List of riots and civil unrest in Calgary

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The following is a timeline of riots and civil unrest in Calgary, Alberta.[1] Since its incorporation as a town in 1884, like other cities, Calgary has had to deal with a variety of violence. Calgary has been credited with maintaining relative civility during duress.[2] The Great Depression in Canada has received particular attention from sociologists and historians, including Thomas Thorner and Neil Watson who wrote, "There is little question that Calgary experienced its share of civil strife during the Depression. Battles between police and the single unemployed men, full scale riots and threats to blow up public buildings appear to have been almost annual events."[3] According to Stephen Graham, a Professor of Human Geography at Durham University, recent events have seen the City of Calgary change their tactics towards civil unrest activities such as protests.[4]


Riots and civil unrest in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in chronological order
Date Issue Event
August 2, 1892 Racial tension After the Chinese community was blamed for a smallpox outbreak, a race riot ensued. The event started when city authorities burned a laundry where a Chinese worker contracted the disease, and its occupants were quarantined. Nine Chinese contracted the disease, and three died. Alleging the spread was caused by unhygienic living conditions, a mob of over 300 men smashed doors and windows of all the Chinese laundries, destroyed and looted property, and assaulted Chinese residents. As the riot ended, police arrived. Many in the Chinese community sought refuge at the North-West Mounted Police barracks or in the homes of clergymen. The NWMP patrolled Calgary continuously for the next 3 weeks to protect Chinese Calgarians.[5][6][7][8]
July 16, 1902 Labour unrest The Calgary Trades and Labour Council hosts a demonstration with several thousand participants in support of local labour.[9]
February 10, 1916 Ethnic and labour tension An anti-German riot destroys the Riverside Hotel located at 4 Street S.E. and Boulevard Avenue. It reportedly started because the owner was German.[10] During the same month 500 servicemen and civilians destroy Nagel's White Lunch Cafe after the owner reportedly hired an Austrian immigrant instead of a returning soldier.[11]
October 11, 1916 Military unrest Soldiers from the 218th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, or CEF, overcame the local police. "The city virtually is in the hands of the soldier mob"[12][13][14][15] Morris "Two Gun" Cohen was implicated as a leader of the events during a series of trials held in the city; however, he was acquitted after successfully defending himself in court.[16][17]
January 1918 Labour unrest Calgary freight handlers go on strike in defiance of a federal ban on strikes. Civic workers, street railway workers and teamsters walked out in sympathy. Five strike leaders were arrested, paving the way towards the creation of the One Big Union.[18]
February 8, 1917 Military unrest Soldiers from the former 218th Battalion of the CEF having been relocated from Calgary to Edmonton, rioted on 101 Street after being ordered to depart immediately for Europe. They attacked 14 stores, restaurants and cafes throughout the city.[19]
May 1919 Labour unrest After the formation of the One Big Union in Calgary in March 1919, the Calgary General Strike was held in solidarity with the Winnipeg General Strike. There was almost a full stoppage of local government, industrial and commercial activities in the city after thousands of workers stopped work for more than a month.[20]
January 1926 Unemployment More than 40 protesters with the Central Council of the Unemployed were arrested by police after ordering meals and refusing to pay in protest of the city's refusal to provide relief for the homeless and jobless.
