Canada declares war

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INTRODUCTION – Read on p. 101

  1. 1938 – British PM Neville Chamberlain announced to the world that he had managed to secure “peace for our time” with the Munich Agreement. This agreement let Hitler take over part of Czechoslovakia on the promise that he would cease his aggression.

  1. March, 1939 – Hitler ignored the terms of the agreement, and his troops marched through the rest of Czechoslovakia.

  1. May – Britain’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Canada, the first time a reigning monarch had ever visited this country. The purpose of their visit was to rally support for Britain at a time of impending war.

  1. PM Mackenzie King did not want Canada to become involved in another world conflict

    • The scars of WW I, fought less than 25 years earlier, were still fresh for many Canadians.

    • The war had deeply divided Canada on the issue of conscription.

    • King knew that if he imposed conscription in this war, he and the Liberal party would lose support in Quebec.

    • Canada was just starting to come out of the dark years of the Depression. The economy was slowly improving, and King didn’t want the country plunged back into debt.

  1. Sept. 1 – Germany invaded Poland.

  1. Sept. 3 – Britain and France declared war on Germany.

  1. Now Canada was an independent country, and had to decide for itself whether it would go to war again.

    • Sept. 8 – PM King called a special session of Parliament to decide Canada’s response.

    • King gave a strong speech in favour of declaring war.

    • His minister of justice, Ernest Lapointe of Quebec, also spoke in favour of the war, which helped convince Quebec voters that Canada’s involvement in the war was necessary. However, he also stated that he would never agree to conscription or support a government that tried to enforce it.

    • King assured Parliament, and Quebec, that his government would not enforce conscription.

    • King’s position on joining the war was supported by the opposition Conservative Party.

    • Only J.S. Woodsworth, leader of the Commonwealth Cooperative Federation (CCF), argued against going to war.

  1. Sept. 10 – Canada declared war on Germany.

Mobilizing Canada’s Resources

  1. Despite its willingness to join the war, Canada was not prepared for it in 1939.

    • Army, air force, and navy troops were small in number, and most of Canada’s equipment was outdated and unfit for combat.

    • The army had only 4500 troops, a few dozen anti-tank guns, 16 tanks, and no modern artillery.

  1. Unlike WW I, Canadians did not cheer when Canada declared war on Germany, but still had no trouble finding volunteers.

    • In Sept. alone, over 58 330 people volunteered for service.

    • Aboriginal people volunteered at a higher percentage of their population than any other group in Canada. Thomas Prince would become one of Canada’s most decorated soldiers.

    • At first the Canadian army rejected African-Canadian volunteers because of their racist attitudes towards people of non-European origin, but as the war continued they were accepted into the regular army and the officer corps.

    • After years of the Depression, some Canadians were attracted by the private’s pay of $1.30 a day plus $60 a month for a dependent spouse and $30 a month for each child.

    • Many still felt strong ties with Britain and volunteered from a sense of duty.

    • Others came forward from a sense of new-found national pride.

  1. The first Canadian troops sailed from Halifax on Dec. 10, 1939.

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

  1. In the early months of the war, Mackenzie King hoped Canada’s contribution to the war effort would remain, as much as possible, at home. This way, the issue of conscription could be avoided.

  1. Dec. 1939 – Canada agreed to host and administer a training plan in which British instructors would train pilots and other flight personnel from all over the Commonwealth in Canada.

  1. Canada’s open skies, its climate, and its distance from enemy aircraft made it an ideal training location.

  1. Air fields were built on the Prairies and in other locations near small towns and villages, and old aircraft were refitted and returned to service.

  1. 130 000 pilots, navigators, flight engineers, and ground staff were trained.

  1. The total cost was over $2.2 billion, of which Canada paid over 70%.

Total War

  1. Apr. 1940 – the government established the Department of Munitions and Supplies

    • C.D. Howe was appointed minister and given authority to do whatever it took to gear up the economy to meet wartime demands.

    • Vancouver was building ships for the navy, Montreal was constructing new planes and bombers such as the Lancaster, and Canada’s car industries were producing military vehicles and tanks.

    • Munitions factories opened in Ontario and Quebec.

    • If the private sector was unable to produce what Howe wanted, he created Crown corporations (government-owned) to do the job.

