in the Courts
March 1933 — Estevan Court House, Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am charged as follows: “Anne Buller of Toronto, in the Province of Ontario, in the Province of Ontario, stands charged by me William James Perkins, Agent within the Judicial District of Estevan, for the Honorable the Attorney-General of the Province of Saskatchewan, by and with the direction of the said the Honorable Attorney-General for that she, the said Annie Buller, at Estevan in the said Province, on the 29th of September, A.D. 1931, with divers persons, unknown, unlawfully, riotously, and in a manner causing reasonable fear of tumultuous disturbance of the peace, did assemble together, and being so assemble together, did then and there make a great noise and thereby begin and continued for some time to disturb the peace tumultuously, contrary to the provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada.”
Mr. Perkins outlined the charge to you, but he also interpreted for you a speech that I had made on Sunday, September 27th, 1931, emphasizing, of course, that my speech was of an inflammatory character, and hence two days later a “riot” took place. The blame must be laid at somebody’s door, and why not mine? Mr. Perkins did not tell you why there was a strike; nor did he tell you that it was the conditions under which the miners worked and lived that forced them to organize a union and strike for human conditions. This, of course, would be portraying the struggle of the miners, and, of course, it is not Mr. Perkins’ job to do that. He is representing the Crown. I am representing the workers. I am not standing before you, Gentlemen of the Jury, as one who is trying to get out of a tight corner. I consider that my efforts to assist the miners and their wives were worth while. The evidence of the Crown regarding my alleged part in the ”riot” of September 29th, 1931, rests entirely on the evidence of five witnesses. Two of these witnesses are police officers, and the others, private individuals. What must be clearly evident to any impartial person is the fact that not one of these witnesses had ever seen me on more than one occasion previously, and on this occasion had only a fleeting observation; and in fact, Gentlemen of the Jury, the establishing of my identity in the “riot” is based on the most flimsy of evidence. I am intending dealing with this evidence case by case in sequence of its presentation here:
1 .MR. STUART. The Town Clerk — His evidence deals with a meeting of the Town Council and the passing and sending of resolutions dealing with the proposed parade and meeting. It brings out the composition of the council, which had not a worker sitting on it. Nothing in this evidence relating to Annie Buller.
2. CHIEF McCUTCHEON — This evidence deals entirely with establishing that there was a “riot”. Nothing in relation to Annie Buller.
3. SGT. MOLYNEAUX, RCMP — This evidence deals entirely with the parade and “riot”. It establishes the fact that “two or three women were arrested.” If Annie Buller was leading the women, inciting, encouraging them, etc., then why was she not arrested? Why was not the woman arrested who was waving her arms and calling to “come on”? It was not necessary to now that she was Annie Buller, as the others arrested were strangers to the police also. This evidence also establishes the fact that there was no trouble with the truck and cars that broke through the police lines after they passed through — no looting, raiding, or anything of that sort. The only trouble was at the point of contact with the police. If all the cars had been allowed to proceed there would have been not the slightest trouble or disturbance.
4. CONSTABLE BAND, RCMP — This witness’s evidence only establishes the fact that there was a “riot”. There is nothing here in relation to the accused.
5. CONSTABLE McKAY, Town Police— This evidence is substantially the same as that of the preceding witness. Nothing regarding the accused.
6. DETECTIVE-SGT. MORTIMER, RCMP — This witness heard the accused speak on Sunday, September 27th, at an open-air meeting in Bienfait. When asked in cross-examination why he didn’t arrest her at that time, he states there was no cause for arrest. Mortimer is experienced in police work; in his career as an officer he has possibly heard many labour speeches, and should be a good judge of inflammatory speeches; yet at the time of my speech he made no arrest, although he knew where to find me. If my speech was not of an inflammatory nature, how can it be used as the basis for the charge? He testifies that he did not see the accused at the scene of the “rioting”. He certainly would have recognized the accused, as he had seen her for some time at the meeting on Sunday. Had Mortimer anticipated trouble arising out of the accused’s speech, he would naturally have consulted the authorities after the meeting and especially after receiving Everhardt’s report. Everhardt was acting as his undercover man at the meeting. Witness, after making the statement, with no supporting evidence, that the accused was in Winnipeg under her own name in a quite open manner.
