On the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike, one Winnipegger who has spent years deeply embedded in the history said the events of 1919 continue to resonate with Winnipeggers even a century later.
“It’s one of the most dramatic events in our history,” said Danny Schur, creator of the musical Strike! as well as its upcoming feature film adaptation (renamed Stand!).
“I think it’s ingrained in our DNA in ways we don’t even know about. When I started studying it, I didn’t realize it was ingrained in my own DNA as a member of the Ukrainian Canadian community.”
Schur, whose film will be premiering this fall, told 680 CJOB that it’s an ‘unhappy accident’ of history that many of the negative themes that arose in 1919 continue to repeat themselves in 2019.
“I think the general strike 1919 is a metaphor for what’s going on across the world today,” he said. “The kind of nativism we see across the United States where the enemies are now Muslims and Mexicans … that is what was going on here 100 years ago.”
The strike stirred up anti-immigrant sentiment in Winnipeg and across the country, blaming the uprising on “alien enemies” – an unpleasant legacy the incident has carried with it over the years.
Schur’s musical touches on some of the hate that surrounded the event, but he said the true legacy of the strike isn’t the racism or even the positive labour changes that were eventually introduced as a result of the action.
“This wasn’t limited to a labour or union event,” he said. “The bulk of people that didn’t show up for work were non-union, which goes to show you had bad things were – that despite those kind of odds, they just didn’t show up to work because they just wanted to do something better, or make the world a better place.
“I think the message is that if you want to make something better, you’ve got to show up. You’ve got to do something.”
In addition to Stand!‘s local red carpet premiere, planned for September, the anniversary is also being marked by a “centennial edition” of the musical mounted at Rainbow Stage this summer, which sticks to the film version more closely than the original play.
“This is the second time a Canadian musical has been mounted,” he said. “The other was Anne of Green Gables, and I’ve always said that Strike! is Winnipeg’s Anne of Green Gables.”
WATCH: Manitoba Museum: Strike 1919: Divided City