It all started in the 1930s. In those days, if you didn’t have a job you were sent to federal relief camps to work for paltry wages. These camps were in isolated areas—you had no contact with your family, living conditions were tough and the pay was barely enough to get by.
Workers became frustrated with their working conditions and went on strike. Despite their efforts, their cries for help were not answered so they decided to leave Vancouver and head for Ottawa. This journey came to be known as the On-to-Ottawa Trek.
The police (RCMP) got involved, many trekkers were arrested and the strike came to an end. However, some had heard their pleas. According to a Labour Congress article:
Mackenzie King’s Liberals won the next election and legislated against the repressive conservative government, abolishing the camps.
Unemployment insurance was introduced in 1940. Research has shown that EI has been the single most important economic stabilizer in recent years.