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 Canada’s 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 Canada’s past involvement in World Wars I and II acted as
substantial steps to Canada’s independence from Britain. The world wars were events in
history that helped society move towards excepting women’s performances of different
roles in society, made Canada a reputable country, set standards of religious freedom
and equality, and increased agricultural production by 40%. Canada’s involvement in
both World Wars was vital to Canada’s independence and today’s constant effort for
The Great War (W.W.I) created many problems that have made Canada’s
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 it’s 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 Britain’s 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 Britain’s
Canada’s 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 women’s 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 it’s 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 King’s 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 Canada’s
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 nation’s
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 Canada’s involvement in the war was vital to save the world
from an oppressive regime. Canada’s 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 Canada’s 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 today’s
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.