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People and organizations
Royal Commission

Saskatchewan. Regina Riot Inquiry Commission, 1935-1936

  • LGA 11
  • Royal Commission
  • 1935-1936

The Government of Saskatchewan, under Order-in-Council 832/35, established the Regina Riot Inquiry Commission on 10 July 1935. The Commission held the mandate to inquire into and report upon the movement of relief camp workers from British Columbia to Regina and the events that culminated in the riot of July 1, 1935 in Regina's Market Square, and to make any recommendations deemed advisable in the public interest.

The work of the Commission included an examination of the details surrounding the relief camp workers departure from Vancouver; their advancement to Regina (including mode of transport and assistance provided to them); the actions taken to prevent the workers' movement up to their arrival in Regina; the details surrounding their arrival and stay in Regina; the actions taken to prevent the workers' movement eastward; the attempts to disband and the actual disbandment of the workers in Regina; and the facts and circumstances surrounding the riot in Regina, including actions taken by the police and others leading up to and after the riot. The Commission had the power to summon witnesses under oath, issue subpoenas and had the same rights, powers, and privileges as Judges of the Court of King's Bench in Saskatchewan.

The Commissioners were the Honourable James Thomas Brown (Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench for Saskatchewan), the Honourable William Melville Martin (Justice of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal), and his Honour Judge Algernon Ernest Doak (Judge of the District Counsel of Prince Albert). A request by the Counsel for the relief camp strikers for a fourth commissioner to represent labour interests was denied.

The Counsel for the Commission was Lucien Tourigny and G.H. Yule. The Commission secretary was Ronald Archibald MacLean. The Counsel for the relief camp strikers was F.J.C. Cunningham. The Counsel for the Dominion Government and R.C.M.P. were E.C. Leslie and B.D. Hogarth. The Counsel for the City of Regina Police was H.E. Sampson.

Prior to the beginning of hearings, public notification of the efforts and terms of the Commission was given and "all parties who had evidence to offer that would be helpful to full inquiry were asked to come forward and were informed that Commission counsel was at their disposal to help them place their evidence before the Commission." (Regina Riot Inquiry Commission Final Report, Volume 1, p. 3).

The Commission delayed commencement of its proceedings as the Dominion Government argued with the Provincial Government that the Commission required the consent and/or approval of the Dominion government to establish such a commission. The Commissioners felt certain they had clear and legal authorization, but delayed their proceedings and at one point asked to be relieved of the task assigned them before the proceedings began. The Dominion election of October 1935 resulted in the removal of the Conservative party of R.B. Bennett and brought in a Liberal government. The new Dominion Government changed its position and allowed the Commission's work to proceed.

Hearings of the Commission were held in Regina from 12 November 1935 to 10 February 1936 and from 4 to 12 March 1936. An informal session of the Commission occurred in Regina on 1936 January 11, in which the Commissioners and Counsel met to discuss the issues to be addressed by Commissioner Doak and Mr. Tourigny in sessions to be held in Vancouver and Calgary. The goals of the hearings outside of Saskatchewan included gathering information on the demonstrations that took place in Vancouver involving the relief camp workers as well as on the experience of Albertans when the workers passed through their province.

Orders-in-council passed by the Governments of Saskatchewan and British Columbia authorized Commissioner Doak to investigate matters outside of Saskatchewan with the same authority as within the province. Thus, additional hearings of the Commission were held from 17 to 21 February 1936 in Vancouver with His Honour A.E. Doak, Commissioner; and Lucien Tourigny, Counsel to the Commission present; and on 25 February 1936 in Calgary with His Honour A.E. Doak, Lucien Tourigny and H.E. Cutler, Official Court Reporter present.

During the term of the Commission 309 exhibits were filed and 359 witnesses examined, of which 143 appeared on behalf of the strikers, 126 on behalf of the Dominion Government and police forces, 32 on behalf of the Regina City Police and 58 called by Counsel for the Commission.

The Commission presented its findings on April 23, 1936.