7. CONSTABLE LOCKWOOD, RCMP — This witness gives evidence dealing mainly with the fact that at “riot” took place. Nothing relating to the accused.
8. EVERHARDT — This individual admits he is an “undercover” man for the police. He claims to have attended a meeting on Sunday afternoon, September 27th, addressed by the accused. He brings out that the accused spoke of girls fighting in a strike in Toronto. He says the accused used the words “Are you yellow?” or “You are not yellow.” He says the accused said: “You will fight to not let your wives and children go hungry and barefooted.” Gentlemen of the Jury, it has been brought out in the evidence for the defence that in labour terminology when we use the word “fight” we do not mean in the sense of a fist-fight; we mean that we will unite and stand solidly together in the struggle for better conditions. Also when we speak of non-union labour we speak of it as “yellow labour.” If these words are understood in that manner, then it can quite plainly be seen that the inference put upon the words by the Crown is entirely false. The witness, also, although he admits children were making a lot of noise at the meeting and disturbed his hearing, and that he didn’t take any notes until he got back to his room, seems to remember a lot of things regarding this speech, while at the same time he cannot remember anything much of what other speakers said at the meeting that day, although he was there the whole time. Three witnesses for the defence, who were at the meeting absolutely deny that the words “The police are only a handful; you can go through them like that” were used. This witness was in Estevan on the afternoon of the “riot”, but did not see the accused there.
9. HEENAN— This witness’s evidence deals with establishing that a “riot” took place.
10. REV. MR. WARTMAN — This witness deals with the “riot.” In his capacity of minister he admits that he did not visit the wounded miners in hospital.
11. STOVIN — This witness deals with the “riot” — nothing relating to Mrs. Buller.
12. CONSTABLE TAYLOR, RCMP — This constable, although he came into Estevan from the Truax-Traer mine late on the afternoon of the “riot” has appeared in many cases giving evidence regarding the events of the afternoon. He identifies the club which he claims e took from Grigalis, although it is the same one identified by a previous police witness as being in the possession of Bernatos. There is a discrepancy in his evidence as to the distance he was from the accused, saying now he was fifteen feet away, although in the previous trial he stated ninety feet. There is a discrepancy in his evidence as to the time he made his report of seeing the accused to his superior officer. In this case he states he reported the same evening and in [the] previous trial he said he reported a few days later. He descries the accused as taking a leading part among the women in the “riot”, waving her arms and urging others to “come on” and “give them what they are looking for.” Yet he did not arrest her, although other women were arrested, who apparently had not taken a leading part. This witness bases his identification of the accused on having previously seen her at a street meeting in Winnipeg where he admits he stood the length of this court-room away. This meeting had take place approximately two months before. This is the only time he had ever seen the accused before the day of the “riot”.
13. CRONK — This witness claims to have seen the accused at the time of the “riot” and baes his evidence purely on the fact that T. McLean told him “that’s Annie Buller.” He had never seen accused previously.
14. T. MacLEAN JR. — This individual has a police record. He has been convicted of bootlegging. He has been convicted of assault. He has admitted here that he has been employed by the police as an informer to convict other bootleggers; also that he played the role of informer when Chief of Police O’Brien lost his job. This individual has served time in jail, but not because of a principle or an ideal, but because of his own selfish, personal ends. He claims to have seen the accused at the “riot”. He bases his identification on the claim that she was pointed out to him after the meeting at Bienfait on Sunday night. Although he has live din this district for many years he did not recognize anyone else in the “riot” or parade, he claims, except Sam Scarlett and the accused. There is a discrepancy in his evidence as regards the clothing the accused was supposed to have been wearing, this time saying a dark costume and previously in trial saying a grey coat.