December 1926 Unemployment 300 protesters with the Central Council of the Unemployed marched on City Hall for "relief" in the form of places to sleep, food to eat and transportation to work sites.[21]
June 30, 1931 Unemployment After several days of "ominous silence" among Calgary's unemployed, a meeting was held between the National Unemployed Workers Association and members of the Calgary City Council. When the crowd gathered outside, it was told to disperse by the Calgary Police. They re-assembled in a nearby vacant lot called "Red Square." After a series of speeches, the crowd was told to disperse, and when they did not, police took away a popular speaker from the platform. A riot ensued, which a local newspaper referred to saying, "It appears to have come to a showdown; the authority of the city is challenged which must be met decisively."[22]
June 10, 1935 Unemployment Hundreds of protesters participating in the On-to-Ottawa Trek took hostages at the Calgary Relief Office for several hours before continuing out of the city. Hundreds of more protesters joined the movement as it left the city, effectively laying the foundation for the violent confrontation in Regina several weeks later. Prime Minister R.B. Bennett had decided against taking action against the trekkers in Calgary.[23]
1940 Racial tension A group of 300 white soldiers rioted in Calgary’s "Harlemtown" near the railway tracks east of downtown. After they invaded the home of a black band leader, military police intervened and were credited with ending the incident.[24][25][26][27]
November 1970 Racial tension The Calgary Urban Treaty Indian Alliance held a demonstration over social service funding in which dozens of men, women and children occupied the Indian Affairs office in the city. Government officials labeled the participants "terrorists". The local papers charged the protesters with "public mischief" and civil infractions. While charges were not lodged against demonstrators, several reported increased government discrimination against them afterward.[28]
December 2, 1983 Sporting disruption A riot broke out during a Stampede Wrestling match at the Ogden Auditorium. Speaking of the events, announcer Ed Whalen remarked, "We're starting to scare the patrons with this violence outside the ring, and I will not be associated with it anymore."[29] The event led to Stampede Wrestling being banned from Calgary for six months by the city's wrestling and boxing commission, and within a year the operation was sold to the World Wrestling Federation.[30]
October 20, 1993 Education 2,000 students walkout of Calgary's schools to protest cuts to education, causing public disruption and raising awareness about the situation in education funding.[31]
June 11–15, 2000 Anti-globalization 2,000 protesters participated in a "carnivalesque" atmosphere at the World Petroleum Congress while 1,500 police from a number of jurisdictions were involved in counter-protest operations. Other measures included, "police 'spotters' positioned on top of downtown office towers while helicopters busily circled overhead."[32]
June 25–27, 2002 Anti-globalization About 4000-5000 demonstrators participate in a variety of events throughout Calgary in protest of the Group of Eight, or G8, meeting in Kananaskis, Alberta.[33][34]
March 21, 2008 Racial tension The Aryan Guard staged a demonstration in downtown Calgary on Good Friday and United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racism.[35][36][37] More than 40[38] supporters of the Aryan Guard faced a crowd of more than 200 anti-racist protesters, including anarchists, communists and union leaders, who prevented the Guard from reaching their planned meeting place at the Mewata Armouries. Police then formed a human barrier between the two groups and blocked the movement of the counter-protesters while escorting the Aryan Guard down Stephen Avenue and up the steps of City Hall, where they waved flags proclaiming "White Pride Worldwide."[39] Members of the Aryan Guard also taunted local anti-racism activists whose home was fire bombed on February 12, 2008, while they and their four children were inside.[40]


  1. ^ Jamieson, S. "Some reflections on violence and the law in industrial relations," in Bercuson, D.J. and Knafla, L.A. (1979) Law and society in Canada in historical perspective. University of Calgary. See pp. 141, 145 and 150 for multiple analyses of the riots and civil unrest in Calgary.
  2. ^ Torrance, J.M.C. (1986) Public Violence in Canada, 1867-1982. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p 135.
  3. ^ Thorner, T. and Watson, N. (1981) "Patterns of Prairie Crime: Calgary, 1875-1939," in Crime and Criminal Justice in Europe and Canada. Knafla, L.A. (ed.) Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfried Laurier University Press, p. 231.
  4. ^ Graham, S. (2004) Cities, War, and Terrorism: Towards an Urban Geopolitics. Blackwell Publishing. p 223.
  5. ^ "Calgary Timeline", Calgary Public Library. Retrieved 4/22/08.
  6. ^ "Asian North American History Project." ExplorASIAN. Retrieved 4/22/08.
  7. ^ "Calgary's Chinese community", University of Calgary. Retrieved 4/22/08.
  8. ^ Torrance, J.M.C. (1986) Public Violence in Canada, 1867-1982. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p 31.
  9. ^ Bright, D. (1999) The Limits of Labour: Class Formation and the Labour Movement in Calgary. UBC Press. p 85.
  10. ^ "Glenbow library and archives", University of Alberta/Glenbow Museum. Retrieved 4/22/08.
  11. ^ Bright, D. (1999) p 139.
  12. ^ "Soldiers riot in Calgary", The New York Times. October 12, 1916. Retrieved 4/22/08.
