Social and Historic Context
Years of peace... and crisis (1920-1939)
After the First World War (1914-1918), military personnel returned home. But unemployment was high, and the return of former soldiers aggravated the problem. Major labour disputes took place until the mid 1920s, causing significant economic loss. Thereafter, the economy was stimulated by low prices and inflation. Pulp and paper, hydroelectricity, mines and the automobile ranked among industrial sectors in expansion.
But this relative stability was short-lived and ended abruptly on October 24, 1929, with the Wall Street Crash in New York. The economic crisis that hit the western world was unprecedented, and the 1930s marked the years of the Great Depression.
The Canadian economy disintegrated, leading to a prolonged political and social crisis. The federal government established programs to offset the effects of the crisis, but unemployment continued to rise. Government assistance and charity no longer sufficed to meet the needs of the population: misery spread across the country.
The years of conflict (1939-1945)
On September 3, 1939, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. Canada entered the war on September 10 and became the Commonwealth's great aviation centre. Seventy-four military aviation schools were built on Canadian soil.
In the middle of the Second World War, the federal government of Mackenzie King established assistance programs for the unemployed (1940) and family allowances (1944). Mackenzie King promised not to impose conscription, but in 1942, a public vote on the subject reversed his decision: Canadians had to enrol.
During this war, the Canadians distinguished themselves alongside the Allies, more particularly during the Italian campaign (1943-1945), where they contributed to the country's liberation. Canadian soldiers also played a role of capital importance in the success of the Allied landings in Normandy. In 1945, the Allies won the war in Europe.