15. MATHESON — This witness claims to have seen the accused at the “riot”. He bases his identification on a personal introduction he had to the accused. This is a discrepancy in the evidence given as to the time of this introduction; this time he says two days before, while previously said “a week or four or five days.” This is the only time he had ever seen the accused before September 29th. The introduction took place while the accused was sitting in a car out of which she did not get. How could he get any idea of height or build? This witness does not stop at hiding facts in his evidence under oath, as was brought out in the evidence read of his previous appearance on the stand.
16. INSPECTOR MOORHEAD, RCMP — The evidence of this witness brought out that although the Mounted Police have jurisdiction all over this district, he did not consider it necessary to inform the miners that they should not come to Estevan on the 29th. He claims to have seen the accused at the “riot”. His identification is based on the fact that she was pointed out t him in Bienfait by a fellow policeman on the Sunday previous. This pointing out was done out of a moving car and must necessarily have afforded but a very brief glance. There is a discrepancy in this witness’s evidence re dress on this occasion. In giving evidence in one trial he states witness had a coat on, while another time he states witness had no coat. In answer to the question . . . “Why was accused not arrested at the “riot,” at the time you say you saw and spoke to her?” . . . he states that her actions did not warrant arrest. This in spite of the fat that previous police evidence had claimed that the accused took a leading part among the women in this “riot” in which many women were arrested.
THE CROWN “EVIDENCE”
This completes the evidence for the Crown, but it is my intention to briefly summarize: The witnesses, Mr. Stuart, McCutcheon, Sgt. Molyneaux, Constable Band, Constable McKay, simply bring in evidence to prove there was a “riot”. Why they should even be brought into this case is strange, in my opinion, for they prove nothing in connection with this particular charge. Detective-Sgt. Mortimer’s evidence was, if anything, Gentlemen of the Jury, damaging to the Crown’s case. He admits that my speech was not of an inflammatory nature and there was no cause for arrest; and being an experienced police officer, you will certainly agree that, had he seen anything in my actions or my speech that would have led him to believe that I would have been the cause of the trouble, it would have been his duty as a police officer to have had me arrested. Besides, we must not forget that he had also received a report of Everhardt, his undercover man. We can dispense with Constable Lockwood’s evidence; there was nothing there against the accused. And remember, Everhardt claims to know the accused was at her meeting all Sunday afternoon, but admits that he did not see the accused on the 29th in Estevan. The witness Heenan’s evidence establishes the fact that a “riot” took place and that only. The witness Wartman’s evidence only establishes the fact of a “riot”. The evidence of Stovin is the same.
In Constable Taylor’s evidence it has been brought out under cross-examination that a number of discrepancies exist. These discrepancies include the distance he was from the accused, the identification of weapons, the time he made his report to his superiors, etc. In fact his evidence is a mass of discrepancies. Constable Taylor bases his identification of the accused at the “riot” from a distant view he got of her at a street meeting in Winnipeg some two months before. The flimsiness of this identification is self-evident. Remember, Gentlemen of the Jury, this is the only time he had seen the accused in his life. As far as the evidence of Cronk, McLean and Matheson are concerned, I have already shown that their identification was based very flimsily. In Cronk’s case, on hearsay from McLean, at the time of the “riot”, and in the case of McLean and Matheson, on the strength of one brief glimpse previous to the day of the “riot”. At this point, Gentlemen of the Jury, I cannot overemphasize that the identification of all the Crown’s witnesses has been made on the most flimsy grounds, and in the case of the two last-mentioned witnesses, should be viewed with the gravest suspicion. Inspector Moorhead’s evidence and identification is also based on the view he got of the accused from a moving car days before — this being the only time he too had ever seen the accused. He shows discrepancies in his evidence re dress. He admits there were not grounds for the arrest of the woman he claims was the accused on the day of the “riot”.
