Posts Tagged ‘youth in revolt’

How a band of youthful criminals launched forth on a career of
bloodshed, and for months waged a relentless war against society. Their
terrible doings caused a regular reign of terror in Chicago, but
finally, after a series of exciting episodes, the outlaws were run to

EARLY on the morning of August 30th, 1903, occurred
the sanguinary climax of as audacious and merciless a series of
outrages as ever blackened the records of the great city of Chicago.
Three boy outlaws, already steeped crime and murder, walked into the
car-barns of the Chicago City Railway Company at Sixty-first and State
Streets, and “held up” the office of the cashier for the night’s
earnings of the company. In so doing they murdered two men and wounded
two others, but for that they cared nothing, since they themselves
escaped temporarily without detection. The very boldness of the crime
committed in the heart of a city of two million population, and the
callous recklessness which produced such unnecessarily fatal results,
would of themselves have sufficed to strike horror into the citizens;
but when it is added to this that there had preceded it a series of
hold-ups extending over several months and involving several deaths, it
may be conceived that Chicago promptly woke up and demanded justice on
the perpetrators. The people wanted to know what the police were going
to do about it, and the police accordingly strained every nerve to find
the guilty bandits. They remembered that holdup after hold-up had
occurred in the past few months without anybody being punished. Nor did
the highwaymen leave any clue by which they might be traced. They
vanished into the night, and that was the last of them.

The story
of these hold-ups was always the same — some unsuspecting men at work or
taking their ease; the sudden appearance of three boyish desperadoes; a
shot or two to break the silence of the night; and another murder to be
added to the list of Chicago’s crimes. Within three months no fewer
than eight men had died to the sound of cracking revolvers in the hands
of these downy-faced youths, and at least half-a-dozen others carried
the scars of wounds. Otto Bauder, Adolph Johnson, and B. C. La Crosse
were murdered in different saloon hold-ups, and Peter Gorski was shot
down during an attack on his establishment. To vary the monotony, T. W.
Lathrop, agent for the Chicago and North-Western Railway, was wounded
during an attack on Clybourn Junction, the station at which he was
agent. In nearly every case the shooting’ was wanton, as it was quite
unnecessary to proceed so far to secure the booty. One curious feature
of the case is the very small amount obtained by the robbers. The death
of one saloon-keeper netted them only two dollars thirty-five cents. At
the next hold-up they did somewhat better, since they bagged two men and
got fourteen dollars from each of them. At this rate they could make
more money by honest labour, and they decided to go after something big.
The car-barn robbery followed.

It was in the small hours of the
night of August 30th that the dramatic finale to this series of outrages
was enacted. The employes in the cashier’s office of the railway
company were busy balancing the receipts of the night. The last
conductor had just turned over his money and left the barn. Suddenly
sinister shadows fell on the floor, and Frank Stewart, the assistant
clerk in the office, looked up in surprise. An instant later a revolver
cracked and Stewart fell, fatally wounded. Almost instantly Henry Biehl,
another clerk, dropped from his stool wounded in the head, and William
B. Edmond was struck in the thigh. In an inner room lay Motorman J. E.
Johnson, asleep. He was awakened by the sound of firing just in time to
meet his death. Then the bandits broke open the cashier’s desk with a
sledge-hammer and took from it two thousand two hundred and fifty
dollars in silver and bills. Thirty minutes later the youthful outlaws
were sitting in the under-brush of Jackson Park waiting for the day to
bring light enough to divide the plunder. Then they calmly boarded a
street-car and rode over to the West Side, reading in the early morning
newspapers the account of their exploit. For weeks not a car left the
barns that did not bear in big letters a notice offering a reward of
five thousand dollars for the capture of the murderers.

For a long
time the police found not the slightest clue to the identity of the
criminals. In the office exploded cartridges proved that automatic
revolvers had been used. The same kind of shells had been found at the
scene of several of the other hold-ups, and since this weapon was new to
the highwayman industry the police naturally concluded that the same
persons were responsible for all the crimes. Then out of the clear sky
came the thunder-bolt of discovery. A young man named Gustave Marx, who
had been drinking heavily of late, showed an automatic revolver and
boasted that the police could not take him alive. Chief of Police O’Neil
detailed Detectives Quinn and Blaul to arrest Marx. At a saloon which
he frequented they found this young man. He was quiet, self-contained,
and quite master of himself. Apparently he had nothing to conceal from
the world, but when the detectives stated their mission his true nature
flared out. There was a sudden gleam of steel, a flash, a report, and
Detective Quinn pitched forward in his tracks, dead. Blaul was saved
only by a hitch in the working of the weapon. Before Marx could right
the defect in the mechanism Blaul was grappling with him for dear life.
Assistance came to the detective, and he succeeded in securing his man.
In Marx the police felt confident they had secured one of the murderous
gang of bandits who had terrorized Chicago for many months.

It had
been understood among the band that if any member of the gang were
caught the rest were to dynamite the prison to secure his escape. Marx
waited for a few days, expecting his comrades to attempt to rescue him.
It appears that such a rescue was intended. According to Peter
Niedemier, the chief of the gang, the attempt was planned. When the
fewest men were known to be about the station the outlaws were to walk
in at the front door, kill the man at the desk and any other officers
who happened to be in the way, and then take the keys from the
gaol-keeper or blow off the lock with dynamite. But Marx did not know
about this. He grew moody and bitter because he alone had been captured,
and concluded that his accomplices had deserted him. Perhaps in pique,
perhaps in fear, he blurted out the full story of the car-barn robbery
and murder.

Meanwhile his comrades, Peter Niedemier, Harvey Van
Dine, and Emil Roeski, of whom the former was leader of the gang and the
latter a weak youth whom they had lately got to join them, had been
haunting the home of Detective Blaul, whom they had decided to kill in
revenge for the capture of their comrade. Fortunately for himself,
however, the officer happened to be out of town. The outlaws devised
several futile plans to rescue Marx, but, learning suddenly that he had
made a concession to the police, sought safety in flight. It shows the
desperate nature of these young ruffians, not one of whom was over
twenty-three, that they waited in Chicago for weeks, though they knew
that the entire police force was hunting high and low for them. Word
came to the authorities at last that Van Dine and Niedemier had been
seen at a grocery store at Clark, Indiana, where they had gone to buy
provisions. Immediately the officers were rushed to the scene, seven
policemen arriving at Clark from Chicago on a Friday morning. They were
met by H. F. Reichers, who had reported the clue, and who had tracked
the trio secretly to the “dug-out ” where they were hiding.

position of the besieged was an excellent one for defence. The country
was very rough, sandy, and broken, and dotted at intervals with
gravel-pits. Furthermore, the hut was on a hill-top, so that it
commanded the approach from the railroad embankment below. It was up
this incline that the police had to charge. The officers advanced in a
circle, guided by Reichers, and were allowed to get so near that they
thought the robbers had escaped. Driscoll, one of the detectives, picked
up a stick and flung it playfully at the hut. There came a flash, a
sharp report, and Driscoll fell forward. At the same instant Roeski
appeared at the door, and was ordered to surrender. He darted back into
the cave, and promptly the magazine guns of the bandits began to volley
at the officers. Concealing themselves behind trees and bushes as best
they could, the police returned the fire. Suddenly, through the smoke,
two men ran crouching; from the “dug-out.” One of them, Emil Roeski,
sped away in flight, but Harvey Van Dine, the second outlaw, was made of
different stuff. He had been a soldier in Cuba and seen service in the
Philippines. He retreated slowly, step by step, keeping up a withering
fire meanwhile.

A minute later Niedemier emerged from the hut and
fatally wounded Driscoll. The two young desperadoes were not in the
least excited by the firing, but backed away toward the tracks of the
Michigan Central Railway, the revolvers in each of their hands speaking
steadily. Detective Zimmer exposed himself slightly, and Van Dine shot
him through the arm. Before he fell to the ground another bullet from
Van Dine’s revolver had entered his head. With one dying man on their
hands and one very seriously wounded, the police were in no condition to
give immediate pursuit to the robbers. Van Dine and Niedemier had flung
themselves flat on the railroad track and were keeping up a steady
revolver fire, but presently they retreated with the honours of the day.
Roeski, unnerved and wounded, could hardly drag himself after his
leaders. He was oppressed by the fear that they would murder him in
order to get rid of him, and he took the first chance to slip away into a
cornfield by himself. From here he retreated toward Tolleston, Indiana,
to which point he was traced by five citizens. They found him in the
Wabash Station at Etna, lying unarmed and asleep, and without any
trouble captured him and sent him to Chicago.

