World War I and Canada World War I, a terrifying ordeal that robbed 25 million humans of their lives, began on August 3, 1914. On this date Germany invaded Belgium, and when Britain moved to defend Belgium World War I had begun. Canada, a member of the British Empire, was now legally at war with Britain. The Canadian government was not consulted about going to war. Many Canadians were strong supporters of the British at this time and proudly went to war by choice.
However Francophone Canadians were not interested in fighting for a British affair that had nothing to do with Canadian interests. In 1918 the horror that many countries had been facing for years finally ceased. The League of Nations was formed to prevent the atrocities of war from occurring again. This organization failed miserably when in 1939 Germany invaded Poland, causing England and France to declare war on Germany. World War II had been instigated.
One week later Canada also declared war, for support for Britain was still strong in the country. This six year war resulted in the deaths of 14 million people. Many believe that Canadas involvement in both World Wars I and II, was unnecessary. During these 10 years of fighting (both World Wars) 101700 Canadians were killed or missing. The loss of these lives is one that could never been replaced.
Both wars cost the Canadian government 23 billion dollars, putting Canada into great debt. Also, the unity crisis created by conscription1 has been yet another damage to a country that has been through war. Individuals who are opposed to Canadian involvement in both World Wars place the value of life above freedom, rights, and inhumanity to man. Others feel Canadas past involvement in World Wars I and II acted as substantial steps to Canadas independence from Britain. The world wars were events in history that helped society move towards excepting womens performances of different roles in society, made Canada a reputable country, set standards of religious freedom and equality, and increased agricultural production by 40%. Canadas involvement in both World Wars was vital to Canadas independence and todays constant effort for world peace. The Great War (W.W.I) created many problems that have made Canadas involvement in the war seem trivial.
Conscription2 was introduced when there were not enough volunteers in Canada to replace those killed or wounded. This was aimed mostly at Quebecers and French Canadians, who shared the common belief that Canadians should not be endangered because of connections to Britain. Many English speaking Canadians viewed this opposition to conscription as unpatriotic. In Quebec, conscription became a symbol for the tyranny of the English-speaking majority. The bitter feelings caused by conscription created a unity crisis in Canada that is still evident today.
The first world war cost Canada 3 billion dollars. This exceeded the federal budget by six times what was usually spent. The first income tax was introduced to help pay for this debt. World War II was a slightly more expensive ordeal, costing Canada 20 billion dollars. Many argue that this money could have been used to make Canada a more prosperous country, and income tax could have been prevented. The largest and most irreplaceable loss from any war is loss of life.
Billions of children grew up in the war era without fathers, brothers, and grandfathers. Other children were never given the chance to meet their fathers before they were slaughtered in trench warfare or taken prisoner. Husbands, sons, and other loved ones were taken from innocent citizens by the most extreme act of hate and misunderstanding; war. The cliche In every cloud there is a silver lining applies to both world wars. Before W.W.I Canada was a member of the British Empire and had no control over foreign policy. W.W.I proved that Canada was not just made up of pawns to fight for Britain.
The unity crisis created by conscription showed that Canada was developing a separate culture, with different sovereignty related beliefs. After W.W.I prime minister Sir Robert Borden demanded that Canada have its own seat at the Versailles peace conference in 1919 and later with the League of Nations. Canada was beginning to prove itself capable of independence. In 1931 the statute of Westminister granted Canada control over foreign policy. Eight years later Canada entered W.W.II one week after Britains declaration of war to prove that Canada was no longer controlled by Britain.
Over the years Canada gained more independence from Britain until finally in 1982, Canada patriated our constitution, allowing us to change it without Britains consent. Canadas involvement in these wars also contributed to equalization of rights between males and females. Before W.W.I women were expected to be housewives and raise children. Many jobs were left vacant by men going to war from 1914-1918, so women were allowed to take over these jobs. Women also served overseas as nurses and ambulance drivers. By the time world war II took place, once again only 22% of women over 18 were employed outside the home. However by 1942, the war crisis encouraged all women without children to enter the workforce. Women drove busses, delivered mail, sold real estate, took over farm work, and a few served in the coastal artillery.
These wars were substantial steps to womens involvement in the workforce. Canada earned a valuable reputation for courage and good organization by fighting in both world wars. Canada took a on a role of strength and reasonable behavior in the wars. When Canadian troops needed to fight they were often successful. W.W.I victories inclue: Ypres, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Hill 70, Sanctuary Wood, Amiens, and Cambrai. The country showed its peaceful beliefs by only sending a few soldiers to fight at the start of World War II. Prime Minister Mackenzie King most of the Canadian war effort to be in the form of food and manufactured goods. Despite Kings attempt for minimal war involvement, in 1940 France was defeated and Canadian forces were attacked in Hong Kong.
The event cause Canada to increase her war effort. Although the wars put Canada into debt, economic growth was evident. In W.W.I new factories were opened, and agricultural production increased by 40% as Canada sent food to Europe. This supplying of food helped to increase ties with other countries for later trade. More than one thousand new factories helped to develop Canadas industries, making the country more independent from other countries.
World War II, can be compared in extreme simplicity to the fight for good against evil. Adolf Hitler and the Nazis3 gained power of Germany in 1933. Hitler put his anti-Jewish beliefs Immediately after gaining power. In Hitler’s case the prejudice against Jews had become maniacal, it was a dominant force in his private and political personalities. Anti-Semitism was not a policy for Adolf Hitler–it was religion. And in the Germany of the 1920s, stunned by defeat in W.W.I, and the ravages of the Versailles treaty, it was not hard for a leader to convince millions that one element of the nations society was responsible for most of the evils heaped upon it.
A simple solution to a complex problem. The citizenship rights of Jewish people were abolished, and hatred towards this group was encouraged by the Nazi government. Other countries such as Canada, Britain, France, the USSR, and the US battled this style of government. After 1941 the Nazis began genocide4, committing mass murders of Jews. The Jews were not the only victims of the Holocaust. Millions of Russians, Poles, gypsies and other subhumans were also murdered.
But Jews were the favored targets–first and foremost. Canada entered W.W.II with a full scale effort after the defeat of France. By this time Europe was in a desperate situation. Britain was left alone to fight Germany, Japan, and Italy, therefore Canadas involvement in the war was vital to save the world from an oppressive regime. Canadas involvement in the second world war reinforced the precedent set in the first world war to fight world threatening barbaric military powers. By continuing to fight for freedom in international wars Canada helped to create a standard pressuring all countries to guarantee religious freedom and individual rights.
Though Canadas involvement in World War I and World War II was tragic for many citizens, it was a great help in achieving the status that Canada has in todays modern society. A wealthy country, with a good reputation, and a democratic government pursing the equality of rights at all times. Canada has experienced and learned from the atrocities of war, and as most countries today do, makes a constant effort to solve international problems by other non-violent means.