Detective Charles Rait Millar (1894-1935)
Killed in the 1935 Regina Riot
Charles was truly a victim of the Great Depression. This City of Regina detective was brutally beaten by members of the 1,400 strong group of trekkers heading for Ottawa to plead the cause of single unemployed men and their deplorable living conditions in the recently created work camps. The group, headed by the left-wing dominated Relief Camp Workers Union came out of British Columbia, riding the rails on the epic “On-To-Ottawa” Trek. They were held up in Regina for over two weeks. A fairly peaceful rally in the Market Square, north of the Old No. 1 Fire Hall on llth Avenue and Osler Street, turned violent as police and R.C.M.P. forces moved forward to arrest the leaders. Violence erupted with many trekkers and police injured in the ensuing skirmish. Badly beaten, Charles was taken to the General Hospital, but died en route. His attackers were never found. The trek to Ottawa was eventually abandoned. During 1935 and 1936, 5,000 transient unemployed passed through the Salvation Army Men’s Hostel in Regina. In 1937, unparalleled crop failures took place. Men were arrested for begging, and sentence to 10 days in jail.
In early June of 1935, the Relief Camps Workers’ Union organized more than 1,000 men to participate in the On-To-Ottawa Trek. Determined to create awareness of the plight of single unemployed men during the Depression, the trek’s objective was to present a list of grievances to Prime Minister R. B. Bennett. However, on June 14, with the number of trekkers swelling to 1,400, the federal authorities decided the workers’ movement was a danger to the public interest and stopped the trek in Regina. On July 1, 1935, a combined force of Royal Canadian Mounted Police/RCMP and city police attempted to arrest the trek leaders while they were addressing a fund-raising rally at Market Square. The ensuing riot resulted in many injuries and also left one city police officer dead: Detective Millar.
The Leader-Post reported that plain-clothesman Detective Millar was attacked by a number of strikers armed with four-foot-long wooden clubs and was felled without a chance to defend himself. He was struck in the head and severely beaten. Other officers who tried to help were fought off by strikers who continued to beat their unconscious victim. It was believed that the war wounds suffered by Detective Millar during his service in the First World War with the 52nd Battalion had made his skull particularly vulnerable to the attack. He died before reaching the General Hospital shortly before 9 p.m.
Charles was born in Farnell, Scotland. After the First World War, he moved to Winnipeg, and in 1920 came to Regina to join the city police force. In 1929, he was promoted to the detective force.
Charles was married to Margaret Wilson (1899-1927) who died in childbirth. A widower, Charles was survived by an eight-year-old daughter, Margaret, who was adopted by Elizabeth Cruikshank. Margaret later married Douglas Grayling, a retired member of the RCMP, and resides in Hamilton, Ont. Millar Crescent is named after Charles. A bronze tablet was erected in his honour by the citizens of Regina in police headquarters, more-or-less where the market square once stood. Only two Regina police officers have been murdered in the line of duty in Regina Police Services 100 years of history.