Directly the result
of the skirmish became known fifty policemen, armed with rifles, were
rushed to the front on a special train, and the man-hunt was renewed.
Van Dine and Niedemier had cut across country for a mile till they
reached the tracks of the Pennsylvania Railway. Here on the side-track
lay a switch-engine, with a train of cars attached to it.

fugitives, driven to extremity, decided to seize the train and escape.
They sprang boldly into the cab of the engine, where they found Fireman
Frank Coffey, the engineer being absent at the time. Brakeman Sovea
crawled over the tender in an attempt to warn Coffey before the outlaws
should reach him. He arrived just in time to confront Niedemier’s
revolver. The outlaw leader commanded him to throw the switch. The
daring brakeman refused to do so and grappled with him instead, trying
to wrest the pistol from his hand.

“The man doesn’t live who can take a gun from me,” said Niedemier, coolly, and killed Sovea instantly.

unfortunate man pitched head-first out of the cab with a bullet in his
brain, while the terrified Coffey uncoupled the engine from the train
and flung open the lever on a wild run for Liverpool. A few hundred
yards away in the woods were a number of armed farmers who had heard of
the escape and were out to cut off the fugitives. They reached Tolleston
about noon, just as the engine dashed past them. Some of them ran
across the plain to a curve of the road, which swings round at this
point, and reached a locked switch, just closed by telegraphic order to
stop the stolen engine. Here Fireman Coffey stopped the engine of
necessity, but the bandits, with ready resource, forced him to run it
back for a mile along the track which they had just traversed. There the
fugitives leaped to the ground and took to a swamp. But they could not
escape from their pursuers. Hundreds of men were now out after them, and
they were trapped like wild beasts. Even as they fled a band of
rabbit-hunters caught sight of them crossing a fence into a cornfield.
The sportsmen turned loose a volley of bird-shot upon the weary
refugees. It caught Niedemier full in the face, while Van Dine also
received his share in the hands, face, and throat. The country was
rough, and the outlaws were weary to the point of exhaustion. It was
easy for the officers and farmers to track them through the new-fallen

“The game’s up,” said the leader, and Van Dine nodded a
surly assent; but for some time they continued to exchange a rapid fire
with the enemy.

“There’s no use killing any more of those fellows. Let’s give up,” said Niedemier.

two emerged from the cornfield and surrendered. Chained wrist to wrist,
their hair matted with dried blood, their eyes haggard and their faces
pallid, these two beardless outlaws were put aboard a train for Chicago.
That night they sat before Mayor Harrison and Chief of Police O’Neil,
calmly confessing their share in the four months’ war which they had
just finished waging against society. Marx and Niedemier, posing as
desperadoes of the worst kind, even confessed to murders which they did
not commit. Yet it is probable that Niedemier, as a boy of fifteen, shot
a detective in Ontario for ordering him from the top of a freight

These curious criminal types offer a strange study. They
appear to have come by their lawlessness legitimately, so to speak, for
the father of Van Dine is a fugitive in Mexico and Marx’s father is in
prison. Entirely without moral instincts, these degenerates spoke of killing men as callously as other youths of their age speak of shooting rabbits.
Van Dine was an excellent engineer, while Marx was a painter by trade.
But the fascination of criminal life allured them. As Van Dine phrased
it, “I wanted something exciting; something with ‘ginger’ in it. That’s
all there is to it.” Their nerve stayed with them till the last. They
were tried, and the three leaders were condemned to be hanged, their
tool, Roeski, receiving a life sentence. A few days before the date set
for the execution Peter Niedemier made two deliberate attempts to commit
suicide. For weeks he had been borrowing and saving matches. He
swallowed the phosphorus of which the heads were made, and then
proceeded to sever an artery in his left wrist. He had boasted that he
would never die on the gallows, and he did his best to keep his word.
But in this he did not succeed. Too weak to walk, he was carried to the
scaffold in a chair. Gustave Marx, Harvey Van Dine, and Peter Niedemier
were executed on Friday, April 22nd, 1904. They left an appalling record
of bloodshed behind them. At their merciless hands Otto Bauder, Adolph
Johnson, Benjamin C. La Crosse, J. E. Johnson, Frank Stewart, John
Quinn, J. D. Driscoll, and John Sovea suffered death, and many others
were badly wounded. Including themselves eleven lives have been
sacrificed to pay the penalty of their wild attempt to disregard the
laws of society.

– M. W. Raime, “The Boy Bandits of Chicago.” The Wide World Magazine, October 1904.  pp. 79-83.

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“C’est à Binet, au début du XXème siècle, que nous devons une des premières formes modernes d’observation du corps des enfants instables, les retardés scolaires. Il propose de combiner les mesures anthropométriques et un regard attentif sur le corps de ces enfants, afin de pouvoir bien les distinguer et ainsi adapter un traitement destiné à leur venir en aide, ou tout au moins «éveiller l’attention du pédagogue». C’est ce qu’il appelle les idées modernes sur l’éducation. L’idée de combiner plusieurs types d’approches, dictée par l’état des connaissances anthropométriques de l’époque, ne permettait pas de conclure à l’existence de liens avec l’intelligence de l’écolier. Mais «sans doute des corrélations existent», pense-t-il. Après avoir examiné 600 enfants du primaire, il conclut «que les avancés-intellectuels, sont plus nombreux parmi les avancés-physiques que parmi les retardés-physiques». Cette règle ne se vérifie pas sur un petit groupe (il y a 21 % de chétifs parmi les avancés-intellectuels), mais plutôt dans les grands nombres, remarque-t-il.

Binet s’inscrit néanmoins dans le courant hygiéniste qui associe le corps des pauvres, des faibles et des délinquants à la mise en danger de la race. Il entend construire sur les enfants un savoir total. Il diffuse largement ses idées dans le système primaire, par les réunions qu’il anime, par son enseignement et par les revues auxquelles il collabore. Binet est, en France, le créateur de la psychologie et de l’orientation scolaires. Il a une position intellectuelle forte. Il est à l’origine de la constitution d’un savoir spécifique sur les élèves en difficulté scolaire. Ce savoir concerne l’intelligence, mais aussi le corps. A travers le développement physique, mesuré en partie par les données anthropométriques, «l’avenir de notre race et l’organisation de notre société» sont en jeu, dit-il. Il place ainsi l’étude du corps dans une perspective démographique et sociale, domaine bien plus large que les 600 élèves de son enquête, dans laquelle il postule des corrélations visibles entre le physique et l’intellectuel.

Le corps des élèves est un sujet d’inquiétude. Il faut apprendre à le regarder. Le regard est, pour Binet, un instrument de mesure sûr. Toutefois, il recommande de ne pas pratiquer les examens corporels avec un état d’esprit trop optimiste, qui fausserait l’acuité du regard. Lors de l’examen du corps, le regard doit se porter sur «l’attitude du corps, la coloration de la peau, du visage, la forme et l’expression des traits». Le corps des enfants instables, des retardés scolaires, se distingue clairement de celui des autres enfants, car il dégage «une impression indéfinissable de misère physiologique».

Les enfants de pauvres, qui constituent la majorité des enfants à problèmes, sont reconnaissables à leur corps moins développé, «chétif, maigre […] au système nerveux mal équilibré». Si le regard est attentif, on peut y voir «un tube digestif qui digère mal, un estomac dilaté, un sang qui n’est pas assez riche». L’examinateur verrait donc l’intérieur du corps. Binet octroie ainsi aux éducateurs un pouvoir redoutable sur le corps des enfants difficiles. En même temps, il contribue à déposséder ces enfants de leur propre corps, qui n’est défini qu’en termes négatifs au regard de la personne, de la race et de l’ordre social.

