150+ Canadians Day 101: Ginger Goodwin

Ginger Goodwin contributed to peace as a conscientious objector who advocated for labour rights through peaceful means. #Canada150

“People would call him radical, militant. I think he was. But he was a peaceful person. He advocated change through peaceful means, through Parliament and elections. He was never arrested for anything.”    –  Roger Stonebanks, Goodwin’s biographer in Fighting for Dignity

Ginger (Albert) Goodwin (1887 – 1918) was a migrant miner and smelter, who became a labour activist and leader. He emigrated from England at 19, and worked as a miner in Nova Scotia and British Columbia. He arrived on Vancouver Island in 1910. He was appalled by the work and safety conditions at the Cumberland mine, and fought for eight hour work days and the right to create and join trade unions.

He was a conscientious objector to WWI, and openly stated that the working class were now being employed to kill each other in the war. Goodwin nevertheless complied with the law and signed up for the draft, but was not conscripted after he was found unfit for service, due to his having the  “black lung”, a disease well known to miners, When he led an 11 day strike of smelter workers in Kootenay, he was reclassified as “fit to serve”.

Goodwin then joined other draft dodgers in the hills near Cumberland, B.C. Although he was unarmed, he was shot and killed by a policeman, Dan Campbell. The widely held belief was that Goodwin was murdered in an attempt to stifle collective bargaining.

His death inspired the Canada’s first general strike, the 1918 Vancouver general strike on August 2, 1918. This strike was a paved the way for the Winnipeg General Strike the same year, a defining moment in Canadian labour history.

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