James Dunsmuir (July 8, 1851 – June 6, 1920) was a Canadian industrialist and politician in British Columbia. He served as the Premier of British Columbia from 1900 to 1902 and the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia from 1906 to 1909.
Dunsmuir in 1914
|14th Premier of British Columbia|
June 15, 1900 – November 21, 1902
Thomas Robert McInnes|
Henri-Gustave Joly de Lotbinière
|Preceded by||Joseph Martin|
|Succeeded by||Edward Gawler Prior|
|8th Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia|
May 11, 1906 – December 3, 1909
|Governor General||The Earl Grey|
|Preceded by||Henri-Gustave Joly de Lotbinière|
|Succeeded by||Thomas Wilson Paterson|
|MLA for Comox|
July 9, 1898 – June 9, 1900
|Preceded by||Joseph Hunter|
|Succeeded by||Lewis Alfred Mounce|
|MLA for South Nanaimo|
June 9, 1900 – October 3, 1903
|Preceded by||Ralph Smith|
|Succeeded by||district abolished|
July 8, 1851|
June 6, 1920 (aged 68)|
Cowichan Bay, British Columbia
|Political party||No party affiliation|
Laura Miller Surles (m. 1876)
|Children||3 sons and 9 daughters|
|Alma mater||Virginia Tech|
|Occupation||Industrialist and politician|
Early life and business careerEdit
Son of Robert Dunsmuir, he was heir to his family's coal fortune. The Dunsmuir family dominated the province's economy in the late nineteenth century and was a leading force in opposing organized labour. Dunsmuir managed his family's coal business from 1876 until 1910, increasing profits and violently putting down efforts to unionize.
In 1905, he sold his Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway to the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1910, he sold his coal mining companies, Union Colliery of British Columbia and R. Dunsmuir & Sons, to Canadian Collieries (Dunsmuir) Ltd (CCD).
Opposition to organized labourEdit
In the 42 years that the Dunsmuirs owned the collieries, they never recognized their employees' attempts to unionize or create better working conditions. Threats, spies, blacklists and scab labour were among the tactics used by Dunsmuir to break strikes. When he could not break a strike with scab labour, he used his influence to have the provincial government call in the militia. Dunsmuir stated during a royal commission: "I object to all unions...They simply take the management of the mine...I want the management of my own works, and if I recognize the union, I cannot have that."
Dunsmuir provoked further rage when he ordered workers to relocate their homes at a new pit. Workers also resented low wages and the dangerous conditions that Dunsmuir imposed upon them. Mine owners at the time regularly ignored safety and sanitary conditions, and provincial inspectors were slow to bring them to justice.
Dunsmuir contributed to the mines of British Columbia being among the most dangerous in the world. Between 1889 and 1908, twenty-three men were killed in the production of every million tons of BC coal; the average for North America as a whole was six deaths per million tons. In 1901, while serving as Premier, many men perished in his collieries.
Dunsmuir entered provincial politics in 1898, winning a seat in the provincial legislature, and he became the 14th Premier in 1900. His government attempted to resist popular pressure to curtail Asian labour and immigration, not for humanitarian reasons, but to ensure a cheap labour pool for business. It also promoted railway construction and accomplished a redistribution of seats to better represent population distribution in the province.
Dunsmuir disliked politics and resigned as Premier in 1902. In 1906, he became the province's eighth Lieutenant Governor. He retired in 1909 and lived out his remaining years at the baronial mansion that he had constructed at Hatley Park.
One of his daughters, Jessie Muriel, married, as her first husband, the couturier Edward Molyneux. His second-born son, James A. Dunsmuir Jr., died in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915. His last child, Dola Dunsmuir, married Lieutenant-Commander Henry Cavendish and was rumored to be Tallulah Bankhead's lover.
- McCormack, A. Ross (1977). Reformers, Rebels, and Revolutionaries: The Western Canadian Radical Movement 1899-1919. Canada: University of Toronto Press. pp. 6–7. ISBN 0-8020-5385-8.
- McCormack, A. Ross (1977). Reformers, Rebels and Revolutionaries: The Western Canadian Radical Movement 1899-1919. Canada: University of Toronto. p. 9. ISBN 0-8020-5385-8.
- McCormack, A.Ross (1977). Reformers, Rebels and Revolutionaries: The Western Canadian Radical Movement 1899-1919. Canada: University of Toronto Press. p. 8. ISBN 0-8020-5385-8.
- McCormack, A.Ross (1977). Reformers, Rebels and Revolutionaries: The Western Canadian Radical Movement 1899-1919. Canada: University of Toronto Press. p. 27. ISBN 0-8020-5385-8.
- "From the Archives: Dola Frances Dunsmuir". Royal Roads University. Retrieved 15 January 2018.