Ce corps des enfants à problèmes, qui résulte d’une double misère, physiologique et sociale, produit des déclassés, des mécontents, des révolutionnaires. Ces résultats sont, dit-il, identiques à ceux obtenus dans d’autres pays, par de nombreux chercheurs.

Les chétifs, les malingres, les enfants dont le développement du corps est retardé sont issus de parents «de condition pauvre et même misérable». Dans ce type de raisonnement, le corps faible est celui du pauvre, et il doit changer car il est dangereux pour la société. De ce point de vue, quelle que soit la pensée de l’auteur, et Binet est sincèrement attaché à l’aide aux enfants en difficulté, ce lien qu’il établit entre le corporel et le danger pour la race produit, in fine, une pensée intolérante et discriminatoire. Parmi les auteurs ayant abouti aux mêmes conclusions que lui, Binet cite Niceforo.26 Ce dernier a étudié, en 1905, «la classe pauvre » en France. Il est un des auteurs favoris de l’anthropo-sociologue Vacher de Lapouge qui le cite abondamment. Niceforo définit, lui aussi, les enfants pauvres comme faibles de taille, de poids, de périmètre thoracique, de circonférence de tête, de hauteur de front.27 Il fait de cette faiblesse une infériorité, et de cette dernière, une dégénérescence. Il note que les classes pauvres sont fécondes en dégénérés.

Liant le tout, il en conclut que leur corps faible est la cause principale de leur état social: «L’état misérable est et sera toujours l’effet de leur infériorité physique et mentale. Appliquant son modèle à l’exode rural, il met en garde contre «les débiles de corps et d’esprit, les paresseux, les alcooliques, les demi-infirmes […] ce flot impur de dégénérés [qui] arrive en ville». Le corps des pauvres est devenu celui des dégénérés, en qui Vacher de Lapouge voit «des sauvages primitifs à mentalité trop rudimentaire ». Eugéniste, malthusien, il fait de ces corps chétifs et malingres, faibles, le danger inacceptable pour la régénération de la race. Il sont «les descendants non éliminés des inaptes à la vie civilisée », qui contrarient le renouvellement satisfaisant de l’espèce humaine, dont ils sont exclus. La régénération de la race ne peut passer par eux, lorsqu’on a comme projet la sélection de l’espèce par « l’aristocratie héréditaire » qu’appelle de ses vœux Carrel.

La dégénérescence du corps, visible par des malformations diverses, devient la caractéristique des délinquants, de tous ceux qui constituent, selon Van-Etten en 1937, l’adolescence coupable. Pour Dussenty, dans sa thèse de droit, «le nombre des dégénérés est très grand»; la dégradation du corps, associée «aux tares nerveuses», est la cause essentielle du vagabondage des mineurs. Il appelle à la création de centres de tri et d’observation de la jeunesse vagabonde, en difficulté sociale et personnelle.”


Francis Mendiague,
“Regards du corps et archaïsmes. L’ordonnancement des déviances par la rééducation du corps.”

Revue d’histoire de l’enfance «irrégulière».

Numéro 9 | 2007 : Violences et jeunesse, pp. 195-198.

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“Camps Urged For Jobless,” The Globe and Mail. October 22, 1938. Page 04.

Public Work in Centres Similar to C.C.C. Project in U.S. Suggested to Ottawa by Rev C. E. Silcox


To appeals on behalf of unemployed transients made to the Federal government by the Community Welfare Council of Ontario and the Welfare Council of Toronto, there was added yesterday a further appeal from the general secretary of the Social Service Council of Canada.

He suggested camps similar to the C.C.C. camps in the United States for younger men, and separate similar camps for the older.

The position of unemployed transients, of whom 110 are being temporarily housed in Holy Trinity Parish Hall, Toronto, was described by Rev. C. E. Silcox, General Secretary of the Council, in a letter to Hon. Norman Rogers, Minister of Labor, yesterday as ‘a peace emergency,’ and a responsibility of the Federal Government.

‘If we confronted a war emergency – and we came very close to it – the barriers would soon be removed,’ said Mr. Silcox in his message. ‘This is a peace emergency which confronts us and here, too, some solid thinking and co-operation will help mightily.’

‘There would be no necessity for us to make the mistakes which were made in the previous experiment in such camps in this country,’ he wrote. ‘In camps for both the younger and the middle-aged, a certain amount of military training and discipline, together with suitable educational facilities would be wholesome. If these camps could be located where some useful public work is being put through, it would be all to the good. The men might even be employed in the laying out of new and important air fields.

‘In view of the international situation, I strongly believe Canada should not allow any of her human resources to rot and that economic sense, a decent respect for the principles of humanity and even prudential considerations involving a potential military situation, combine to make government action imperative.’

Mr. Silcox pointed to the work camps in Germany and remarked: ‘Much as I dislike most of the things for which Mr. Hitler stands, I cannot fail to recognize that there are certain obvious responsibilities of government that seem to be understood better by dictatorships than by democracies.’

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“Racine s’était évadé du
Palais de Justice avec
un otage: 4 ans de bagne ,” La Presse. October 1, 1980. Page H-12.

Denis «Poker»
Racine, le jeune
homme de 21 ans qui
avait réussi à s’évader du Palais de justice,
le 21 mars dernier,
alors qu’il plaidait lui même sa cause devant
la Cour d’appel,
et en séquestrant
momentanément une
femme greffier en la
menaçant d’un couteau,
a écopé d’une
peinte totale de quatre années de pénitencier,
hier, devant le
juge Guy Guerin.

En prononçant cette
peine, le magistrat
avait souligné qu’il
fallait comprendre,
sans qu’il soit excusable,
l’esprit de revolte
de ce jeune homme
qui avait quitté le
domicile familial à
l’âge de 12 ans, pour
ensuite être «trimballe»
d’institution en
institution, et finalement
aboutir à Pinel,
au moment de sa

«Très certainement
que la Société a lt
droit de demander
protection aux tribunaux
dans des cas de
ce genre, de dire le
juge, mais on doit
également convenir
qu’elle récolte les
fruits amers qu’elle a
semés, l’accusé ayant
le droit, lui aussi, de
poser la question:
«Qu’avez-vous fait
pour moi. alors que
j’avais douze et quinze

Avant que le tribunal
ne se prononce
définitivement sur
son cas. Racine avait  voulu lui-même rappeler que sa situation
avait dramatiquement changé il y a
une dizaine de jours à
peine. Et pour le
mieux, cette fois.

Alors qu’il purgeait
une peine de prison à
vie pour meurtre au
premier degré (celui
d’un adolescent à qui
on avait voulu voler
son veston de cuir, à
la Place des Nations),
la Cour d’appel avait
modifié le verdict,
pour meurtre au second
degré, et sans
quant à la période de
détention minimale
qu’il devra purger.

«Je considérais la
première peine comme
inhumaine, dit-il.
Je ne serais sorti du
bagne qu’ à 16 ans.
Mais, aujourd’hui, je
puis envisager d’être
libéré dans environ
six ans. Ce n’est plus
la même chose, j’ai
repris espoir, et j’espère aussi que vous
n’ajouterez pas vous même
à ce châtiment
déjà lourd.»

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“When the police feel they are reduced to the status of sub-humans, they themselves go into a kind of revolt against the young people in order to affirm a humanity which is denied to them, and in so doing they are therefore not simply playing the part of killing/ repression machines. Secondly, every riot cop and every other kind of cop is still a person. Each one is a person with a definite role like everyone else. It is dangerous to delegate all inhumanity to one part of the social whole, and all humanity to another.”

– Jacques Camatte, “Against Domestication.”  In French in Invariance Année VI, Série II, no. 3, 1973. This translation Falling Sky Books, Kitchener, Canada in 1981.

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“Bread, Water Is Diet of 310 Guelph Rioters Held In Auditorium,” Toronto Star. July 14, 1948. Page 03.

Special to The Star
Guelph, July 14 – More than one-third of the inmates at the Ontario reformatory are still undergoing dietary punishment today although officials relented somewhat last evening and allowed them to spend the night in the assembly hall, Col. Hedley Basher, superintendent, said today. Monday night the 310 men who refused to work were locked out in an exercise yard without blankets.

