Evans, Arthur “Slim” (1890-1944)

Born on April 24, 1890, in Toronto, Arthur H. “Slim” Evans left school at the age of 13 to help support his family. He sold newspapers, drove a team of horses and learned the carpentry trade. He came west in 1911, working at various jobs on the prairies before moving from Winnipeg to Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment for participating in a free speech demonstration by the International Workers of the World (IWW): his “crime” was reading aloud the Declaration of Independence. He was released in 1912 after leading a jail strike of political prisoners. A year later, he was present at the massacre of workers and their families in Ludlow, Colorado and was hospitalized with leg wounds from a machine-gun bullet. During this period, Evans fraternized with such famous labour leaders as “Big Bill” Haywood, Frank Little, and Joe Hill. He then left for Kimberly, BC, where he became organizer for the IWW. He led the One Big Union miners in a strike at Drumheller, Alberta in 1919-20 and was sentenced to three years in prison - allegedly for using United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) funds for a wildcat strike without permission. He secured an early release because of a petition from the miners he supposedly robbed.

As an organizer for the Communist Party in BC, he was expelled for fighting the corrupt leadership of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners in Vancouver. In 1932, he organized the National Unemployed Workers Association and won increased rates for relief work. Having helped the coal miners of Princeton strike for higher wages, Evans was imprisoned for eighteen months in Oakalla after police worked in collusion with the Ku Klux Klan to frame him. To protest the welfare of unemployed single men in Prime Minister R.B. Bennett's “slave camps” in the early 1930s, Evans conceived and later led the most substantial labour protest in Canadian history, the On-to-Ottawa Trek. After the trek was stopped in Regina on orders from the Prime Minister, Evans led a delegation invited to Ottawa on June 22, 1935, to meet with him. When Bennett called him a thief, Evans shot back, “Bennett, you're a liar!”

The RCMP and Regina City Police were ordered to arrest the Trek leaders. On July 1, 1935, police armed with clubs, tear gas and guns broke up an open-air meeting, sparking the Regina Riot. Evans was arrested under Section 98 of the criminal code; the charges were later withdrawn as there was not enough evidence to proceed to trial. Two years later, he helped organize workers at the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company in Trail, BC. The same year, he led a campaign for a medical fund to support the Canadian Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion fighting the Facist Franco regime in Spain.

Evans died on February 13, 1944, after being struck by a car.

Clare Powell

Further Reading

Waiser, B. 2003. All Hell Can't Stop Us: The On-to-Ottawa Trek and Regina Riot. Saskatoon: Fifth House.