Looming impressively on either side of a bridge that serves as a rail overpass which leads to Crab Park on Vancouver’s waterfront next to the Port of Vancouver, sit 2 granite Chinese lions, engineered with special lighting from below to highlight their after-dark appearance.These lions were a gift from the Shanghai Port Authority to the City of Vancouver in 1995. The eastern marble base has the inscription in English and the western in Chinese.
There is a small plaque embedded almost out of sight below the bridge railing overlooking the Vancouver waterfront skyline. One has to stoop to read the text on the plaque. This small and unimpressive plaque could easily be overlooked, however the story it tells is a significant part of Canadian Labour history.
The plaque reads:
ON TO OTTAWA TREK
From this place, over 1,000 young unemployed workers climbed atop boxcars June 3, 1935 to take their plea for “work and wages” to Ottawa. Few expected the trek to survive the trip through the mountains, but it gained momentum and support as it rolled east across the prairies. The RCMP, acting on federal orders, stopped the Trek in Regina and later provoked a riot when armed mounties attempted to arrest the Trek leaders at a peaceful Dominion Day rally. A defining event of the Great Depression years, the Trek endures as a symbol of the quest for social justice.
On to Ottawa Historical Society 2010
At the height of the Great Depression, thousands of jobless men were sent off to federal unemployment relief camps throughout Canada. The pay there was only 20 cents a day.The camps were located in remote areas such as northern Ontario and the interior of B.C.
How the Trek Began
The On to Ottawa Trek began in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on June 3, 1935 after months of discontent and staged protests, by the men from these camps, including an 8 hour siege at the Carnegie Library at Main and Hastings on May 18, 1935 (was a museum back then) by 250 young men. The men decided to take their complaints to Ottawa thus giving this protest the name On-to-Ottawa Trek. They left Vancouver in an organized fashion, from the CPR freight yard at the foot of Gore Avenue, jumping the boxcars one division at a time. The Trek built up momentum and by the time the men had arrived in Regina they were thousands strong. Their progress was abruptly halted in Regina as they were stopped by the police and a riot was created. Read more about the historic On to Ottawa Trek in an article from the Canadian Encyclopedia.