The strike in this mining field was not caused by the leaders of the miners; it was caused by the bad conditions in which the men live and work. It was caused by the violation of the Mines Act by the operators, and the low wages and short weights. Out of that strike developed this “riot” in which three miners lost their lives. The coal operators do not intend to take the blame for that “riot”; neither does the Town Council nor the Mounted Police, nor the Government of Saskatchewan. So someone must be found to saddle the blame upon; that “someone”, all are agreed, must be the miners’ leaders. And so the press is brought into play to put the leaders of the strike in a wrong light in the public mind. Let me say, Gentlemen of the Jury, that leaders are not leaders because they so style themselves. No, they are leaders because of their deeds and actions.
THE DEFENCE WITNESSES
My first witness was Mrs. Beatty, who is a motherly type of woman — a miner’s wife. She brings out in her evidence that I was brought into the field to help the work of relief only. She points out that she was at the parade and “riot” in Estevan on September 29th, but she did not see the accused there although she was well acquainted with me. She came to the witness stand out of loyalty to me and to her class, the working class. It is such loyalty as this that gives me my inspiration.
My second witness, Miss Carroll, is a straightforward young girl. Surely no one would say she was here to perjure herself. She is self-conscious on the stand, but she told a straightforward story. That story shows how the police were confused as to the identity of Annie Buller at the time of the “riot”. Miss Carroll was asked by the police if she was Annie Buller. And later she was followed to her uncle’s residence by three police, who were evidently under the impression still that she was the accused.
I wish to point out a significant thing at this point. My witnesses, you will have noticed, were composed almost entirely of miners, their wives and daughters. These are the men and women I am supposed to have been with at the time of the “riot”. Then why were not some of these workers subpoenaed to come here and give evidence for the Crown? Not a single one was used. But for the Crown are arrayed a battery of police, undercover men and police informers. Mrs. Harris, also a miner’s wife, was the next witness to give evidence for the defence.
I wish to repeat myself here, and say again, that it is a wonderful thing for me, a wonderful inspiration, to know that these miners and their wives, members of the working class, have come here to defend me.
Mrs. Harris shows in her evidence that she went into Adler’s store in Bienfait, just as the last of the parade was leaving that town, in order to buy something for the lunch which was to have been eaten at Estevan. Mrs. Harris saw the accused in Adler’s store at that time. This witness also gives evidence that she did not see the accuse din Estevan at any time that afternoon, although she has been mentioned by the police as being one of the women with which the accused is supposed to have been.
Mrs. Adler was the next witnesses. She is the wife of the storekeeper at Bienfait with whom I stayed ruing my short stay in town. Mrs. Adler is not a member of the working class. She belongs to the small business class, and as such we do not hold any ideals or principles in common. Mrs. Adler has pointed out that I stayed at her place not because of any personal friendship, but because the miners had asked her husband to put me up during my stay, and in order to keep “I good” with the miners, for commercial reasons, entirely, that I was allowed to stay at the Adler’s home, and as soon as trouble loomed they wished to wash their hands of me. They belong to the merchant class and have no interests in common with the workers. When you take five cents out of the pockets of this class and put it on the pay check of the workers there is an immediate clash of interests. It has been pointed out that Mrs. Adler is the same race as myself, and the Crown would like to suggest that is why she is here giving evidence on my behalf. As far as workers are concerned there is one nationality, one race — the race of workers. Therefore, Mrs. Adler’s evidence is given not out of friendship to me or out of racial clannishness. Her evidence is given because she is here on this stand to tell the truth as she knows it.
She has told you that I was in her home the entire afternoon of September 29th, and that I was still there when Wm. Klimak brought the news of the trouble at Estevan. She has told you of her excitable nature and how the news upset her and that when her husband returned she approached him to get rid of me. She has told you also how I tried to make things easier for them, how I tried to quieten her excited state of mind and allay any fears she may have had that they would be involved in trouble because I had stayed at their home. Her evidence shows that I told both herself and Mr. Adler . . . “you have not known me before, you need not know me now. You may dissociate yourselves entirely from me . . . “ Mrs. Adler’s evidence also shows that when a policemen went to her home in December to obtain a statement, she remembered these words ,and in order that she would not be mixed up in this affair, she signed a statement saying that I had not been at her home that day. That statement is being used against me here today.
