District de Buckingham
Buckingham was a city located in the Outaouais region of the province of Quebec. Since January 1, 2002, it has been part of the amalgamated city of Gatineau which merged five former municipalities, including Masson-Angers, Buckingham, Hull, Aylmer and Gatineau, into a single entity. The 2006 population according to the 2006 Census is 22,078
t was in 1799, that land in this area was granted to John Robertson, a former member of a British regiment. The first people settled in Buckingham in 1823 and the first mill was built. More people would move to Buckingham in the years that followed.
The launch of the lumber industry
In 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte initiated a continental blockade which forced Great Britain to look to other sources for importing lumber. Soon, large wooded areas were discovered in Upper Canada, including the area that would become the Outaouais region. The lumber industry would be central to the region's economic development for over a century with wood pulp continuing to be important for several decades afterwards. It was only in 1837 that the first sawmill was built by the Bigelow group.
Throughout its history, the city of Buckingham's economy has been dominated by the MacLaren dynasty, which controlled several spheres of activities.
The MacLaren family, who have resided in the region since 1840, have dominated the lumber industry in the Outaouais for over a century. It was in 1864, that James MacLaren launched the family's activities in Buckingham by building a sawmill. The company became J. MacLaren & Co. and later The James McLaren Company Limited. James' two brothers later acquired the company after his death in 1892 and then launched a match company in Buckingham in 1894 which was incorporated a year later. The MacLarens later gained control of the hydroelectricity market in the community and also real estate development and sports facilities. The company would build a hydro dam along the Du Lièvre River, just north of Buckingham, at the start of the Great Depression. They would later built another one near Masson during the 1950s.
In 1902, the MacLaren group added the wood pulp industry to its activities by building a mill. They would later expand their activities across the region, adding mills in Masson, Mont-Laurier and Thurso located not to far from the Du Lièvre River. The Buckingham mill would close shortly before 1960.
On October 8, 1906 in Buckingham, Quebec, two trade union leaders were murdered by agents hired by the Maclaren Company. Thomas Belanger and Francois Theriault were president and secretary treasurer of the union local which was organized at Maclaren only a few months earlier. This event is an important part of the history of the struggle of workers for their rights in the Outaouais.
During the summer of 1906 workers at the Maclaren Sawmill in Buckingham began to organize themselves into a trade union. On July 15 of that year they held their first meeting and the union was founded on the July 29. More than 300 of the 400 workers at Maclaren became members. The union presented its demands on two separate occasions to the manager of the company, John Edward Valallee, who was also the mayor of Buckingham.
The union had three main demands:
1) recognition of the union; 2) reduction of the hours of work from 11 to 10 hours per day; 3) an increase in wages of 2.5 cents an hour (at this time the workers were paid 12.5 cents per hour).
All of the demands of the workers were immediately rejected. On September 12, 1906, the leaders of the union were fired and the company locked-out the workers. The union asked to meet with the company again for further discussion and the Quebec government sent a mediator to intervene. After some discussion with union representatives, the mediator, Felix Marois, met with the company to inform them that the union had reduced its demands so that the 2.5 cent increase would only apply to those workers making less than $1.25 per day.
Albert Maclaren replied that he would not agree to any increase in wages and furthermore he was not ready to take the workers back at their present wages. The Maclarens not only refused any further discussions but used everything at their disposal to attack the workers and their representatives. Articles appeared in the Buckingham Post and the Ottawa Citizen spreading lies and rumours and attacking the reputation of the union activists, saying that they were financed by "outside interests" and that they had "secret bank accounts."
At the same time the company hired "detectives" from the Thiel Detective Service Company who were secretly sworn in as members of the local police force. Police officers were also hired by the Maclarens from Ottawa and this entire force was armed and let loose on the town to harass and terrorize the workers and their families. Workers were followed around and treated like criminals and raids were carried out at the workers' homes.
On October 8, 1906 the Maclarens organized 13 strike breakers to clear some logs from the river near the Landing. This was an organized provocation with all the police forces armed to the teeth who were also at the Landing. Led by Thomas Belanger, about 200 men marched towards the Landing to ask that the work be stopped. Belanger, first vice-president of the union, spoke to the company representatives who dismissed the union demands and as the workers began to march the command was clearly heard: "Shoot them!" As the company goons fired on the unarmed workers, Belanger and Theriault were killed on the spot and dozens of others were injured. Enraged by this unprovoked attack the workers chased away the company goons and returned to pick up the bodies of their fallen comrades and treat the wounded. At this time the workers also discovered that the murder of the union leaders was premeditated. Several of the "detectives" caught by the workers after the shooting had pictures of Thomas Belanger in their pockets and it was clear from their wounds that the union leaders had been specifically targeted.
On the same day around midnight, 117 soldiers were brought to Buckingham to protect the property of the company. On October 10, 38 mounted soldiers from the Royal Canadian Dragoons of St. Jean were also added. The military occupation of Buckingham continued until October 23, 1906.
The attack against the workers continued even after the military occupation ended. On the orders of the Maclaren family the city of Buckingham was forced to rewrite its history. All the events which had just taken place were to be forgotten. The minutes of the city council did not mention a word about the strike or the lock-out, nor was there any mention of a military occupation. The Maclarens also interfered in the judicial proceedings which followed. Coroners and juries were replaced if they did not favour the company and the Maclarens used the offices of the Premier of Quebec, Lomer Gouin, to make sure that the company and the "detectives" were exonerated of all blame while the workers and their supporters were found guilty of participating in a riot and sentenced to two months imprisonment.
The Maclarens also blacklisted all the members of the union and enforced it with such vindictiveness that none of the 262 workers involved in the union were allowed to work. As well, the black list was maintained for several generations and was officially enforced until 1944 when the union was finally certified both at Maclaren and at the Electric Reduction Company (ERCO). During this period the population of Buckingham went from 4,425 to 3,850, as many workers had to move to Cobalt, Fassett, Bathurst and other towns to be able to work.
In their struggle against the Maclaren capitalists, the workers had the support of the vast majority of the population of Buckingham. On the day of the funerals of Belanger and Theriault, businesses closed in mourning and people lined the route to pay their respects to the workers who marched to Saint Gregoire church. The church was unable to hold all the people who had marched along with the workers. After the funeral, a monument was erected at the graves of Belanger and Theriault to honour their ultimate sacrifice for the cause of the workers.
Letters were received from all corners of Quebec, Canada and the U.S. expressing solidarity with the struggle of the workers in Buckingham. Since that time the workers at Maclaren have continued their struggle against the poor working and living conditions imposed by the company and one important element of their struggle has always been to keep alive the memory of those heroes who laid down their lives and brought honour to the working class.
In the last quarter of the 20th century, the MacLaren companies began their decline, selling some assets to Noranda Inc. in the early 1980s.In 2000, the company sold its remaining assets to Nexfor a Toronto-based institution.
Today, the MacLaren dynasty still retains its legacy, with a street and a park named after them. However, because of the 1906 labour dispute and incidents, union groups such as the FTQ demanded that the city change the name of the street to Rue du 8 octobre 1906 (October 8, 1906 street) in honour of the victims of the shooting. Many citizens were opposed to the change and launched a petition of their own to prevent the change.
From 1975 to 1980 the township of Buckingham, Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette, L'Ange-Gardien, Buckingham-Sud-Est, Buckingham-Ouest, Angers, and Masson were amalgamated.
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