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Memorable Manitobans: William “Bill” Ivens (1878-1958)

Click to enlargeEditor, MLA (1921-1922), MLA (1923-1927), MLA (1927-1932), MLA (1933-1936).

Born in Barford, Warwickshire, England, he came to Canada in 1896. Originally he worked as a market gardener, but he attended the University of Manitoba as a Methodist ministerial candidate and became Methodist minister at McDougal Church, Winnipeg. An active social gospeller, Ivens broke with the church over his pacifism during World War One and was expelled from the ministry for his refusal to accept church authority. He thereupon founded the Labour Church and in 1918 became editor of the labour newspaper the Western Daily News.

During the Winnipeg General Strike he edited the daily strike bulletin, and he was arrested on 17 June by the federal authorities. His address to the jury in his trial lasted 14 hours. He was found guilty of seditious conspiracy by a jury on 28 March 1920 and sentenced to one year in prison. Before his trial, he had been charged with contempt of court for statements he had made regarding the trial of R. B. Russell.

Ivens was elected to the Manitoba legislature in 1920 and re-elected in 1922 and 1927. He was active in the Anti-Vaccination League. He took a correspondence course with an American chiropractic college and set up a successful practice in 1925. He was defeated in the 1933 federal election and never held public office again. Ivens died in Chula Vista, California.

More information:

“‘To Each According to His Need, and from Each according to his Ability. Why cannot the world see this?’: The Politics of William Ivens, 1916-1936” by Michael Butt (MA thesis, University of Winnipeg, 1993).

Profiles in Dissent: The Shaping of Radical Thought in the Canadian West by Harry and Mildred Gutkin (1997), pages 51-92.

Sources:

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by J. M. Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

Page revised: 5 May 2008

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