Mrs. Adler testifies that she lied when she made that statement. The fact that she now admits that she lied does not weaken her testimony as the Crown would have you think. In fact, if anything, it strengthens the testimony she now gives. She could have taken the easy way out and have stuck to her lie, but realizing that, despite her wishes, she is now involved in the case, she is now under oath, telling the truth.
Wm. Klimak’s evidence substantiates Mrs. Adler’s. He tells of coming back to Bienfait after the “riot” and ahead of the other cars. He tells of dropping into the Adler’s store in order to buy something for supper. Finding no one in the front of the store he pushed open the door leading to the room behind and there he saw the accused and Mrs. Adler. Wm. Adler gives evidence and also substantiates that given by his wife. He tells how they did not wish to be mixed up in any labour trouble, and for that reason he asked the accused to leave their home. He tells also how the accused attempted to quieten Mrs. Adler’s hysterical state of mind after Adler and Klimak had brought the news of the “riot” back from Estevan. He repeats Mrs. Adler’s testimony regarding the words used by the accused . . . “You have not known me before, you need not know me now. You may dissociate yourselves entirely from me . . . “ His evidence regarding the statement signed by Mrs. Adler in December shows that this action was taken in order to keep them out of the case entirely, not thinking at the time it would be used against the accused. His trip to Estevan that afternoon was a short one, and his evidence shows that he left the accused at his home and that she was there when he returned ahead of the parade. His evidence entirely corroborates that of his wife and Wm. Klimak.
John Harris, the next witness for the defence, is a miner, a producer. In my opinion he and his class are the salt of the earth. He was present at the meeting on Sunday and he heard the entire speech of the accused. He is a man well used to labour speeches and he does not misinterpret them. He understands labour terminology. He has told you what is the labour definition of the words “fight”, “yellow”, etc. The evidence of this witness also brings out the terrible conditions that existed and that were the cause of the formation of the union and the subsequent strike. The violation of the Mines Act by the operators, the digging of coal for 25 cents a ton, the cheating on weights, the unbearable prices in the company stores — these are but some of the things brought out in the evidence. He also tells how the forming of a union has been fought in this field, and how union organizers have been kidnapped and run out of this district. Gentlemen of the Jury, it is not necessary to kidnap organizers these days, there is another way. John Harris testifies that he was in Estevan during the entire time of the “riot” but he did not see the accused there at any time during the disturbance.
The evidence of Alex Peattie, a miner, which was given at the last trial, was read into the records at this trial. This evidence is in entire agreement with the evidence of other miners here.
Fred Booth was the next witness for the defence. This witness corroborates the evidence given by the previous witnesses. Mr. Booth, who is also a miner, was present at the meeting referred to, and he too, shows in his evidence the educational nature of the speech. The evidence of this witness brings out the definition of the words use din the speech, and his evidence in this regard corroborates that given previously. He points out that the union was organized before the accused arrived in Bienfait. In this regard I want to say that I would have considered it a great honour to have been the organizer of the union, but it is an honour I cannot claim. This witness also brings out the condition that led up to the strike in this c al field. My own evidence followed that of Mr. Booth. I have told you quite frankly what my activities were before I arrived here, during my stay here, and after I left. I have absolutely nothing to hide and I have tried to deal with everything as clearly as possible. Mr. Sampson in his cross-examination of my evidence tries to impress you that I am a very dangerous woman. He brings out my conviction of “unlawful assembly” I Hamilton, because I led a parade of unemployed in that city. I certainly was not going to betray the unemployed of Hamilton. A vote was taken regarding the parade to the City Hall to present demands for better conditions to the City Council. That vote carried. I am no Judas, I would not betray my comrades. I led the unemployed of Hamilton in that parade because that was the only way we could present our demands for more bread and butter. If that is a crime then I am a criminal. And the same goes good for this mining field also. My coming here was to help the miners in their struggle for better conditions.
