The Tolpuddle Martyrs historical plaque

Tolpuddle Award Ceremony 2023

May 01, 2023 at
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM EST
Peace Park 331 Thames Street London, ON N6A 5N8

This year’s Tolpuddle Award Ceremony will take place on Monday, May 1st, 2023 at 3:00 pm at the Peace Park.


Trade unions in Canada were illegal up to 1872. A protest by workers who demonstrated against the injustices imposed on 24 Toronto Typographical Union members, who were imprisoned for fighting for a nine hour day, caused the then-Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald to abolish the laws that made being a union member illegal.

While unions were illegal in Canada at that time, unions were legal in England and this is where the connection between the Tolpuddle Martyrs begins. Although it was legal to belong to a union, trumped up charges were laid against the martyrs that to take an oath to support the cause of workers collectively, was illegal, thus the sentencing of the Martyrs to serve 7 years in a penal colony in Tasmania (Australia) in 1834.

The labour movement in England demonstrated against this injustice and was successful in bringing the Martyrs back home to their home town of Tolpuddle. Still there were those people in authority who did not want the return of the Martyrs. The Martyrs were given leased land in Essex, England from donations collected by the union movement. There came a time when the lease had to be renewed. Five of the Martyrs decided to move to Canada. It must be remembered that unions were illegal at that time in Canada. The Martyrs made a vow not to disclose to their new found friends in Canada of their deportation to Tasmania. Still, the Martyrs led successful and productive lives in London and the surrounding area as leaders within their communities.

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