    • Even farmers were told to produce more wheat, beef, dairy products, and other foods.

    • The government ran telephone companies, refined fuel, stockpiled silk for parachutes, mined uranium, and controlled food production.

  1. total war = Canadians willing to do whatever it took to defeat the enemy


  1. Allies = Britain, France, Commonwealth countries (including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand)

  1. Axis = Germany, Italy (1939), and Japan

  1. phoney war - Allied troops were quickly stationed along France’s border with Germany, where they waited for Germany’s next move – but for 7 months, nothing happened; many people started to believe there might not be a war.

  1. blitzkrieg = “lightning war”

    • Germany attacked Denmark and Norway in Apr. 1940.

    • In surprise attacks and with lightning speed, German panzers (tanks) would crash through enemy lines, driving forward as far as they could.

    • War planes would roar through the skies, constantly bombing the enemy below.

    • German soldiers would also parachute into enemy territory, destroying vital communication and transportation links.

    • The attacks were swift and thorough, and left the defending army confused and, eventually, surrounded.

Evacuation at Dunkirk

  1. It took Germany just hours to conquer Denmark and only 2 months to take Norway.

  1. May 10 – the German Wehrmacht (armed forces) began its invasion of the Netherlands.

  1. German forces moved quickly through Belgium, and finally into France. Within days of arriving in France, German panzers had reached the English Channel.

  1. Allied forces were surrounded in the French port of Dunkirk. They had to escape before the Germans captured the town.

  • The British navy rounded up every boat capable of navigating the English Channel.

  • Hundreds of fishing boats, pleasure crafts, and ferries joined naval and merchant ships as they headed across the Channel for the beaches of Dunkirk.

  • The German Luftwaffe (air force) bombed the port of Dunkirk, making the escape by the Allies even more difficult, but the evacuation continued.

  • Nearly 340 000 Allied soldiers were brought to safety in Britain.

    1. The German army continued to sweep through France. The French army was no match for the powerful German troops, and on June 22, 1940, France surrendered.

    1. Britain and the Commonwealth now stood alone against Germany.

The Battle of Britain

  1. Hitler’s next goal was “Operation Sea Lion,” the invasion of Britain.

  1. July 10, 1940 – the German Luftwaffe started a massive bombing campaign, aimed at destroying harbours and shipping facilities in southern England.

  1. In August, the bombing raids targeted air fields and aircraft factories.

  1. By Sept., the German strategy shifted to bombing civilian targets, and for 55 consecutive nights, German planes bombed London and other cities.

These raids became known as “the Blitz.”

  1. Germans had more fighter aircraft than the British but were unable to defeat the British air force. Reasons:

  • The British had a very sophisticated radar system that gave them early warnings of German air raids.

  • The British used Spitfires and Hurricanes, 2 fighter planes that, although limited in number, were extremely effective defence planes.

  • The British were joined by many pilots from Commonwealth countries, including some 80 Canadian fighter pilots.

    1. May 1941 – the British air force was having more and more success in shooting down German bombers, and Hitler finally gave up on his plans to invade Britain.

    1. Although Germany lost the Battle of Britain, more than 23 000 people were killed in the Blitz, mostly British civilians.


  1. Hitler turned his attention eastward: he launched “Operation Barbarossa” (“red beard”), the invasion of the USSR.

  1. Hitler needed to conquer the USSR in order to fulfil his long-term plans of a German Empire. He planned the invasion for later in the war, but when the Soviet Union took over parts of the Balkans in 1940, Hitler became suspicious of the motives of the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin.

  1. The Soviets were surprised and unprepared for the attack.

  1. At first, the German troops were able to push the Soviet army deeper and deeper into the Soviet Union. By autumn, the Germans had managed to reach the outskirts of Moscow and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). But the German troops were ill-equipped for the long and bitterly cold Soviet winter, and soon lost their advantage.

  1. 1942 – Germany launched another offensive in the USSR, hoping to capture the rich oil fields in the south. This time, the German troops got as far as Stalingrad, but once again were stopped by the severe winter. Their situation grew desperate and, after suffering more than 300 000 casualties, the German army surrendered in early 1943.

  1. The Soviet army went on the offensive, retaking much of the territory they had lost earlier. By 1944, the Soviets were advancing into Eastern Europe, towards Germany.

