Vancouver Island Coal Miners’ Strike – Nanaimo Casual Aid Force, 88th Regiment, 1913

August 9th, 2016

In August 1913, thousands of military troops descended on Vancouver Island, occupying the coalmining communities of Nanaimo, South Wellington, Extension, Ladysmith, Cumberland, and Union Bay. British Columbia’s six military regiments remained in the various Vancouver Island locations for two weeks. Later, a reduced number of militia occupied these areas for nearly a year.

The troops arrived in response to growing tension and violent striking among coal workers, replacement workers, and colliery management. Prior to the 1913 strike, coal miners had endured four decades of abhorrent working conditions, including various underground gas explosions killing 373 men over this time period. Replacement workers were also commonly brought in by colliery management, displacing countless miners and families. Outrage came to a boiling point when two miners were fired for reporting the existence of gas at Extension’s Canadian Collieries’ No. 2 mine. By 1913, striking, armed violence, and resistance quickly took hold across the Vancouver Island coal mining communities.

This far-reaching act of organized protest and subsequent military involvement is one of the most prominent examples in British Columbian history of military occupation in civilian life.

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