William Davis Miners’ Memorial Day

By: The Hon. Terry Mercer

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Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, tomorrow is Davis Day. Davis Day, also known as William Davis Miners’ Memorial Day, is an annual day of remembrance observed on June 11 throughout former coal mining communities across Nova Scotia.

Every year, people gather to remember the sacrifices that coal miners made in the pits. William Davis was one such coal miner who, on June 11, 1925, joined his fellow striking miners in trying to force the coal company, Besco, the British Empire Steel Corporation, to negotiate a new contract.

The company had shut down the company stores — essentially the grocery and hardware stores. The miners forced out the company men who had taken over the power plant. That’s when, on June 11, police and striking coal miners clashed in violence. William Davis was shot and killed by company police on that day.

Honourable senators, there are many industries from our past and continuing today that require hard labour. Coal mining was a tough, dirty business and is no longer a large part of Nova Scotia’s industrial landscape, but it is a large part of our history. Coal mining has helped bring Canada through many difficult times.

On Davis Day, we recognize that proud history while taking the day to honour the sacrifices of coal miners and their families.

The vice-president of BESCO was known to say: “We have all the cards . . . eventually they will have to come to us . . . they can’t stand the gaff.”

How wrong he was.

The strong resolve of those coal miners continues today in the hearts and minds of all Nova Scotians. They did indeed stand the gaff. Thank you, honourable senators.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

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