John Queen

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John Queen (February 11, 1882 – July 15, 1946) was a Manitoba politician, and the second parliamentary leader of that province's Independent Labour Party. He also served as the 33rd Mayor of Winnipeg on two occasions.


Queen was born at Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1882,[1][2] the son of John Queen and Jane Todd, both natives of Scotland.[3] A cooper by trade, he arrived in Canada in 1906[1] with his younger brother William, moving into a rooming house at 259 Dorothy St., a stone's throw from the massive Canadian Pacific Railway yards where many working-class Scottish and English immigrants were then employed.[4] He operated a horse-drawn delivery wagon for a laundry.[1] On June 25, 1908,[5] Queen married Katherine Ross, who had herself emigrated from Scotland in 1907.[6]

By 1911 the family, which by then included a son John and a daughter Gloria (later Gloria Queen-Hughes, a prominent feminist and mayoral candidate), were living in the working-class neighbourhood of Weston.[7]

Political activism

Queen soon became involved in the radical politics of Winnipeg. He joined the Social Democratic Party of Canada in 1908, as the group was breaking away from the more doctrinaire Socialist Party of Canada. Queen's own variety of socialism was undogmatic, and was strongly influenced by the reform liberalism of John Stuart Mill.

City council

Queen was elected to the Winnipeg City Council in 1916, and served on this body representing Ward Five until 1919.[1] In this capacity, he argued for a more progressive tax system, and defended the rights of returning soldiers. He had intended to run for federal office in 1917, but stood aside in the interest of labour unity.

Queen was a leading figure in the Winnipeg General Strike, and received a one-year jail sentence for "seditious conspiracy" in 1920.[1] This did not hurt his popularity among the city's workers, and he was elected to the Winnipeg City council in 1919 to serve until 1921.[8]

Elected to provincial legislature

In June 1920 while still serving his prison term he was elected to the Manitoba legislature in the ten-member district of Winnipeg.[2] After taking his seat in 1921, he supported a motion to allow "peaceful picketing" within the province; this motion was defeated.

The SDPC ceased to exist in 1920. Queen was re-elected in 1922 as an "Independent Workers" candidate,[2] and subsequently joined the Independent Labour Party. When Fred Dixon resigned in 1923, Queen became the ILP's parliamentary leader.

Canada's labour movement experienced several setbacks in the late 1920s, and the ILP was not an especially strong electoral force during Queen's time as leader. Only three party members were elected in 1927, all from Winnipeg—Queen, William Ivens and Seymour Farmer.[2] The party fared slightly better in 1932, winning four seats in Winnipeg and taking St. Boniface from veteran Conservative MLA Joseph Bernier. The party made little headway beyond urban areas, however, and remained a relatively small opposition group to the Progressive government of John Bracken.


After failed attempts in 1932 and 1933, Queen was elected mayor of Winnipeg in 1934 (defeating John McKerchar, the candidate of the city's business interests). Queen again campaigned in favour of progressive taxation, and spoke out against a proposed tax reduction for various businesses within the city. Following his election, he passed a tax reform bill that provided for a significant increase in the city's revenues.

Queen served as mayor from 1935 to 1936, and again from 1937 to 1942.[1] He did not endorse many explicitly socialist policies during his period in office, instead favouring more general programs of civic improvement. Queen's housing reforms were upheld as a model for the rest of the nation, and he held leading positions in the Canadian Federation of Mayors and Municipalities.

Later political career

Queen continued to serve in the provincial legislature during his tenure as mayor, though he turned over the leadership of the party to Seymour Farmer in 1935. Along with the rest of the ILP caucus, he became affiliated with the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in 1933. His defeat in the provincial election of 1941[2] seems to have been unexpected.

Queen was also defeated as Winnipeg's mayor in 1942,[9] and lost another bid in 1944. Strong opposition from Winnipeg's Communists was undoubtedly a contributing factor in both cases.

He died at home in Winnipeg on July 15, 1946.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Bumsted, J M (1999). Dictionary of Manitoba Biography. University of Manitoba Press. p. 205. ISBN 0887551696. Retrieved 2012-12-31.
  2. ^ a b c d e "MLA Biographies - Deceased". Legislative Assembly of Manitoba. Archived from the original on 2014-03-30.
  3. ^ Chambers, Ernest J (1921). Canadian Parliamentary Guide.
  4. ^ See Census of the Prairie Provinces, 1906, for Winnipeg Sub-district 5D, p. 71, lines 11-12.
  5. ^ See Manitoba Vital Statistics Archived 2006-12-05 at the Wayback Machine. website.
  6. ^ "Manitoba Historical Society bio".
  7. ^ See Census of Canada, 1911 Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine., for Winnipeg Enumeration District 69, p. 31, lines 41-45.
  8. ^ Edmonton Bulletin, April 28, Dec. 4, 1920
  9. ^ a b "John Queen, Veteran of Labor Fights, Is Dead at Winnipeg". Star-Phoenix. Saskatoon. July 15, 1946. p. 7. Retrieved 2012-12-31.
Preceded by
Ralph Webb
Mayor of Winnipeg, MB
Succeeded by
Frederick Edgar Warriner
Preceded by
Frederick Edgar Warriner
Mayor of Winnipeg, MB
Succeeded by
Garnet Coulter
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