The War in the Pacific

  1. Dec. 7, 1941 – Japanese planes bombed the U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbour, on the island of Hawaii, destroying half the fleet. Then they bombed the Philippines.

  1. The next day, the U.S. government declared war on Japan.

Japan’s allies – Germany and Italy – then declared war on the U.S.

  1. Japan continued its invasion of most of Southeast Asia and Burma (Myanmar), and the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia), heading towards Australia.

  1. The whole world was now at war.

  1. By Christmas Day, 1941, Hong Kong had fallen to the Japanese.

  • Canada had sent troops to Hong Kong only months earlier, and all 1975 Canadians were either killed or taken prisoner by the Japanese.

  • Of the 555 who perished, nearly ½ died as prisoners during the 3 ½ years they were imprisoned.


  1. By the middle of 1942, the Soviet Union now one of the Allied powers, had lost close to a million soldiers.

  1. Soviet leaders wanted the Allies to invade Europe from the west, a move that would weaken the German army by forcing it to fight the war on 2 fronts.

The Dieppe Raid

  1. The Second Canadian Division was chosen to be the main force of attack in an experimental raid on the French port of Dieppe, under German occupation.

  1. 4 pre-dawn attacks along the coast were to be followed by one main attack on the town of Dieppe ½ an hour later.

  1. Allied troops were to be covered by air force bombers, and tanks were to be landed at the town. See Figure 5-10 p. 109.

  1. Things went wrong from the beginning.

    • One of the ships carrying Canadian soldiers to Dieppe unexpectedly met a small German convoy. The noise of a brief sea battle alerted German troops on shore.

    • The Canadians were to disembark before dawn, but the ships were delayed, and Canadian soldiers were easily machine-gunned by waiting German soldiers in the early daylight.

    • Communication between the ships and troops on land was poor, and commanders sent more reinforcements ashore, believing the first wave of soldiers had reached the town. These troops also became trapped on the beaches, making them easy targets for the German soldiers positioned on the cliffs along the coastline.

    • Allied tanks couldn’t get enough traction on the pebbled beach.

      1. Read the article by Ross Munro, Canadian war correspondent, p. 110. 907 Canadians were killed during the 9-hour battle, more than any other day of the war. Another 586 were wounded and 1874 taken prisoner.

      1. Opinion is divided on whether Dieppe was a valuable learning experience or a complete disaster.

Canadians at Sea

  1. By 1941, the Battle of the Atlantic was in full force, and Canada’s contribution was much needed.

  1. Britain was almost completely dependent on food and military supplies from Canada and the U.S., but the Allied merchant ships bound for England were being sunk by “wolf packs” of German U-boats patrolling the Atlantic.

  1. Allies sailed in convoys: warships escorted vessels carrying vital supplies, protecting them. But German U-boats continued to destroy hundreds of supply ships, sinking millions of tonnes of cargo.

  1. Canada started building small warships, called corvettes, to escort convoys across the ocean; they were quick, small, and manoeuvred well, but were not very seaworthy.

  1. Until the winter of 1942-1943, it seemed that the Allies would lose the Battle of the Atlantic. Some German submarines even sailed into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and up the St. Lawrence River to attack ships there.

  1. The situation started to turn around.

    • By May 1942, the British had cracked the German naval code, which meant the Allies could track German submarine movements more easily.

    • In Dec., the British cracked a second German code.

    • The Allies were reaching the point where more ships were being built than were being destroyed.

    • Better training of Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) personnel and more sophisticated equipment

    • The corvettes were helped by long-range Liberator bombers which could fly far enough from bases in Britain and Canada to protect much of the convoy’s route.

    • By 1943, Germany’s U-boat fleet had suffered serious losses, and many more Allied convoys were reaching their destination.

  1. Canada’s navy grew significantly during the war

    • By 1945, it had 400 vessels and over 100 000 sailors: 99 688 men and 6500 women.

    • The RCN is credited with having provided about ½ the escorts across the Atlantic.

Canadians in the Air

  1. Altogether, almost 250 000 Canadians joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) during the war years.

  1. The Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service was created in 1942. Most “WRENs” were limited to shore-based jobs, working as wireless operators, coders, drivers, and operational plotters.

  1. Canadian air crews participated in bombing raids in Britain, North Africa, Italy, Northwest Europe, and Southeast Asia.