‘There was some noise during the night, but things were reasonably quiet,’ Col. Basher said. He could not state when disciplinary measures would be eased. The men are receiving only bread and water.

When spokesmen for the rowdy prisoners sought an audience with reformatory officials late Tuesday they asked to be taken back into the buildings.

Instead of being returned to their dormitories, as some had hoped, the inmates were ordered into the large assembly hall immediately behind the administration offices. Col. Basher spoke to the group and warned them they would be kept on reduced rations, until the last evidence of their hold-out had disappeared.

The superintendent’s statement that all was not perfectly quiet indicated it was likely some hotheads were still trying to buck authority.

‘Youngsters’ Among Leaders
An inmate said the ringleaders were either ‘youngsters’ who acted spontaneously or in a few instances ‘old timers’ who were ‘little more than bums.’

Again today only a few inmates are working. For the most part, they are trustees who are permitted to wander with only loose supervision as they go about the park-like grounds of the institution. Some are clipping hedges. Others are cutting grass and weeding the many flower gardens. Another inmate and an electrician are finishing their task of repairing a lamp standard near the superintendent’s house some 100 yards north of the main buildings.

Those who spent the night in the assembly hall did ‘some singing and shouting,’ it was learned. Again today they were offered only bread for food and water to drink but officials declined to state whether any or all had accepted this diet.

Although the complete day staff of guards was kept on duty throughout Monday night following the disturbance which started at noon that day, a large percentage were permitted to return to their homes last night. All said they were under strict orders not to divulge information concerning condition in the institution.

Won’t Discuss Outbreak
Storekeepers in the area of the reformatory proved equally close-lipped since they did not want to cast suspicion on their customers, among whom are many guards.

Hon. George Dunbar, minister of reform institutions said, ‘Many persons forget that the type of person we get in the institutions does not take kindly to discipline. We intend to maintain that discipline by such as are necessary. We are not going to have the inmates trying to run the institutions.’

About one year ago the inmates at Burwash farm took over the administration of the reformatory and held possession for several days. Last month women inmates at Mercer Reformatory in Toronto staged one of the worst riots in years when they smashed furniture and beat up policemen and guards who tried to control them.’

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“Constructive Action Required,” Globe and Mail Editorial, July 14, 1948. Page 06.

The second riot at Burwash Industrial Farm in less than a year, following a violent disturbance in the Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women, and now the trouble at Guelph Reformatory, all strongly emphasize the difficulties of administering this type of institution. Obviously, nobody likes being in jail, and there could seldom be noted a general spirit of contentment among the inmates. Nevertheless, experience has shown that conditions in a penal institution are generally poor before mischief-making leadership is able to create trouble. The climax of the outbreak ordinarily comes after a long period of increasing frustration, and represents a degree of desperation. By then, consequences have become insignificant in comparison with the conditions being endured.

The administration of a system of jails and reformatories, therefore, requires a particular sort of person with a high degree of competition. He should be a man who is able to lay down a clear and practical policy, and be certain that it is being carried out. He should be at once stern and kindly; wise in his understanding of human nature, and discerning in his judgement. Above all, he should know his job, and the complex problems of running institutions which are both punitive and reformative, to the end that those who have broken the law will be aware of the penalty, and at the same time desirous of leading a more constructive life upon release.

Despite the disturbances which have taken place recently, we have confidence in the officials of the Department of Reform Institutions, and in their capacity to deal with the situation. Their reputation and experience is substantial, and they are held in respect even by those who have had just cause to be critical of the Ontario prison and reformatory system. Numerous innovations and improvements have been put into effect in many aspects of the system, and the Ontario Plan for reformative institutions has been widely studied.

It is evident, however, that further reforms of a sweeping nature are overdue. Too little attention has been paid to salaries which will attract the right type of person into this important work. There has been an indication that personnel policies are erratic and even unjust. The discipline among prisoners cannot be maintained if morale is not present in the staff. These problems are basically administrative and the public expects the Government to take constructive action before further trouble develops. It is essential that the department’s officials be able to justify the progressive policies they have fostered through their consistent application in all parts of the system.

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“Three Outbreaks in Less Than Three Weeks Is Record of These Ontario Institutions,” Toronto Star. July 13, 1948. Page 02.

6 Outbreaks in 3 Years in Three Reformatories

Six serious outbreaks of trouble have occured in the past three years at three of the reform institutions administered by the Ontario government. Two incidents were at Burwash, three at the Ontario reformatory at Guelph, and one last month at Mercer reformatory for women in Toronto.

Following are the dates:

July 18, 1945 – Three guards injured at Guelph during outbreak of trouble among inmates. Hon. George Dunbar, minister of reform institutions, blamed it on small potatoes served inmates.

July 12, 1946 – Donald Parks, 18-year-old orphan, killed by guards attempting to escape from Guelph.

Oct. 2, 1947 – Riot of 124 inmates at Camp No. 1 Burwash. Five prisoners escaped.

March 10, 1948 – Dr. Stuart Jaffary, school of social science, University of Toronto, reported on investigation he made into Burwash riot. He made 13 recommendations for improving conditions, and said that responsibolity for the Octobver riot ‘is clearly on the administration and not n the inmates.’

June 25, 1948 – 100 girls at Mercer reformatory stage riot by throwing dishes and using chair legs to hit Toronto police officers called to quell disturbance. Trouble continued for several days.

June 28, 1948 – Riot at Camp No. 2 at Burwash. Tear gas used. Hunger strike by inmates.

July 12, 1948. – Trouble at Guelph reformatory. Tear gas used. 311 inmates kept under close guard in yard.

Image captions (from top left to right):

Mercer, June 25 – 100 Girls Riot, Protest Treatment;
Burwash, June 28 – Tear Gas Used on Hunger Strikers;
Guelph, July 12 – Tear Gas Used, Over 300 Refuse to Work;
For the Third Time In Three Years, Guelph Reformatory, seen from the air, has Trouble

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“«Poker» Racine
rate son coup,” La Presse. June 12, 1980. Page C-14.


Denis «Poker» Racine, âgé
de 23 ans, considéré comme
l’instigateur d’une prise d’otages
qui avait durée 57 heures à l’Institut
Archambault de Sainte-Anne-des-Piaines
en septembre

dernier et plus récemment l’auteur
d’une spectaculaire évasion,
arme au poing, du palais de
Justice de Montréal, a réussi une
fois de plus à s’illustrer hier
matin, alors qu’il a tenté avec
deux autres détenus, de fausser
compagnie aux gardiens qui les
escortaient jusqu’au palais de
Justice de Saint-Jérôme à bord
d’une camionnette du ministère
de la Justice, sur l’autoroute des

N’eût été de la vigilance d’un
des trois gardiens qui accompagnaient
les détenus, le coup aurait
pu réussir et Racine se serait
retrouvé au large encore
une fois. 

Selon un porte-parole de la
Sûreté du Québec, un des trois
gardiens a remarqué quelque
chose de louche à l’arrière de la
camionnette où se trouvaient les
trois détenus. Ne prenant aucune
chance, connaissant la feuille de
route de ses passagers, le conducteur
du fourgon cellulaire
immobilisa immédiatement son
véhicule et les trois agents de la
paix se précipitèrent à l’extérieur,
laissant les trois prisonniers
seuls enfermés à l’arrière
de la camionnette. 

Les gardiens ont immédiatement
alerté les agents de la SQ
qui escortaient le fourgon cellulaire,
les policiers ont demandé
de l’aide et quelques minutes
plus tard, plusieurs autos-patrouille
sont arrivées sur les
lieux. Les policiers ont fait descendre
les trois prisonniers et
ont procédé à une fouille minutieuse
des individus. Les agents
ont retrouvé sur un des individus
un bout de tuyau ressemblant au
canon d’un revolver. 

Selon les policiers, c’est en
s’introduisant le bout de tuyau
dans le rectum qu’un des prisonniers
a réussi à soustraire son

arme à la fouille, pourtant minutieuse
des gardiens du centre

Denis «Poker» Racine était
conduit au palais de Justice de
Saint-Jérôme où débutait, hier
matin, son enquête préliminaire
en rapport avec la prise d’otages
survenue à Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines
en septembre dernier,
tandis que Serge Robin, âgé de
23 ans, subit présentement son
procès pour le meurtre de Luc
Chouinard, survenu le 14 octobre
1977 à l’intérieur du pénitencier
de l’Institut Archambault à Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines. 

