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The Underpants Speech – A Work in Progress

July 23, 2014

How an angry speech paved the way to Canada's Communist labour purges of the 1950s

Harvey caricature - croppedJustice Minister Louis St. Laurent, destined to be Canada’s prime minister, made no secret of his dislike for Communists. In mid-March 1948, he officially announced that “Canada is cracking down on labour-union communists fleeing from the anti-communist Taft-Hartley labor law of the U.S.”[1]Both the Trades and Labour Congress (TLC) and the Canadian Congress of Labour (CCL), predecessors of today’s Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), sanctioned the federal government ban on reds and refused a request from Mine-Mill, an embattled CCL affiliate, to come to its aid.[2]That paved the way for the deportation of Mine-Mill international leader Reid Robinson who had been identified by the authorities as a subversive “labour union official.”[3] It also gave labour officials the excuse they needed to accelerate ongoing efforts to purge Communist unions from their federations.

[1] “Reds Will Find It Hard To Enter Canadian Labor,” Trail Daily Times (TDT), 12 March 1948, 1.

[2] “Labor Congress Will Not Interfere With Government’s Ban on U.S. Union Organizers,” TDT, 11 March 1948, 1.

[3] “Canada Will Bar All Communists,” TDT, 4 March 1948, 1.

The Underpants Speech

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