Grade 8 History: the Rise of the Canadian City

Grade 8 History: the Rise of the Canadian City

Grade 8 History: The Rise of the CanadianCity

Canada experienced rapid expansion between 1881 and 1911. The growth of the cities and the growth of the factories were related to each other. Yet the rapid growth of cities also meant that people had to learn to live together in proximity. This reality brought with it new challenges.

What are some of the issues that arise when people are forced to live close together?

Working Conditions in Factories

Factories were dangerous places to work. Large machines were not powered by electricity but rather by steam. This meant that belts and pulleys ran throughout factories to drive the machines.

What are the kinds of dangers this presents?

Although factory work generally paid poorly, women and children earned less than men did for the same jobs. In 1911 in a Quebec textile mill females were paid on average 12.8¢ an hour. Men, on the other hand, earned 19.6¢ for similar work.

Why were men paid more for the same work?

Rising Voices Demanding Change

These social injustices did not go unnoticed. Various groups began to advocate for reform in the factories.


Christian churches began to support an interpretation of the bible that believed that it was the responsibility of Christians to work to improve their communities. Soon Christian churches began to operate charities to support the poor and they pressured the government to pass laws that protect workers. This movement became known as the Social Gospel movement.

Give an example of social gospel movement.


The Woman’s Christian Temperance Movement (WCTU) was founded in the 1870’s. This group supported prohibition – a banning of alcohol in society. In their opinion alcohol brought with it drunkenness, crime, family violence, and it ruined people’s lives. Alcohol was s social evil and needed to be controlled and even eliminated.

The WCTU also demanded that the government introduce laws that curtail child labour. They would also campaign against the use of tobacco and they supported the rights of women in society.


The terrible conditions inside of Canadian factories led many workers to unite together and join labour unions. Workers felt that if they bargained with one voice they could gain concessions (special considerations) from factory owners.

What are some concessions that workers might seek?

Oftentimes factory owners responded violently to the forming of unions and established their own police forces (union breakers) that would harass and terrorize any workers who tried to form or participate in union business.

Why doesn’t Wal-Mart allow for unions in any of their stores?

Wal-Mart’s Anti-Union Stance

Wal-Mart’s anti-union stance made headlines once again this year. After workers at a Wal-Mart store in Québec successfully unionized, Wal-Mart announced that it would close that store, citing “economic reasons.” Last September, Québec’s labor relations board rejected Wal-Mart’s argument and found thatWal-Mart’s firings were illegal.