Robin est également accusé du
meurtre de Michel Jutras, battu
à mort le 8 août 1979. Serge Robin
avait déjà été condamné à la
prison à vie le 24 février 1977
pour le meurtre de Lise Labatie,
une jeune fille de 17 ans, assassinée
au mois de juin 1976 sur les
Plaines d’Abraham à Québec. 

Quant à Pierre Thibault dont
la feuille de route n’est pas aussi
chargée que ses deux comparses,
il devait recevoir hier, sa
sentence après avoir plaidé coupable
à une accusation d’avoir
participé à une prise d’otages.
Au moment de celle-ci, Thibault
purgeait une peine de 11 ans
pour vol qualifié et tentative de

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“Let Us Try Work Camps,” Globe and Mail. May 23, 1951. Editorial.

An outbreak of hoodlumism has again roused the public to a constant problem of city life. In the earlier episodes, three or four years ago, it was felt by many that what was needed to cope with gang misbehavior was more recreational facilities. Greater familiarity with the problem has shown that this is an oversimplified solution. Organized recreation does not touch the worst element, and it sometimes serves merely as an opportunity for disturbance.

These young toughs have a false philosophy of life. Play activities will not have any particular value in dealing with that fact. These youths need something more mature and challenging than facilities for dancing or games. This newspaper has repeatedly suggested that work camps be organized to which they might be sent. The Juvenile Court and magistrate’s courts, distracted parents, and possibly school authorities, ought to be able to commit boys or girls between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one to such camps. There is an immense amount of useful and necessary work to be done in various aspects of conservation.

These camps could be organized in such a way that the social impulses naturally present in all young people would be channelled into constructive paths. Self-government, cultural development, occupational experience and a goal in life would be obvious by-products. We do not believe discipline would be a great problem, as social disapproval would be very effective in keeping down misbehavior is the code and wins approval. That is the basis of the whole problem. In a different atmosphere, with something worthwhile to do any only enough compulsion to get the work done, we believe there would be a rapid and permanent change in the outlook of many of these youths.

These camps are not without precedent. Experiments in the United States and in some other countries, have shown that they will do the job intended. They are, perhaps, a special type of reformatory, but one particularly adapted to Canadian conditions. This is a country where outdoor life is natural and inevitably beneficial. It should be exploited to meet a serious social condition. In time, it is possible that similar camps might well be organized for non-delinquent youth as well, attending on a voluntary basis as part of their education. 

[Newsclipping from Penitentiary Branch file 1-1-98, Volume 1, RG73.]

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“Underlying all this is a profoundly important phenomenon: all human life, from the very beginning of its development within capitalist society, has undergone an impoverishment. More than this, capitalist society is death organized with all the appearances of life. Here it is not a question of death as the extinction of life, but death-in-life, death with all the substance and power of life. The human being is dead and is no more than a ritual of capital. Young people still have the strength to refuse this death; they are able to rebel against domestication. They demand to live. But to those great numbers of smugly complacent people, who live on empty dreams and fantasies, this demand, this passionate need just seems irrational, or, at best, a paradise which is by definition inaccessible.

Youth remains a serious problem for capital because it is a part of society which is still undomesticated. The lycée students demonstrated not only against military service and the army, but also, and just as much, against the school, the university and the family. Schools function as the organization of the passivity of the soul, and this is true even when active and libertarian methods are used; the liberation of the school would be the liberation of oppression. In the name of history, science and philosophy, each individual is sent down a corridor of passivity, into a world surrounded by walls. Knowledge and theory are just so many insurmountable barriers which prevent one individual from recognizing other individuals, making dialogue between them impossible. Discourse must proceed along certain channels, but that’s all. And then at the end of the pipeline, there is the army, which is a factory for domestication; it organizes people into a general will to kill others, structuring the dichotomy already imprinted in their minds by the secular morality of “my nation” and “other people”, all of whom are potential enemies. People are trained and educated to know how to justify the unjustifiable – the killing of men and women.”

– Jacques Camatte, “Against Domestication.” 

In French in Invariance Année VI, Série II, no. 3, 1973. This translation Falling Sky Books, Kitchener, Canada in 1981.

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“For reasons of timing, as much as anything else, CCYM activities were
shaped to an extraordinary extent by the Communist Party. The CCF had been founded during the ‘‘third period,’’ and the CPC dutifully
denounced the new political formation in hyperbolic terms as ‘‘social
fascist.’’ A couple of years later, the CCYM’s emergence coincided with
the beginnings of the CPC’s turn to the People’s Front policy. This
affected the CCYM in several important ways. Both the CCYM and the
YCL were rivals for the support of young workers, but with the Popular
Front policy, the decline of Communist sectarianism, and increasing
willingness to engage with liberals, church-goers, and the middle class
more generally (along with, of course, the traditional constituency of
workers), the Communists’ broadened gaze increasingly coincided with
the CCYM’s. The CCF was famously suspicious of working with the Communist
Party, at least officially, yet CCF leaders recognized the danger

of their perceived abstention and often allowed members to participate
in ‘‘immediate struggles’’ with the Communist Party. Among the most
successful of all the Popular Front movements were those specifically
comprising youth. The Youth Congress against War and Fascism, and
subsequently the Canadian Youth Congress, was extraordinarily successful
in mobilizing young people from a range of organizations
and political viewpoints.

The declared aim of the Popular Front was to fight the twin threats
of war and fascism, issues that appealed to young people who felt
particularly vulnerable. An initiative of the YCL, the Youth Congress
against War and Fascism attracted members of the YMCA, Jewish,
Catholic, and Protestant organizations, as well as farm and labour
groups. It also attracted the CCYM. T.C. Douglas, a national figure in
the CCYM, accepted an invitation to address the 275 delegates at Youth
Congress against War and Fascism in Toronto in early August 1934. Not surprisingly, given the CCF’s troubled history with the cpc, the
parent organization very quickly challenged this relationship. The ccf
leadership felt that the youth had to toe the line, although cracks
emerged within the adult organization, with many older labour socialists
open to the idea of a working-class alliance.

CCYM units had diverse reasons to be wary of collaboration with the
Communist Party. For many, the compromises of the Communists’
Popular Front strategy conflicted with their Marxism. They saw Stalinists’
appeal to pacifism, reflected in the language of the League against
War and Fascism, as a dangerous concession to liberals who did not
understand the full threat of fascism and the importance of socialism
as an alternative to the capitalist crisis that had bred both militarism
and right-wing movements. This was particularly true of the BC CCYM.
who felt themselves to have, ‘‘perhaps,’’ a ‘‘more revolutionary outlook,
even a keener discipline than some other provincial units,’’ but they
were able to point to CCYM groups in North Toronto, Winnipeg, Moose
Jaw, and Regina whose ‘‘positions on all issues has been consistent
and Marxist.’’ Other CCYMers criticized the CCF leadership for organizational
sectarianism toward the Communists, for placing the interests
of the federation ahead of broader struggles. Given the diversity of the
CCF and its youth movement, a variety of responses to the broadening
movements of the mid-1930s would emerge from the CCYM.

This was apparent in the emerging Canadian Youth Congress,
which came to replace the youth section of the League against War
and Fascism. While CCYM participation in the League against War
and Fascism was uneven and episodic, they found themselves pulled
much further into the workings of the CYC. The CYC was the most successful
Popular Front initiative undertaken by the Communists both
in size and breadth. The first Youth Congress, held in Toronto in
May 1935, represented 162,000 young people in ‘‘all’’ political parties,
church groups, athletic clubs, and social organizations; the 500 delegates
at the 1936 Congress represented ‘‘well over’’ 750,000. These
astounding figures are explained by the composition of the movement.
The first congress was addressed not only by Communist leader
Tim Buck and by James Woodsworth, but by Liberal and Conservative
politicians as well. The executive of the Winnipeg CYC (Canadian
Youth Council, as local branches of the congress were known) included
future CCF Member of Parliament Alistair Stewart and future Manitoba
Communist leader Bill Ross, but also the future Conservative premier
of Manitoba, Duff Roblin. The Saskatchewan CYC was, if anything,
even more socially diverse, with representatives from the regular political,
labour, farm, and church groups, as well as Doukhobors, Metis,
and the Jewish ‘‘Young Judaeans.’’