  13. ^ Lackenbauer, P.W. (2007) "Soldiers Behaving Badly: CEF Soldier 'Rioting' in Canada during the First World War," in The Apathetic and the Defiant: Case Studies of Canadian Mutiny and Disobedience, 1812 to 1919, ed. Craig Leslie Mantle. Kingston: CDA Press/Dundurn. p 195-260.
  14. ^ Lackenbauer, P. W. (2005) "Partisan Politics, Civic Priorities, and the Urban Militia: Situating the Calgary Armoury, 1907-17", Urban History Review 33(2) p. 45-60.
  15. ^ Lackenbauer, P.W. (2001) "The Government is in No Way Responsible for the Wrong-Doing of its Soldiers:’ Disciplinary and Legal Dimensions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Riots in Calgary." In Perspectives on War: Essays on Security, Society and the State. C. Bullock and J. Dowding (eds) Society for Military and Strategic Studies. p 75-91.
  16. ^ Levy, D.S. (2002) Two-Gun Cohen. Macmillan. p 82-95.
  17. ^ Drage, C. (1964) The Life and Times of General Two-Gun Cohen. Funk and Wagnals. p 61.
  18. ^ The Strike as Political Protest. Simon Fraser University. Retrieved 4/22/08.
  19. ^ Levy, D.S. (2002) Two-Gun Cohen. Macmillan. p 95.
  20. ^ "Calgary 1919: The Birth of the OBU and the General Strike - Eugene Plawiuk". Retrieved 4/22/08.
  21. ^ Bright, D. (1999) p 187.
  22. ^ Knafla, L.A. (ed.) (1981) Crime and Criminal Justice in Europe and Canada, Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfried Laurier University Press. p 246.
  23. ^ Ross, J.I. (2004) Violence in Canada: Sociopolitical Perspectives, Transaction Publishers. p 82.
  24. ^ "Calgary Timeline", Calgary Public Library. Retrieved 7/8/08.
  25. ^ Palmer, H., Palmer, T.J. and Palmer, T. (1985) Peoples of Alberta: Portraits of Cultural Diversity. Western Producer Prairie Books. p. 387.
  26. ^ (1963) "Color prejudice in Canada", Anthropological Journal of Canada. Anthropological Association of Canada, Guild of American Prehistorians. p 7.
  27. ^ Carter, S. (1997) Capturing Women: The Manipulation of Cultural Imagery in Canada's Prairie West, McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p 197.
  28. ^ Treat, J. (2003) Around the Sacred Fire: Native Religious Activism in the Red Power Era, Macmillan. p 258.
  29. ^ McCoy, H. (2005) Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling. CanWest Books. p 187.
  30. ^ Meltzer, D. (2004) Tributes II: Remembering More of the World's Greatest Professional Wrestlers. Sports Publishing LLC. pp 105-106.
  31. ^ Harrison, T., Kachur, J.L. (1999) Contested Classrooms: Education, Globalization, and Democracy in Alberta. p 127.
  32. ^ della Porta, D., Peterson, A. and Reiter, H. (2006) The Policing of Transnational Protest: An introduction, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p 83.
  33. ^ della Porta, D., Peterson, A. and Reiter, H. (2006) The Policing of Transnational Protest: An introduction. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p .
  34. ^ Marquis, S. "Thousands protest G8 in Calgary". Asheville Global Report, 2. June 2002. Retrieved 7/13/08.
  35. ^ Barr, MA. :Fight against racism is far from over", Red Deer Advocate. March 25, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-06-18.
  36. ^ Cariou, K. "Calgary Anti-racists challenge Neo-Nazi threats", People's Voice. March 16–31, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  37. ^ "International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 21 March" Archived 2009-10-17 at the Wayback Machine., United Nations website. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  38. ^ Komarnicki, J. "Anti-racists clash with Aryan Guard" Archived 2008-03-23 at the Wayback Machine.,, Retrieved March 21, 2008.
  39. ^ Fernandez, P. "Skinhead rally causes clash", Calgary Sun. March 22, 2008. pg 3.
  40. ^ Fernandez, P. "Faces of hate unashamedly spew message", Calgary Sun. March 23, 2008. p 4.