  1. By mid-1943, the Allies had started a series of bombing raids aimed at destroying German industry.

  • Night after night, British and Canadian bombers pounded German cities; U.S. bombers attacked during the day.

  • One of the worst attacks was on the German city of Hamburg. Relentless bombing by the Allies created a firestorm below, and the city was engulfed in flames driven by fierce winds. Read the description by Canadian bomber ace Johnnie Fauquier pp. 113-114.

  1. Nearly 10 000 Canadian bomber crew lost their lives in the war, a ¼ if the total number of Canadians killed in WW II.

  1. In 1941, the RCAF formed the Women’s Division (WD) to support the war effort

  • Women were trained as clerks, cooks, hospital assistants, drivers, telephone operators, welders, instrument mechanics, and engine mechanics.

  • Women pilots in Canada were frustrated by the RCAF’s refusal to let them fly.

  • Only later in the war were women allowed to fly bomber planes on flights to deliver them to Britain.

  • Women never took part in combat.


War Technology

  1. submarines – the Germans invented a snorkel that brought air into the submarine. Batteries could be recharged below the surface.

  1. radar – an electronic system that uses radio waves to detect objects beyond the range off vision. Radar can provide information about the distance, position, size, shape, direction, and speed of an object. Radar was used to detect approaching aircraft and naval vessels.

  1. atomic bomb – developed by the U.S. A sphere about the size of a baseball was equal in power to over 20 000 t of TNT. A single atomic bomb could cripple an entire medium-sized city.

  1. V-2 rocket (German) – with a range of 350 km, were used with deadly accuracy against London in the closing days of the war. The designer, Wernher von Braun, moved to the U.S. after the war. After becoming a U.S. citizen, he designed the Gemini and Apollo rockets that eventually led to the U.S. moon landing in 1969.

  1. coding machine – developed by the Germans, known as “Enigma.” Converted radio messages into code so that they could not be understood by the enemy.

  1. jet-propelled airplanes – first used in WW II. Could fly higher and faster than propeller-driven planes, but were not perfected until after the end of the war.

  1. synthetics – synthetic rubber was stronger than natural rubber and more resistant to heat. Nylon became a substitute for Japanese silk in parachutes. Aircraft windows were made from Perspex, a clear plastic that was superior to glass because it did not shatter. Heat-resistant polyethylene was used to improve radar equipment, and other plastics were used to waterproof tanks.

  1. medical technologypenicillin, an antibiotic, was first isolated in 1929 by British scientist Alexander Fleming, but was not used to treat infections in humans until 1941. It contributed to a 95% recovery rate for wounded Allied soldiers. Plastic surgeons performed thousands of operations, using innovative techniques to restore hands, feet, and faces.

THE TIDE TURNS (See the map in Figure 5-15, p. 115.)

  1. The Allies gained strength when the U.S. entered the conflict in Dec. 1941.

  1. They began to win the Battle of the Atlantic and made important advances in the Pacific.

  1. By 1943, the Allies had cleared North Africa of Axis forces and could turn their attention to the invasion of Europe.

The Invasion of Italy

  1. British PM Winston Churchill felt that the best way for the Allies to recapture Europe was through what he called the “soft underbelly” of Europe – Italy and Sicily.

  1. July 10, 1943 – Canadian soldiers participated in the Allies’ invasion of Sicily. After 2 weeks of fierce fighting, the Allies were successful.

  1. Read the article by Canadian war correspondent Matthew Halton on p. 116. The Allies’ advance through Italy was difficult, but on June 4, 1944, they finally took Rome. Fighting continued in Italy until the spring of 1945.


  1. “D-Day” (June 6, 1944) – the Allies launched “Operation Overlord” – a full-scale invasion of Europe.

  • There were to be 5 landing points along an 80 km stretch of beach in Normandy in northern France

  • These beaches were code-named “Sword,” “Juno,” “Gold,” “Omaha,” and “Utah.” (See the map in Figure 5-17, p. 117.)

  • Attacks on the beaches were preceded by massive air attacks, and paratroopers were parachuted in behind the German lines.

  • On the morning of June 6, over 30 000 Canadian soldiers arrived at “Juno” Beach as part of the first wave of the attack (See the maps in Figure 5-17, p. 117). They had to make their way past the concrete barriers the Germans had erected, through barbed wire and other obstacles, in order to work their way inland.

