Bienfait: The Saskatchewan Miners' Struggle of '31
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
W.J.C. Cherwinski is a professor of history and Canadian Studies Program
supervisor at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He is the coauthor of
Lectures in Canadian Labour and Working-Class History.
In an incident that singer-songwriter James Keelaghan described as a
“small rebellion” in a 1990 song, workers in the impoverished
southeastern Saskatchewan mining town of Bienfait confronted their
bosses and the Mounties over the issues of technological change and wage
cuts. The dispute received international attention when, during a
demonstration organized by the Communist Party (CP), a short, bitter
battle on the streets of nearby Estevan left three East Europeans dead
from gunshot wounds. For many in the Canadian labor movement, their
deaths came to symbolize the struggle of workers to maintain their
rights and dignity in the face of a rapacious monopoly capitalism.
Despite a royal commission and a number of scholarly studies, the roles
of the police and the members of the CP have never been clearly
established. Endicott’s study adds little to our understanding. A
longtime CP member, he is bent on portraying the miners and their
organizers as pure victims and their opponents as pure villains.
Nevertheless, his book is further grist for the mill, and the interviews
he painstakingly assembled will, if made available, aid future research
on this rather nebulous affair.