Colonial Building Riot

The Great Depression was a time of widespread poverty and suffering in Newfoundland and Labrador. Steadily declining cod prices made it almost impossible for fishers to make a living, while wage cuts and layoffs plagued the forestry and mining industries. With thousands of men and women newly unemployed, the government was forced to spend heavily on relief programs. These, however, were often inadequate and left many people without enough food, clothing, and other necessities to properly support their families. Malnutrition became rampant and facilitated the spread of beriberi, tuberculosis and other diseases.

Unemployed workers became increasingly discontent and held street demonstrations to ask the government for jobs or better relief payments. Their dissatisfaction escalated into rage when allegations of fraud surfaced against Prime Minister Sir Richard Squires in the spring of 1932.

As the Great Depression deepened, many people in Newfoundland and Labrador became increasingly dissatisfied with government efforts to relieve poverty and unemployment. On 5 April 1932, a public demonstration outside the Colonial Building in St. John’s escalated into a riot numbering 10,000 people. Prime Minister Sir Richard Squires escaped from the building with a police escort, but was voted out of office in an ensuing election.

Pictures from wikipedia and the provincial archives and text from the NL Heritage Association

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