First Published: New Canada, Vol 4, No 3, Feb-March 1973.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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TORONTO – the skirl of bagpipes, the beat of drums and a large red and gold banner reading. “Revive the Spirit of ’37” led the way in a spirited Anti-Imperialist Day Parade, Dec. 2, for 1972.
Marching through the downtown Toronto streets scores of modern day patriots sang and chanted to celebrate the 135th anniversary of the Canadian and Quebec revolutions of 1837-40.
After rallying in City Hall Square, we marched to King and Toronto Streets. On April 13, 1838, two brave patriots were hanged at this corner by the Family Compact and the British imperialists.
Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews, a worker and a farmer, had been bold and unwavering lieutenants of Wm. Lyon Mackenzie in the insurrection. They were forced to flee when a larger and better-armed force of “loyalists” defeated the revolutionaries.
After their capture, 35,000 Canadians petitioned the Governor for their lives. They were hanged as an example to those still fighting in London, Windsor, Welland and Prescot.
There is no plaque or monument to recall to the thousands who pass King and Toronto Street daily the heroic men who died for them there proclaiming that “Canada will be free”.
Our presence was the first public remembrance in 134 years. Before we left, Milton Acorn read a poem written to these two heroes and their brave example.
For several months prior to Anti-Imperialist Day, we had requested that the Toronto Historical Society mark this spot. But, in the words of Brigadier J.A. McGinnis, Managing-Director, “It is not of sufficient local interest” to warrant a plaque and that we should go to the provincial government. We swore that when we return next year this spot will be properly marked.
The provincial historical society was asked earlier this year by a group of citizens from Lloydtown area to erect a monument to the town’s founder, Jesse Lloyd, one of the leaders of 1837 who died in exile in the U.S. with a price on his head.
Lloyd was Mackenzie’s emmissary to Lower Canada. The province erected a bland monument to the town’s founder that barely mentioned the revolutionary activities of the “Lloydtown pikemen”.
The citizens were disgusted and collected $2,500.00 to erect their own monument in honour of Lloyd’s patriotism.
These official responses are typical of the colonial attitude to our history.
When Canada was a colony of British imperialism, the memory and records of 1837 were discouraged and suppressed. But since the U.S. has taken control of Canada, 1837 and similar events have been portrayed as farce and barely mentioned in our colonial history books.
This is crucial to any imperialist power’s control of its colonies. We have a proud history. And more important, our past is a continual fight, in one form or another, against the most powerful imperialist powers of the last 300 years – France, then Britain and now the U.S.A.
Canadians have not given up this fight. Rather we are intensifying it. The understanding of our history is a very powerful weapon in overcoming the colonial mentality that can keep an oppressed people on their knees and unable to see their own strength.
Anti-imperialist sentiment is growing here and Anti-Imperialist Day is growing accordingly. The past two years we have requested that the Toronto City Executive declare the Saturday nearest December 7, Anti-Imperialist Day and fly the flag of the Canadian Republic of 1837 from City Hall.
Last year they refused. This year, seeing that something more was needed to head off the growth of Anti-Imperialist Day, they referred our request to Executive member Wm. Kilbourn.
Kilbourn’s recommendation, which was accepted, rather than supporting Anti-Imperialist Day, actively opposes it and tries to replace it with a bout of colonial nostalgia.
Kilbourn recommended a “Rebellion Day” in December. But he also recommended another celebration in the spring, “Founders’ Day” to honour Bishop John Stratchan, John Beverley Robertson and their friends. There are the very men who put Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews to death!
The committee chosen by Kilbourn to be in charge of planning and preparing for “Rebellion Day” is the real giveaway: Maurice Careless, an historian never known to be sympathetic to the Revolutions, or any other part of Canadian history; Brigadier John McGinnis, Managing-director of the Toronto Historical Board, which just refused to erect a plaque to Lount and Matthews; Kilbourn himself, whose book, The Firebrand, portrays Mackenzie and the Revolution as a joke; Ontario Chief Justice Dalton Wells; a Mrs. Sinclair, the great-grand daughter of John Beverley Robertson, the very man who sentenced Lount and Matthews; Anglican Bishop Wilkinson, “successor to John Stratchan” and former Ontario Premier, Leslie Frost.
Kilbourn has constructed a modern-day family compact whose task will be to lay the memory of the revolution to rest for good. The Anti-Imperialist Day Committee will not let this happen! Preparations for next year have already begun.