The witnesses of the defence have shown how the union in this field was resisted by the operators to the limit. This has been the case for thirty years. These witnesses also brought out the fact that there is a Mines Act in the Province of Saskatchewan and that this Act has been continuously violated, and that the gentlemen responsible are not now in jail, but re walking the streets, free men. No, the mine owners do not go to jail. But these same individuals now come forward and blame agitators for the “riot” that grew out of the strike against this violation of the Mines Act and other rotten conditions.
Isaac Newson is famous for his discovery of the law of gravity. He did not make the law of gravity — he discovered it. Ad that is what men and women do when they go out to organize labour. They ascertain and discover the conditions under which the workers are living and working, and on the basis of these conditions, demands are formulated for betterment. On these demands the workers stand together. The conditions in this mining field caused the strike. The organizers of the union did not make those conditions. The mine owners did.
The strike was called in an attempt to better these conditions. Some labour leaders perhaps would have betrayed the strike, for unfortunately there are Judases posing as labour leaders. Perhaps that is an injustice to Judas, for he had the decency to commit suicide, but these betrayers of labour do not possess that decency. But the strike was not betrayed by the leadership, it was carried out, for our leaders are not of the Judas type. Naturally the bosses of this field do not like our leaders. I know the boss of the Buffalo Cap Company doesn’t like me, for I was instrumental in showing him that such a thing as the Minimum Wage Act is in existence and that the organized force of the workers in his shop would make him abide by the Act. And just as that boss hates me, so also do these bosses of the mining field hate me and the others that led a struggle of their workers for better wages and conditions.
And this charge that I am being tried on must be looked at from that viewpoint. It is a trial of the workers by the bosses. It is the working class that is on trial here. And as such this trial will merit a page in the history of the labour movement of this country.
Mr. Sampson has asked me if I am a member of the United Front. Mr. Sampson asks this question for a purpose. He is trying to link me up, through Mrs. Tim Buck and the Toronto elections, with Tim buck and the Kingston penitentiary “riot”. I would like to explain just what the United Front it. Mr. Sampson is evidently of the opinion that it is some regularly organized party. That is not true. The United Front is simply what its name indicates — a demand regardless of what other and differing opinions they may hold. For instance, in the last civic elections in Toronto, a united front of workers was formed on the demand for non-contributory unemployment insurance. These workers may have many differing opinions, but on the question of unemployment insurance their opinions were the same. On this basis, then, they formed their united front. A united front may be formed between city workers and poor farmers. In fact, at the present time the drive of capitalism against the producing class is creating the need for a mighty united front of all producers. During the cross-examination Mr. Sampson made a very unwarranted statement — a statement that can be considered highly unethical in a member of the legal profession. Mr. Sampson claims that Tim Buck is responsible for the Kingston Penitentiary “riot”. Mr. Sampson knows very well that Tim Buck’s case regarding the “riot” has not come to trial as yet.
Gentlemen of the Jury, I am not apologizing for any of my actions. I cannot be justly convicted on this charge because I was not in Estevan at the time of the “riot,” and my speech on the Sunday previous was not a speech inciting riot.
When I face you here, I face you with my head erect. I face you as a worker with ideals and convictions. Those ideals and convictions are linked with the tide of human progress. You cannot stop that tide of progress any more than can stop the tide of the sea with a pitchfork. Regardless of what arguments or what legal points Mr. Sampson may arise, I am not guilty of this charge. But Mr. Sampson is the Crown Prosecutor, and it is his job to get a conviction. I have said before, and I say again, that it is not Annie Buller who is on trial here. It is the great class of producers that stands in the prisoners’ dock, and no one realizes more than I that the forces against us are very great. But, Gentlemen of the Jury, regardless of the outcome of this trial, I am going to remain loyal to my class, the working class, the builders of the future.
Source: She Was Never Afraid: The Biography of Annie Buller, by Louise Watson (Toronto: Progress Books) 1976, pp. 50-61.