What was remarkable and reflective of the initiative gained by the
left broadly conceived was that, in spite of its size and breadth, the
CYC was clearly an organization of the left. With only eight dissenting
votes (largely Social Crediters), the 1935 Congress passed resolutions
condemning capitalism as well as tracing war and unemployment to
the functioning of the capitalist system. What made all of this possible
was the CPC’s turn. Ontario CCYMer Murray Cotterill articulated succinctly
the role of the YCL:  

Where two years ago, [the Communists] would have ‘‘ruled or broken,’’
now they seem to have laid down with the lion of capitalism. Standing rigidly
erect for God Save the King, modestly refusing to allow more than one Y.C.L.
delegate to stand for office, although allowing the usual profusion of Workers’
Unity League, Unemployed Youth Councils, etc., who, of course are ‘‘nonpolitical’’
and even voting for a place on the Continuation Committee for
Young Conservatives, the Commies seem to have adopted every one of the
alleged vices with which the C.C. F. was contaminated a few years ago, and to
have added a considerable amount of class collaboration to boot. It is some
zig-zag that the Third International has just taken.

The strengths and weaknesses of the Communists’ Popular Front
strategy were apparent to most CCYMers. Vastly more young people
were mobilized than either the YCL or the CCYM would have been able
to engage on their own; this was the rationale behind the CCF acceptance
of the participation in a Communist-associated movement. The
problem of the CYC was that it engaged huge numbers of young people
but, arguably, was incapable of offering them any useful direction.

CYC congresses, both national and provincial, were valuable venues
for debate and discussion. Developing a common program and plan
for action, however, would potentially demonstrate how fragile the
organization was. Certainly the Communists argued for the broadest
basis of unity possible (even including delegates from the Canadian
Union of Fascists, at one point). In response, in 1935 CCF trade unionist
Al Desser tried and failed to get the congress to explicitly oppose
fascism, and the following year the Trotskyist Revolutionary Youth
League, along with some unionists, resigned in protest against their
continued attendance. In 1937 the challenges of inclusivity emerged
in another way. The annual congress was held in Montreal, and the
Quebec delegation, comprising mostly Catholic youth organizations,
put forward a list of conservative demands as a precondition to their
participation. The CYC was to condemn all ‘‘subversive doctrines,’’

affirm the existence of God, declare the right of individuals to private
property, and seek social peace between social classes. For the first
time the YCL and the CCYM delegates met together in caucus to determine
a response and concluded that they had little option but to
accede. The Communists’ Daily Clarion celebrated the spirit of unity,
arguing that ‘‘the congress, with such diverse views present, was not
the place to present the case for socialism.’’ The Montreal Star lauded
the ‘‘true statesmen’’ for their response to the ‘‘ultra-nationalistic’’
French-Canadian groups. The trajectory was clear. Immediately afterwards,
the Thunder Bay Youth Council opted not to condemn the
Padlock Law (generally seen by the CCF as emblematic of the threat of
domestic fascism) in order not to alienate Catholics.

Such concessions were rooted in the logic of the Popular Front,
which placed unity ahead of a political program. Violet Anderson, a
delegate of the Youth Unit of the League of Nations Society, gave great
credit to the Communists for steering the CYC away from its explicit
critique of capitalism in 1936 (while admitting that the chair was
‘‘somewhat tyrannical’’ in prohibiting any discussion of the question). CCYMers, not surprisingly, were of various minds. Some, like CYC co-chair Kenneth Woodsworth, Student Christian Movement activist
and nephew of J.S. Woodsworth, were entirely onside. Surveying the
movement at the end of the decade, he argued that youth, at least
in the CYC, exercised a greater pragmatism than their parents. ‘‘The
Youth Congress ‘platform’ is not an attempt to provide any panacea
for our economic ills. Proposals for extension of educational opportunities,
technical training, employment projects, recreation, etc… .
seem to many older people to be disappointingly mild. Where is the
much vaunted radicalism of our modern youth? It would be hard
to find.’’ At least, one could add, in the CYC.

In general, however, CCYMers were more interested in winning
the CYC to a more explicitly socialist program. While a vaguely anticapitalist
statement was passed at the Toronto Youth Congress 1936,

for instance, a CCYM resolution calling for social planning, the socialization
of industry and finance, and the encouragement of co-operatives
as alternatives to capitalism were defeated.68 ccymers were at odds
over how to proceed. In the Calgary Youth Council, for instance, a very
public debate emerged between CCYMers. Alberta CCYM Vice-President
Tom Roberts felt that the CYC should be more explicitly socialist, while
CCYMers in the Alberta CYC leadership disagreed. Gertrude Gillander,
the secretary of the Alberta CYC, having recently played a role in
cementing Junior United Farmers of Alberta support for the congress,
wanted to distance the CYC from its initial reputation as a ‘‘red
breeding ground.’’ And provincial CYC President Margaret Archibald
defended the concessions to the Quebec delegates in front of William
Irvine and J.S. Woodsworth, who ‘‘both expressed their disapproval
of ‘our’ attitude towards the French Canadians. They both say that all
socialistic minded youth sacrificed all they stood for in order to get the
French Canadians interested.’’

No doubt many CCYMers felt the same and questioned the purpose
of building the CYC as it seemed to bring Canadian youth no closer to
an understanding of socialism. Tom Roberts, for instance, was far
from isolated; he was chosen Western Canadian officer for the CCYM by the 1938 National CCYM convention. Most CCYMers do not seem
to have bought Kenneth Woodsworth’s or Margaret Archibald’s Popular
Frontism and either abandoned CYC activities or struggled valiantly
to politicize CYC gatherings. This was particularly the case as the Communists’
growing support for collective security contrasted with the
CCYM’s refusal to support, or participate in, ‘‘another imperialist war,’’
and, indeed, willingness to take advantage of a ‘‘revolutionary situation’’
that a war could provoke. Those CCYMers who continued to take part
in the CYC were, according to David Lewis, perceived as ‘‘cantankerous
and doctrinaire’’ by church groups and other CYC participants whom
the CCYM was presumably trying to attract.”

– James Naylor, “Socialism for a New Generation: CCF Youth in the Popular Front Era.” The Canadian Historical Review, Volume 94, Number 1, March 2013, pp. 67-72

Pamphlet cover is from the Canadian Youth Congress, 1936. Source.

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“Wish for Freedom Explanation Given For Boy’s Escape,” Toronto Globe. September 30, 1933. Page 11.

No Cause for Discontent at Mimico Industrial School, Is Report

An explanation of the esape of more than a score of boys from the Mimico Industrial School recently was given to the Board of the Industrial Schools Association when it met in City Hall yesterday. The explanation was provided in a written report by Superintendent W. G. Green.

‘In view of the recent newspaper publicity concerned escapes, a few words of explanation should be givem.’ said Mr. Green. ‘A careful examination of the returned boys revealed no general or specific cause for discontent beyond the usual psychological yearning for freedom which is natural to boys held under the necessary restraint.

‘Perhaps the new atmosphere tending more and more to the honor system is a contributory cause, especially in the case of boys whose outlook in life is as yet still in the wrong direction. The fact that discipline is being tightened in the striving toward self-discipline has led boys who have particularly suffered from lack of home discipline to break away.’

Superintendent Green’s report was accepted without comment by the board, after which it adjourned its meeting. The Superintendent reported that in thirty-eight recent committals to the Victoria Industrial School three boys were found to possess superior intelligence and twenty boys were classified as having normal intelligence. 

In her report on the Alexandra School for Girls, Miss K. W. Brooking, Superintendent, stated that eleven girls had been placed in employment and had been returned during the three-month period. Five girls did not measure up to requirements of employers, two had been returned because conditions were unsatisfactory, and four were forced back to the institution because the people had taken them could not pay wages.