This year, celebrations were bigger and better than last year. A week before the march, over 400 turned out to the “Revive the Spirit of ’37 Festival”, a concert of Canadian music and poetry by Milton Acorn and Cedric Smith of the Perth County Conspiracy.
On Anti-Imperialist Day, at the graves of the patriots, a wreath was laid by Tom Day, a descendant of one of the fighters from the Simcoe area, one of many descendants of the revolutionaries to come forward.
A wreath of corn husks from what was once a field in Peter Matthews farm, was laid by Bill Lishman, one of the founders of People or Planes, a group fighting against the proposed Pickering Airport which would destroy a number of communities and large sections of farm land as well as the original home of Peter Matthews, northeast of Toronto. The airport is being foisted on Canadians (instead of better means of transportation like fast trains) by the U.S. aircraft manufacturers.
A citizen of Lloydtown sponsored a third wreath.
In laying a wreath at the monument to Lount and Matthews, Gary Perly, chairman of the CLM, pointed out that the people who erected this monument had made the column so that its top appears to be broken off, unfinished, to symbolize the fact that the work of Lount and Matthews – Canadian Liberation – is not yet done.
It is our job to complete their work. And it is their fighting example that will inspire us to win our liberation.
Anyone wishing to help in any way in the next year should write to the Anti-Imperialist Day Committee c/o New Canada.
Thunder Bay – Thunder Bay has celebrated its first Anti-imperialist Day! On Saturday, December 2 approximately 20 people gathered in Waverly Park with flags, banners and placards. The groups represented included the Canadian Liberation Movement and the 85% Canadian Quota Campaign as well as patriotic individuals.
Carrying their flags and banners the marchers proceeded through downtown Port Arthur to the Riverside Cemetary to honour and pay tribute to Viljo Rosval and John Voutilainen, two Finnish workers who are buried there.
Rosval and Voutilainen were organizers for the Lumber and Sawmill Workers Industrial Union of Canada, an independent Canadian union organized by the once-Communist Party. The conditions under which the lumber men of Ontario worked were extremely bad. Workers had to sleep in double bunks in bunk houses where ice frosted on the walls at night so that the workers’ hair would freeze while they slept. In many camps there was no provision for overtime pay, workers often had to buy or rent their own horses and equipment and many camps had neither laundries nor baths. These conditions were coupled with long hours, low wages ($5.00 per week) and the vicious contract system.
Organizing the workers in the lumber industry was not an easy task since they were isolated in various lumber camps and moved about from season to season. Organizing to improve .the conditions for lumber workers was the job Rosval and Voutilainene set for themselves.
On Nov. 18, 1929 Rosval & Voutilainen were sent by the union to visit a camp on the Onion Lake just outside of Thunder Bay. They never reached the camp and when several days went by and they did not appear, workers in Port Arthur sounded the alarm and a search was organized. The search was continued all winter since everyone knew Rosval and Voutilainen had met with foul play and the people of Port Arthur did not want their bodies removed or hidden by those responsible.
In April, as the snows were melting, the bodies were discovered in a small creek flowing into Onion Lake. It was evident to all that these two union organizers, expert lumber workers and experienced bushmen, could never have drowned in that narrow and shallow creek. They were heroes in the lumber workers struggle to organize against the ruthless timber operators.
Rosval and Voutilainen were laid to rest on April 28th, 1930 in the Riverside Cemetery in Port Arthur. The funeral was the largest ever held in the city, an estimated 4,000 people took part in the procession. The murder of these two men made a serious impression on the working people of Port Arthur & Fort William. Their dedication to the struggle for the right of working people is an example for all of us!
Margie Wally, chairman of the Thunder Bay CLM and Barry Lord, national chairman of the 85% Canadian Quota Campaign led the march. The marchers chanted “U.S. OUT NOW!” along the route of the march and sang “O Canada” as they entered the cemetery.
Barry Lord laid the first wreath on behalf of anti-imperialist students. Gordon Ward, a local citizen, laid the second wreath on behalf of Canadian workers. Margie Wally laid the last wreath on behalf of the CLM which is the organization which has taken up the struggle for an independent and socialist Canada. An organization for both students and workers and all the Canadian people who want liberation.
After the wreath laying a social was held where marchers and friends thawed out and discussed the day’s events and the struggles yet to come and be won. One marched suggested that Anti-Imperialist Day be held at a warmer time of year and this is being considered. In the mean time, as Barry Lord said, “Every day is anti-imperialist day!”