The infamous 1980 paper fight in the Manitoba legislature

The infamous 1980 paper fight in the Manitoba legislature

A rolled-up bundle of paper, upper right, flies across the chamber at the Manitoba legislature in 1980 during the annual end-of-session paper fight. (CBC Archives/The National)

The Manitoba legislature had an amusing tradition: on the last day of a session, members of the legislative assembly and reporters in the press gallery had a big paper fight to blow off a little steam.

But on July 30, 1980, things got out of hand.

This paper was not harmless fluttering individual sheets — rather, MLAs rolled bundles of paper into tight cylinders, bound them with tape, and hurled them across the chamber.   

CBC reporter Judy Waytiuk found herself on the wrong end of one such projectile in 1980, as the news report above shows all too clearly.

Reporter Judy Waytiuk points to a scrape on her brow that was inflicted by a paper projectile during the 1980 end-of-session paper fight in the Manitoba legislature. (CBC Archives/The National)

“People can get hurt,” Waytiuk said, pointing to a nasty-looking welt on her brow. 

All fun and games … at first

The tradition began around 1900, when members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) threw their papers up in the air to celebrate the end of a session.

By 1920, Manitoba MLAs began throwing paper at each other. The paper fight would begin when the lieutenant-governor walked out after the session ended. It was a bonding event, particularly for backbenchers who didn’t get to participate much in parliamentary proceedings.

The fights escalated when MLAs starting targeting other members or reporters with whom they had grudges. They rolled up Hansards or magazines and taped them together to make dangerous projectiles.

In 1981, the paper fight tradition ended due to injuries and damage to expensive new desk microphones.

Published at Mon, 30 Jul 2018 11:00:00 -0400