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“ A number of youth groups were present at the CCF’s Regina Convention
in 1933, although they reflected the geographically skewed
character of the convention itself. Prairie groups were overrepresented;
very few came from east of Winnipeg. The Junior Section of the United
Farmers of Canada (Saskatchewan Section) and the Regina Young
People’s Socialist League represented the host province. Young labourist
groups came from Winnipeg and Edmonton. The Junior Section of
the United Farmers of Alberta attended, as did the Young Socialist
League of BC and, from Ontario, a short-lived entity called the ‘‘Junior
Canadian Commonwealth League.’’ According to Ontario Socialist
Party member A.H. Downs Jr, the last had been formed by ‘‘the most
reactionary elements’’ of the CCF Clubs (‘‘youths, mind you’’) and it
‘‘withered and died, very shortly after birth.’’

At the Regina Convention, this small coterie decided to build a pan-Canadian
organization despite, interestingly, the ‘‘heated opposition’’
of Laura Cotton. Cotton was the associate secretary of the Ontario
Association of CCF Clubs and very soon would become a member of
the Ontario CCF Council following the purge of the left-wing labour
socialists (and particularly Socialist Party of Canada members). There
is at least reason to suspect that her concern was rooted in a fear – not
entirely unfounded, as it would turn out – that the youth movement
might challenge the ‘‘adult’’ organization’s narrowing view of politics,
which was becoming increasingly focused on electoral success. In the
United States, the leadership of the Socialist Party of America often
expressed a ‘‘‘flimsily concealed’ antagonism’’ toward the YPSL, their
youth affiliate, viewing them as ‘‘potential hotheads.’’ Both European
and American socialist parties had seen a revolt of youth during
the First World War, as the ‘‘adult’’ parties mobilized inadequately
against the war. The Socialist International decried the ‘‘undisciplined

radicalism’’ of youth in several European sections, and despite the
American party’s anti-war stance, the majority of youth abandoned
the YPSL in favour of the new Communist movement.

For the most part, however, CCFers were keen to harness the energy
of youth and prevent them from falling into the grips of their political
opponents. Modern notions of child development saw such activities
as beneficial, not just for the movement, but for young people themselves.
Some were acutely aware of these ideas. The general secretary
of the CCF Clubs in Ontario, Donat LeBourdais, had spent much of the
previous decade as education director of the Canadian Committee on
Mental Hygiene, which focused on shaping the social development of
the nation’s children. Others, such as CCF National Secretary Norman
Priestley, noted the growing interest in youth organization generally,
and more particularly quasi-political groups like Protestant youth
groups, including the Student Christian Movement, and the upstart
New Canada Movement that quickly grouped tens of thousands of
young people in rural Ontario. Although non-partisan, many such
groups intersected politically with the CCF. The New Canada Movement,
for instance, was potentially open to CCF ideas, although, in
J.S. Woodsworth’s evaluation, ‘‘naive.’’ Priestley told the secretary of
the ‘‘Nyacs,’’ the National Youth Association of Canada, an early incarnation
of the CCYM in Toronto, that their work ‘‘would save the C.C.F.
from becoming a movement of elderly people.’’

Young farmers’ organizations affiliated to the new youth movement
although, outside of Saskatchewan and Alberta, the agrarian wings of
the CCF soon slipped away. In the latter province, despite the existence
of a Junior Labour Group in Edmonton, the larger youth organization
affiliated with the CCYM was the Junior United Farmers of Alberta (UFA).
The UFA’s relationship to the CCF was always tenuous and CCYM activists
perceived the Junior UFA as rivals even before the farmers’ organization

departed the CCF in 1938. Even less promising were universities, in
contrast to the relative successes of the YPSL and the Student League
for Industrial Democracy in the United States. Despite the presence
of some left-wing students who had been active in the Student Christian
Movement, and the role played by some university professors
in the League for Social Reconstruction and the CCF, only a limited
number of campus CCYM clubs were organized, and the national
movement was not closely associated with students. Perhaps only
in Quebec where the CCYM was, like the CCF, small, anglophone, and
confined to Montreal, was it closely associated with the academy. Its
connection with the League for Social Reconstruction in that province,
and its presumed role as a school for the adult organization, was
reflected in the fact that their main activity in the late 1930s seems to
have been the development of a leadership course under Professor
Leonard Marsh. Such training in ‘‘leadership’’ and organization
reflected the CCF’s increasingly electoral focus; generally the CCYM focused much less on such organizational matters, seeking to educate
itself in political theory and international events instead. 

Elsewhere, particularly in British Columbia and Ontario, the CCYM attracted considerable numbers of newly radicalizing youth. The dynamism
of the British Columbia organization generally was reflected
in its youth wing(s). Just as the BC movement was initially bifurcated
between its SPC and Club wings, two youth organizations emerged:
the Young Socialist League (YSL) and the Co-operative Commonwealth
Youth (CCY), although neither was formally affiliated to an ‘‘adult’’ organization,
apparently as a declaration of their own independence. Interestingly, the more left-wing SPC was either more wary about heavy-handed proselytizing among youth, or considered young people
as pre-political, prompting the YSL to assure the adult organization
that it was ‘‘non-political, being wholly for study and recreation.’’ Consequently, they attended the Vancouver Symphony, played tennis,
and, of course, educated themselves. Beginning in 1933 they held
weekly Sunday night public meetings at the Colonial Theatre, boasting
that no speaker was over twenty-five years of age. The CCY was
critical of this character of the YSL, declaring that ‘‘The only fault of
the Y.S.L. appears to be their aversion to action – well action is half
of the C.C.Y. program.’’ Nonetheless, the rivalry was mainly friendly,
and the increased activism and radicalization of both organizations
put the issue of their fusion on the table. 

They shared growing hopes for a revolutionary transformation of
society. As the CCY told the YSL’s January 1935 Convention, they were
interested in the creation of ‘‘class-conscious youth’’ in BC through a
combination of socialist study and action, and they hoped to work
with the YSL to build ‘‘a movement of revolutionary communist youth
as shall in the approaching crisis, be capable of losing our chains and
gaining a new world.’’ They each published a newspaper: the YSL’s
Spark preceded the CCY’s Amoeba. The boundaries between organizations
were vague. Members of both organizations regularly attended
SPC leader Wallis Lefeaux’s weekly lectures on Marx’s Capital and read
about the materialist conception of history in the Amoeba. There was
little sense that youth had a set of interests of their own; as the CCY banner proclaimed, ‘‘Abolish the Wage System. No Compromise.’’ The activism and non-sectarianism of the youth was reflected in their
choice for the editor of a combined Amoeba/Spark newspaper at the
end of 1935. Besides being the CCY provincial organizer, editor Lefty
(R.E.) Morgan was also a member of YSL and the Industrial Workers
of the World at the time of his brutal beating by police at Ballantyne
Pier during the 1935 longshoremen’s strike.

The Ontario CCYM was similar in its enthusiasm, talent, and, for
the most part, its Marxism. The core leadership came out of the earlier
‘‘Nyacs,’’ which Spencer Cheshire remembered as particularly engaged
and dynamic, compared to the broader and more diverse CCYM.  Despite a career that placed her at the forefront of some of the major
struggles in Canadian labour history, Eileen Tallman (later Sufrin) felt
that ‘‘the years in the Ontario CCYM were the most stimulating in my
life.’’ Its diversity spoke to the breadth of the new CCYM’s appeal.
Some, despite their age, had considerable experience. Twenty-one year-old
Felix Lazarus had been a socialist for six years, worked as
a YPSL organizer in the United States, participated in the important
Toledo Auto-Lite strike, and became active in Ontario Labour Party
circles. Irish-born Eamon Park had working-class roots and found
work in the meatpacking industry, while twenty-three-year-old Bill
Grant was a second-year law student at Toronto’s Osgoode Hall. 

