Canada is a country occupying most of upper North America, extending from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west and northward into the Arctic Ocean. It is the world's second largest country by total area and shares the world's longest common border with the United States to the south and northwest.
The land occupied by Canada was inhabited for millennia by various groups of aboriginal people. Beginning in the late 15th century, British and French expeditions explored, and later settled along, the Atlantic coast. France ceded nearly all of its colonies in North America in 1763 after the Seven Years' War. In 1867, with the union of three British North American colonies through Confederation, Canada was formed as a federal dominion of four provinces. This began an accretion of additional provinces and territories and a process of increasing autonomy from the United Kingdom, highlighted by the Statute of Westminster in 1931 and culminating in the Canada Act in 1982, which severed the vestiges of legal dependence on the British parliament.
A federation comprising ten provinces and three territories, Canada is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. It is a bilingual and multicultural country, with both English and French as official languages both at the federal level and in the province of New Brunswick. Technologically advanced and industrialized, Canada maintains a diversified economy that is heavily reliant upon its abundant natural resources and upon trade—particularly with the United States, with which Canada has had a long and complex relationship. It is a member of the G8, NATO, OECD, WTO, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Francophonie, the OAS, APEC, and the United Nations.
The Communist Party of Canada originated as an illegal organization in a rural barn near the town of Guelph, Ontario, on May 28 and 29, 1921. Many of its founding members had worked as labour organizers and as anti-war activists and had belonged to groups such as the Socialist Party of Canada, One Big Union, the Socialist Labor Party, the Industrial Workers of the World, and other socialist, Marxist or Labour parties or clubs and organizations. The first members felt inspired by the Russian Revolution and radicalised by the negative aftermath of World War I as well as by the fight to improve living standards and labour rights, including the experience of the Winnipeg General Strike. The Comintern accepted the party affiliation as its Canadian section in December 1921, and thus it adopted a similar organizational structure and policy to Communist parties around the world.
The party alternated between legality and illegality during the 1920s and 1930s. Due to the War Measures Act Wp→ in effect at its time of creation, the Party operated as the "Workers' Party of Canada" in February, 1922 as its public face, and in March began publication of a newspaper, The Worker. When the Canadian Parliament allowed the War Measures Act to lapse in 1924, the underground organization was dissolved and the party's name changed to the Communist Party of Canada.
The Party's first actions included establishing a youth organization, the Young Communist League of Canada as well as solidarity efforts with the Soviet Union. By 1923 the Party had raised over $64,000 for the Russian Red Cross, a very large sum of money at that time. It also initiated a Canadian component of the Trade Union Educational League (TUEL) which quickly became an organic part of the labour movement with active groups in 16 of 60 labour councils as well as in mining and logging camps. By 1925 Party membership stood at around 4,500 people—composed mainly of miners and lumber workers, but also of railroad, farm, and garment workers. Finnish and Ukrainian immigrants played an active role in large language sections.
The Party, working with the TUEL, played a role in many bitter strikes and difficult organizing drives, and in support of militant industrial unionism. In 1922–1929, the provincial wings of the WPC/CPC also affiliated with the Canadian Labour Party, another expression of the CPC's "united front" strategy. The CLP operated as a federated labour party. The CPC came to lead the CLP organization in several regions of the country, including Quebec, and did not run candidates during elections. In 1925 William Kolisnyk became the first communist elected to public office in North America, under the banner of the CLP. The CLP itself, however, never became an effective national organization. The Communists withdrew from the CLP in 1928-1929 following a shift in Comintern policy.
Prior to World War II the communist movement was much stronger in Canada than in the United States with popular candidates sometimes getting as much as 25% support. There was no mass deportation of socialist immigrants in Canada as occurred during the Red Scare in the United States following the Russian Revolution. During the Great Depression it posed a significant danger to capitalist rule and was outlawed. After World War II support dropped off to 5% or so.
Notes and references
- Communist Party of Canada (1982). Canada's Party of Socialism. Toronto: Progress Books. pp. 29, 33, 34. .
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