  • The Allied troops had 2 advantages:

1. They had massive air and naval support, with the ability to land more

than a million troops within 2 or 3 weeks of the initial landing.

2. They had managed to keep the details of the attack a secret from the

Germans. The weather had been stormy and, although the Germans

expected an attack, they did not think the Allies would attempt a

landing in bad weather, and therefore their defence was poorly


  • 359 Canadians died and 715 were wounded, but numbers were lower than expected.

    1. The Allies began an 11-month advance through France and Belgium, towards Germany.

    1. The Allies were welcomed as the liberators of Europe. Canadians marched triumphantly through the streets of Dieppe, where only 2 years earlier they had suffered a terrible defeat.

    1. March 1945 – Allied forces attacked Germany.

    1. Canadians were given a separate task: the liberation of the Netherlands.

  • An earlier Allied attempt had failed in 1944; German troops had retaliated by destroying much of the port cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and by flooding the countryside. Food and fuel supplies to the Dutch were cut off.

  • Early April – Canadian troops began their attack on the Netherlands. Casualties were high: over 6300 Canadians were killed in the operation.

  • By April 17, the Canadians had defeated the German army in the northern city of Groningen. They then worked their way south to the city of Zwolle, while other Canadian troops fought their way to the cities of Arnhem and Apeldoorn.

  • By May 4, the German troops in the Netherlands were surrounded, and they surrendered.

  • Even before the German surrender, Canadians had begun air drops of food over parts of the Netherlands. These air drops were followed by convoys of trucks carrying food and fuel.

  • Canadians were hailed as heroes in victory parades throughout the Netherlands.

    1. While the Allies invaded Germany from the west, the Soviet Union attacked from the east.

    1. Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. Earlier, Hitler and his wife Eva Braun had committed suicide in a bunker in Berlin rather than submit to the Allies.


  1. Read the letter written by a Canadian soldier at the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen, pp. 119-120.

  1. By 1941, the Nazi government adopted the “Final Solution” – a grisly and horrifying plan to rid their society of all people they considered undesirable.

  1. Death camps were built in Bergen-Belsen and Buchenwald in Germany and Auschwitz and Treblinka in Poland.

  1. German scientists experimented with the most efficient ways of killing large numbers of people.

  1. Jews from all over Europe were shipped to the death camps. On arrival, they were stripped of their clothes and valuables, their heads were shaved, and families were separated. The weak, the old, and the young were sent immediately to the “showers,” which spurted not water, but deadly Zyklon-B gas. The strong and healthy were put to work. Their turn at the “showers” came when overwork, starvation, and disease had weakened them.

  1. By 1945, the Germans had murdered more than 6 million Jews, Roma (Gypsies), Slavs, and other people they considered inferior.


  1. By mid-1945, most of the Japanese air force and navy had been destroyed, but the army was still strong. The Japanese had demonstrated that they would “fight to the last person.”

  1. In response, the U.S. government decided to use the atomic bomb.

  • For some time, U.S. and British scientists had been working on the Manhattan Project, a top-secret plan to develop a nuclear bomb.

  • In 1942, Canada was made aware of the project. Uranium was an important component of the bomb, and the Eldorado mine at Great Bear Lake, NWT, produced uranium. The Canadian government secretly bought the mine.

    1. Aug. 6, 1945 – a U.S. bomber (nick-named the “Enola Gay,” after the pilot’s mother) dropped an atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

      • Some 70 000 residents of Hiroshima were killed.

      • The explosion was so powerful that some people were instantly vaporized, with only the imprint of their shadows left on the streets.

      • Another 130 000 were wounded, many of them severely burned by radiation or injured by collapsed buildings.

    1. 3 days after the bombing of Hiroshima, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing 40 000 people.

    1. The Japanese, realizing that they could not withstand the power of the new U.S. weapon, surrendered.

    1. World War II was over.

Is the Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction Ever Justified?

  1. During WW II, both the U.S. and Germany were secretly working on developing a new kind of weapon to win the war. It was a race to see who could develop the technology first.

  1. The atomic bomb ended the war against Japan, but the controversy surrounding its use continues. Was it necessary to use such a deadly weapon? Even before the bomb was dropped, there were those who believed the use of such a weapon could never be justified.

