The 1947 Chocolate Bar Strike

Published by BC Labour Heritage Centre on

Youth Boycott spreads across Canada

Vancouver youth parade in support of the Chocolate Bar Protest, The Pacific Tribune, May 9, 1947.

In 1947, youth in Chemainus and Ladysmith, B.C. led the first ever children’s strike. It was a protest against the rising cost of chocolate. The price of a typical bar had ballooned suddenly from five cents to eight cents.

The kids had had enough, and demanded a boycott of chocolate bars until the price came down. Picket lines and parades were held by the children protesting.

No doubt the communities’ strong connection to the labour movement helped to drive the protest.

“We were more tuned into strikes, this being a resource extraction industry area with the mining and the forestry,” commented Parker Williams many decades later.

The Chocolate Bar Strike spread like hot syrup across Canada. Protests were held in Victoria, Prince George, Edmonton, Toronto and Fredericton.

Editorial cartoon from The Globe and Mail, April 29, 1947.

“We think we are being robbed,” commented one of the girls from Chemainus.

Before long, some stores in Vancouver were reported to be cutting the price to six cents, taking a loss.

“We’ll lose money, but it will give the kids a break,” Peter Turner, manager of the Veterans’ Centre in Vancouver told the Vancouver Sun.

“Parade Outside the Prince George Hotel and Cafe” 1947, Fraser Fort George Regional Museum, Wally West photo, 993.

Newspapers red-baited the participants and their parents. 

The indignant students parading with their placards demanding a 5 cent candy bar have become another instrument in the Communist grand strategy of the creation of chaos,” blared The Toronto Evening Telegram.

The strike fizzled, as did efforts that followed to hold one-week buyers’ strikes against butter, jam and children’s clothing.

“We did what we thought was necessary,” reminisced Williams. “We didn’t win. We lost. Still, I think we were satisfied that we were able to express something that we thought wasn’t right.”

See also:

“Chocolate Bar Strike”, BC’s Knowledge Network: 150 Stories that Shape British Columbia, E4.

“Chocolate Strike”, Canada’s History Magazine