The initial CCYM adopted some of the characteristics of earlier socialists,
particularly around the importance of political education. ‘‘Pretty
stiff ’’ classes and tests were developed; as the CCYM provincial executive
commented, ‘‘Only in the hands of a highly trained nuclei can be
placed the duty of building a mass organization of Socialist Youth in
Ontario.’’ Eileen Sufrin remembers that one of her first assignments
in the CCYM was a talk on the life of Lenin: ‘‘From the start, the study
of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and the various European influences formed
a background which we felt impelled to explore and to use in measuring
the ideological worth of the new left-wing political movements in
Canada.’’ CCYMers compared themselves favourably in this regard to
the adult organization, which they considered ‘‘lax’’ in studying the
‘‘fundamentals of socialism.’’ The lack of confidence, in fact, went
both directions. Graham Spry expressly opined that ‘‘elders agreed’’
that youth were ‘‘inclined to be impatient and impulsive’’ and expressed
relief that the age limit of the CCYM was set at thirty-five, allowing for

sufficient ‘‘level-headedness … to keep the impetuosity of the younger
iconoclasts at an even keel.’’

Both this enthusiasm for knowledge and a measure of adult suspicion
were apparent in the Manitoba CCYM as well. Declaring, ‘‘Youth
today is in grave danger of moral corruption through the inherent
evils of our present state of society’’ and pointing to the difficulties of
even contemplating marriage under existing conditions, leading to ‘‘a
perversion of the fundamental laws of nature,’’ the CCYM put a leftist
spin on broader social panics about the condition of the nation’s
youth. The solution for the CCF youth was to ‘‘‘do our part’ to equip
ourselves mentally and physically to take an intelligent part in the
new co-operative society.’’

From the outset, then, CCYM activities revolved around education
and recreation. Annual summer schools emerged across the country,
combining study and healthy relaxation in equal measure. A week of
the well-established, decade-old summer school (originally in Summerland
but, under the auspices of the CCF since 1934, moved to Salt
Spring Island), was dedicated specifically for the youth. The Winnipeg
CCYM held their summer school just west of the city in Headingley;
the cost was seventy-five cents for the week. Although they appealed
to a youth increasingly familiar with summer camps, their experience
would not be a putative escape from modernism, but an indulgence in
the modernist pursuits of politics and organized sport. In Toronto,
the CCYM organized athletic and health clubs as well as bowling, and
played baseball and hockey. In Hamilton, as elsewhere, they produced
radical plays. The Edmonton CCYM orchestra was a staple at CCF rallies. In a few cases, as in North Toronto, CCYM branches sought to
build community centres ‘‘in which young people can make themselves
at home, have the use of a library, organize their own social
affairs, attend education and study classes conducted by persons
versed on various subjects of current importance [and] take part in
cultural activities such as Art and Dramatics.’’ A significant consequence
of the focus on education and recreation in the CCYM is,
perhaps, a less clearly demarcated gender division of labour. Within
the CCF itself, as Joan Sangster notes, these were areas of growing
women’s activity and, one might add, ones of declining importance as
the federation became more focused on electoral activity. But education
and related activities were the lifeblood of the CCYM and involved
all members, although we know little about the ways in which organizational
tasks may have, or may not have, been shared. 

Across the country, debate and discussion rang through CCYM halls.
New members quickly fell into a world where the nature of the Soviet
Union, the threat of fascism in Canada, whether FDR’s New Deal posed
promises or dangers to workers, how to respond to events in Spain,
and many other issues were hotly contested. These were exciting and
challenging issues that required understanding from every activist.
Through the fall of 1935, the Ontario CCYM debated ‘‘the inevitability
of Socialism’’ in the pages of the New Commonwealth. The topic may
appear sophomoric and even contrived, but it was a means by which
CCYM leaders could raise the issue of the importance of organization
and socialist action. The debate reflected several characteristics of
the young CCYM. For instance, all of the contributors claimed Marxist
credentials, insisting that their ideas were materialist, and scientific.
Those on the ‘‘yes’’ side, including Lloyd Harrington and Eileen Tallman,
argued that wage slavery had served its historic purpose and
that not even fascism was capable of destroying accumulated human
knowledge. Those on the ‘‘no’’ side essentially agreed. Spencer Cheshire
pointed out that economic laws and increasing human control over the
natural environment made socialism possible. What was potentially

missing, as another contributor pointed out, were ‘‘agents of socialism.’’
The task, underlined by Murray Cotterill, was to build a mass movement.
Saving the last word for himself, the editor of the CCYM column
cited Marx: ‘‘The struggle between the two forces ends in a victory for
the new class, or they both tumble into chaos.’’ The debate reflected
features of 1930s Marxism that was shared by labour socialists in the
CCF and by Communists, particularly the belief in economic laws, the
power of the economic base to drive society and culture forward, and
historical materialist modes of argument. At the same time, there was
a tendency away from what could be perceived to be the scholasticism
of the pre–First World War socialist tradition. The key to socialist
success was not just education, but engagement with the masses.
The crisis of capitalism and rise of fascism had, in an important
sense, posed the question of action much more clearly than in the
past. What kind of action? This short debate did not lend itself to
specifics, but it is noteworthy that, despite the fact that this debate
took place during the 1935 federal election, none of the contributors
made note of that fact. While there was no specific critique of electoralism,
CCYM attentions were directed more widely. There would be
no singular fixation with the ballot box.”


– James Naylor, “Socialism for a New Generation: CCF Youth in the Popular Front

The Canadian Historical Review, Volume 94, Number 1, March 2013, pp. 60-67  

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“Fugitive’s Loneliness For Foster Parents Lands Four in Toils,” Toronto Star. September 16, 1933. Page 17.

Youths From Mimico Industrial School Are Recaptured Near Chatham

Special to The Star
Chatham, Ont., September 16. – While four youths who had taken part the wholesale escape by 21 inmates from the Victoria Industrial School last Sunday waited to-day in the cells of the Chatham police station for officials to take them back to Mimico, following their capture in a hobo jungle here yesterday, police were of the opinion that the home-sickness of one of the quartet brought them to Kent county.

The home-sick lad is 15 years old. He was commited to the Industrial School March 15 and his present bid for freedom is his second within two months. Police say loneliness for his foster mother and father, who live in Dover township, was the only reason he gave for his first escape and they suspect that it may have been a factor again.

This boy and three others were captured without a struggle yesterday afternoon during an elaborate search by provincial and city police along the Thames river, about a mile upstream from Chatham. The police organized for the hunt on a tip that three boys had been seen for a couple of days haunting the area where itinerants have constructed rude shelters.

Besides the juvenile, the three who were captured are George Partridge, 17, Hamilton; John Fountain, 16, Smithís Falls, and Robert Sims, 21, Hamilton. Questioned by Chief of Police Findlay Low, who directed the hunt, the juvenile and Partridge admitted that they were fugitives from the industrial school, and Fountain and Sims denied it. First definite identification of Fountain was made when The Star relayed the news of the capture and the names of the boys to school officials.

The jungle where the hunt occurred is where the C.P.R. crosses the river.

Police divided into two groups and approached on both sides of the river. As they closed in from all directions, Constables Steve Currie and Jack Harrington spotted the three younger boys walking along the railway track on the south side of the river. At first it appeared as if they were going to cross the bridge into the jungle, but they turned down a ravine into the screening willows.

When the two officers came quietly up to them they found them sitting at the waterís edge with Sims, who had not been previously observed. No attempt at escape was made and only the two younger lads showed fear at being taken into custody.
Four Held in Hamilton
Hamilton, Sept. 16. –  Alleged to have escaped from Mimico Industrial school last week, Gordon Manella, 17, this city; Donald Anstey, 16, Hespeler; Lynn Brown, 17, Peterboro, and richard Haywood, 16, Gonderham, were arrested by Deputy Chief Constable David Green and Detective Ernest Barrett late yesterday on charges of car theft. They will appear before County Magistrate Vance to-day.

The boys’ arrest climaxed a dramatic attempt to take the car of Jim Gray, Carlisle, police say. Gray drove the car to his farm, eleventh concession, East Flamboro, and parked it beside the road while he went back field to pick stones. A few minutes later he saw four youths climb into the machine and depart.

‘Before they got a quarter of a mile along the road the lads lost control of the car and crashed it over a ditch, wrecking it against a fence post,’ police stated. When Deputy Chief Green arrived and found the wreck, he looked further and found the boys’ tracks crossing the field. Driving to the tenth concession, he arrived there just as the fugitives emerged from the bush.

The lads offered no resistance, but related a tale of a journey from eastern Saskatchewan, which police stopped short when they recognized the clothing worn by Mimico inmates.

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