By Melanie Hodges Neufeld
As noted by the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, “the 1902 Sintaluta case was an important manifestation of the western Canadian agrarian movement.” For Throwback Thursday, we bring you the case (King v. Benoit (1903), 5 Terr. L.R. 442) from our historic collection.
From the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan:
The 1902 SINTALUTA Case was an important manifestation of the western Canadian agrarian movement. The CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY (CPR), along with elevator companies, dominated the grain-marketing system in the west, making it difficult for prairie farmers to sell and transport their grain. In the fall of 1901, a severe boxcar shortage led to a devastating grain blockage. Neither the CPR nor the elevators were capable of handling the unexpectedly large harvest, and farmers lost nearly one-half of the record WHEAT crop because of spoilage. Frustrated by the inability to unload their grain effectively, farmers from the QU’APPELLE VALLEY convened on December 18, 1901, at INDIAN HEAD, where they organized the Territorial Grain Growers’ Association (TGGA), a collective organization designed to act on their behalf.
In 1902, the TGGA requested amendments to the Manitoba Grain Act of 1900, which Parliament passed before the session ended. Under the new clauses, every railway agent was to maintain an order book that allocated boxcars on a first-come, first-served basis. Despite these amendments, the CPR continued to allot all of its boxcars to the elevator companies, and another record crop was at risk of being spoiled. The violation of the car-distribution clauses prompted the TGGA to take legal action against the CPR agent at Sintaluta. In December 1902, magistrates ruled in favour of farmers represented by the TGGA, and the decision was later sustained in an appeal before the Supreme Court. The Sintaluta Case not only compelled the CPR to assign boxcars according to the amended Manitoba Grain Act, it also justified the organization of the TGGA.