial representative in 1934. It was in 1935 he and 4 other CCF members were elected to go to Ottawa.

My father although always following Tommy’s career saw him go in a different direction. He had a tryout with the Chicago Black Hawks in 1939 , leaving training camp to join the Second World War in September of that year.

He did not see Tommy again until 1968 , the two old friends got together when Mr. Douglas ran in the Federal riding of Burnaby-Seymour.

“Dream no little dreams,” Tommy would say – then show us how. Medicare is impossible, the world cried out. Yet Tommy Douglas showed us how to get things done!

When he came to Ottawa as the NDP’s first federal leader, Tommy set to work building bridges with Lester Pearson’s minority government. Persistently. Pragmatically. The results became defining aspects of Canadian society – national medicare, the Canada Pension Plan, a world-class affordable housing strategy. That’s why older Canadians aren’t surprised to see today’s New Democrats making minority Parliaments work. We’re learning from the very best.

Dream big. Be pragmatic. Stick to your principles. That’s Tommy’s distinguished example. There’s none better for aspiring young leaders looking to make a positive mark on their country.

In Abbotsford today we have many challenges. My father and Mr. Douglas I know are looking down on me from heaven. It’s with their spirit I get the motivation to keep pushing for positive, progressive change in our riding of Abbotsord.

David Murray is the Federal NDP candidate for Abbotsford. He writes an occasional column for Abbotsford|Today. He can be reached at His website can be found at


  1. This is truly a great article David. Well done.

  2. Jonathan from BostonMarch 26, 2011 at 8:27 AM

    A great personal story within the tumultuous events of Canada's experience in the Depression. I am a Yank doing some research on 1930s Canada and this was a gem.