The condition of the coal car on the courthouse lawn was brought to the attention of the membership at the June 2019 monthly union meeting.
After a lengthy discussion a motion was made to research the coal car and determine the legality of doing repairs to it.The question of ownership was discussed and because of the union meetings being recessed during July and August, Dave Dukart volunteered to research the coal car and try to determine who owns the car and report back to the membership at the September meeting.
After discussions and inquiries with Estevan courthouse, Saskatchewan property management - Yorkton region, city of Estevan, Saskatchewan land titles office, past union presidents, and former Estevan labour Council committee members it was determined that the group responsible for getting the car placed at its current location was the Estevan labour Council committee.
Former NDP Premier Allan Blakeney was instrumental in allowing the Coal Car to be placed at its current location which is the site of where Julian Gryshko, Peter Markunas and Nick Nargan were shot and killed by the RCMP. The shooting took place during what was supposed to be a peaceful strikers parade through the streets of Estevan.
On September 7 1931 , all of the more than 600 coal miners employed at the 22 underground mines in the Souris Coal Fields went out on strike. These Miners were members of the Mine Workers Union of Canada and were protesting unsafe working conditions, starvation wages, squalid housing owned by the company and the monopoly of company stores.
The Strikers Parade occurred on September 29, 1931 and was meant to bring awareness to the forefront of the current conditions after being on strike for 22 long days, but instead will forever be remembered as the day 3 brave unionized coal miners lost their lives fighting for a better living. A week after the shooting the mine owners agreed to settle the dispute by making improvements to working conditions and rates of pay.
Estevan Labour Council and the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour held a ceremony on May 10, 1997 marking the 65th anniversary of the strike. Since this event very little upkeep has been done to the Coal Car or the headstone of the Miners at the Bienfait cemetery. The Estevan Labour Council Committee has since disbanded and their assets would have been forfeited to the Canadian Labour Council (CLC).
Saskatchewan Property Management (courthouse people) are perfectly fine with the Coal Car being there but made it very clear that they will not be responsible for any upkeep. After giving a report on what Dave found out about ownership, a motion was made and carried to make the necessary repairs and keep its authenticity. Pete Perrault was contacted about doing the work but declined. Doug Dawson, a retired unionized SPC worker, who is handy with a hammer will be doing the repairs in his garage as the courthouse did not want the work done on their property.
Skylift Services did the lift for no charge, Thanks Very Much Skylift. Ashley Johnson has a flat deck trailer which he is letting us use to get the repairs done. Kevin Toombs volunteered to look after replacing the plaque. The Estevan Mercury and Goldenwest Radio were kind enough to do a story on the project, which will bring us some much needed publicity.
On September 29, 2021 it will be the 90th Anniversary of this tragic event, which paved the way for what we have today. Perhaps this event can be celebrated again and bring attention to our fight to maintain our jobs in these very trying times.