  1. Colonel Paul Tibbets, commander of the air force squadron that dropped the bombs on Japan and pilot of the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, claims that “our job was to win… the urgency of the situation demanded that we use the weapons first – before the technology could be used against us.”

  1. For almost 200 years, war strategists (planners of war) have been influenced by the writings of Karl von Clausewitz, a Prussian general who supported the idea of “total war.” Once scientists discovered how to make atomic weapons, however, von Clausewitz’s theory of total war had to be re-evaluated. Suddenly, weapons existed that could destroy all of humanity.

  1. Since the end of WW II, nuclear weapons have been built that are a 100 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Japan.

  1. Biological weapons that spread deadly micro-organisms, such as anthrax and smallpox, have also been developed, as well as deadly chemical weapons such as nerve gas.

  1. Many nations have agreed to treaties that limit the testing of nuclear weapons.

  • 1972 – Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) – U.S. & Soviet Union

  • 1979 – a second treaty on arms limitation signed, but not ratified

  • 1988 – agreement to reduce nuclear weapons – U.S. & Soviet Union

  • 1991 – again U.S. and Soviet Union

    1. In spite of international agreements that ban the use of biological and chemical weapons, there is strong evidence that Iraq used chemical weapons on its Kurdish population in 1988, according to the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch.

    1. Such weapons could be used by a rogue state – a country that ignores international agreements and takes actions for its own gain to the detriment of other nations.


  1. Under the policy of total war, Canadian factories were producing more goods than ever before. Before long there was a shortage of labour.

  1. As in WW I, women took men’s places, and they began working as welders, drillers, punch-press operators, and machine operators. “Rosie the Riveter” became a popular nickname for these working women.

  1. Single women were in high demand as factory workers as they often had limited family obligations and could work long hours.

  1. In Ontario and Quebec, where most munitions factories were located, the provincial governments provided money for day care facilities for married women.

  1. Companies built dormitories close to factories, and the government helped subsidize the food and rent in the dormitories.

Canada’s Wartime Economy

  1. PM King chose James Ilsley as minister of finance to prevent inflation (rise in prices) and a massive debt problem.

  1. Ilsley encouraged Canadians to buy Victory Bonds. This would ensure that Canadians saved money, which would solve the problem of inflation, and the government could use the money to finance the war.

  1. Ilsley also increased income taxes.

  1. Funds were raised for the government, but these actions did not prevent prices from rising.

1941 – The Wartime Prices and Trade Board froze all wages and prices to prevent inflation.

  1. 1942 – King introduced food rationing – each Canadian adult was limited to a weekly ration of about 1 kg of meat, 220 g of sugar, 250 g of butter, and about 115 g of coffee.

The Growing Demand for Social Change

  1. During the war, the federal government tried to restrict or prevent strikes by unions.

  1. The huge shortage of labour often worked to the unions’ advantage, and many ignored restrictions on the right to strike.

  1. 1944 – the federal government allowed workers the right to join a union and forced employers to recognize unions chosen by their workers.

  1. 1943 – the CCF party made up the opposition in Ontario; in 1944, it formed the government in Saskatchewan under T.C. “Tommy” Douglas.

  1. 1945 – PM King expanded Canada’s social assistance programs by bringing in the Family Allowance program, which helped families cover the cost of child maintenance.

  1. Canada’s policy of “cradle to grave” social security had begun.

The Conscription Crisis

  1. Even though Mackenzie King had promised there would be no conscription, the speed with which the Germans occupied Europe in 1940 stunned Canadians.

  1. Many Canadians, including the opposition Conservative Party, demanded more government action, so King’s government brought in the National Resources Mobilization Act (NRMA):

    • gave the government special emergency powers to mobilize all the resources in the nation to defeat the enemy.

    • allowed for conscription, but only for home defence

  1. Apr. 27, 1942 – King decided to hold a plebiscite to ask voters whether they would release the government from its promise not to send conscripts overseas. In all provinces except Quebec, the majority voted “yes.”

  1. Aug. 1942 – King permitted overseas conscription, even though conscripts were not sent until 1944.

  1. Quebec felt betrayed by King’s actions. King tried to smooth over the conflict with the slogan “Not necessarily conscription, but conscription if necessary.”

  1. PM King’s new Minister of Defence, General Andrew McNaughton, commander of the Canadian army in Europe from 1939 to 1943, was unable to convince the men conscripted under the NRMA to volunteer for duty overseas, so King finally had to agree to send conscripts overseas.

  1. In the final months of the war, some 12 000 NRMA conscripts were sent to Europe. Conscripts in B.C. refused to leave at first, there were riots in Montreal to protest King’s decision, and the Quebec legislature passed a motion condemning the federal government’s actions.

  1. In the end, only 2463 Canadian conscripts ever reached the front.


  1. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour and invaded Hong Kong, many west coast communities in Canada “blacked out” their areas at night, turning off all their lights so that their location would not be obvious to attacking planes.

  1. Japanese-Canadians living in B.C. became a special target of public suspicion. Some people became convinced there were Japanese spies among them.

  1. By 1941, there were over 23 000 Japanese-Canadians living in Canada, 22 000 in B.C.

  1. There was no evidence to suggest that any of these people supported Japan rather than Canada. In fact, some had served in the Canadian armed forces during World War I. For this service, they had been promised the right to vote in 1918, but by the outbreak of World War II, this promise had still not been fulfilled.

  1. As anti-Japanese sentiment grew into hysteria, the federal government caved in to public pressure.

    • 1942 – under the War Measures Act, all Japanese-Canadians living near the B.C. coast were “invited” to move to the Okanagan Valley, where they would be settled in temporary camps called “relocation centres.”

    • Soon all Japanese-Canadians, regardless of how long they had been living in Canada, were forced to leave the coast.

    • Families were separated, many were sent to isolated internment camps in the interior of B.C., where they were detained without trial until the end of the war.

    • Some families chose to go, instead, to Alberta or Manitoba, where they laboured on beet farms. These locations were farther away from their homes, but at least families were allowed to stay together.

      1. Jan. 1943 – the Custodian of Enemy Property, a federal government official, was given the power to confiscate and sell Japanese-Canadian property. People who had been relocated inland lost everything: their houses, cars, shops, fishing boats, and other property. All their possessions were sold very cheaply, and the owners received virtually nothing.

      1. At the end of the war in 1945, Japanese-Canadians could apply for repatriation to Japan, which had been devastated by war, or they could agree to settle permanently east of the Rocky Mountains.

      1. 3964 Japanese-Canadians were repatriated. Of these, over 2600 were Canadian citizens, of whom 1979 had been born in Canada. Thousands of others were relocated to other parts of Canada.

      1. 1947 – government bowed to public pressure and cancelled the repatriation order.

  1. 1988 – the federal government apologized for its actions and agreed to pay the 1400 people who were affected by the policy and were still living $21 000 each. It also agreed to restore Canadian citizenship to any person who had lost it through repatriation to Japan.


  1. The value of goods Canada produced rose from $5.6 billion in 1939 to $11.8 billion in 1945.

  1. Financial aid given by Canada to the Allies amounted to $3.4 billion.

  1. By the end of the war, Canada was known as the “arsenal (military storehouse) of democracy.”

  1. Every sector of the economy boomed:

    • rapid increase in the production of aluminum – strong, rust-proof, light material used in the manufacture of aircraft

    • paper production rose because Germany had occupied Norway & Sweden, and was preventing paper products from reaching Germany’s enemies.

    • increase in demand for petroleum products to fuel wartime tanks, trucks, and airplanes; exploration led to major discoveries of oil fields in Alberta.

    • gross domestic product (GDP) = value of all goods (such as food, cars, airplanes) and services (nursing, insurance, education) produced in a country in one year.

    • See Figure 5-25, p. 128, which shows how Canada’s GDP increased during the war years.

  1. Agriculture, once the most important sector of Canada’s economy, was overtaken by industry.

  1. Canadian cities and the industrial areas around them attracted a massive wave of post-war immigration that eventually led to the multicultural society we know today.

  1. There is probably no other 10-year period when there was more change to Canada’s economy than in the period from 1939 to 1949.

Building an Identity

  1. From being a colony in the British Empire just a few years earlier, Canada was a major player in a global conflict, building the world’s third-largest navy and fourth-largest air force.

  1. Although many Canadians were killed, wounded, or captured, World War II became a defining event in the development of Canada’s identity.

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