The Canadian Forces and civilian participation in the First World War helped to foster a sense of British-Canadian nationhood. The highpoints of Canadian military achievement during the First World War came during the Somme, Vimy, Passchendaele battles and what later became known as "Canada's Hundred Days". The reputation Canadian troops earned, along with the success of Canadian flying aces including William George Barker and Billy Bishop, helped to give the nation a new sense of identity and pride. The War Office in 1922 reported approximately 67,000 killed and 173,000 wounded during the war. This excludes civilian deaths in war time incidents like the Halifax Explosion.
Support for Great Britain during the First World War caused a major political crisis over conscription, with Francophones, mainly from Quebec, rejecting national policies. During the crisis large numbers of enemy aliens (especially Ukrainians and Germans) were put under government controls. The Liberal party was deeply split, with most of its Anglophone leaders joining the unionist government headed by Prime Minister Robert Borden, the leader of the Conservative party. The Liberals regained their influence after the war under the leadership of William Lyon Mackenzie King, who served as prime minister with three separate terms between 1921 and 1949.
As a result of the First World War, the Government of Canada became more assertive and less deferential to British authority; it became an independent member of the League of Nations. In 1931 the Statute of Westminster gave each dominion (which included Canada and Newfoundland) the opportunity for almost complete legislative independence from the Parliament of the United Kingdom. While Newfoundland never adopted the statute, for Canada the Statute of Westminster has been called its declaration of independence.
The great depression in Canada during the interwar period affected all parts of daily life. It hit especially hard in western Canada, where a full recovery did not occur until the Second World War began in 1939. Hard times led to the creation of new political parties such as the Social Credit movement and the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, as well as popular protest in the form of the On-to-Ottawa Trek. The period also saw the rise of a small Communist Party of Canada, who opposed Canada's entry into Second World War and was subsequently banned under the Defence of Canada Regulations of the War Measures Act in 1940.
Canada's involvement in the Second World War began when Canada declared war on Nazi Germany on September 10, 1939, one week after the United Kingdom. The Battle of the Atlantic began immediately, and from 1943 to 1945 was led by Leonard W. Murray, from Nova Scotia. The Canadian army was involved in the defence of Hong Kong, the Dieppe Raid in August 1942, the Allied invasion of Italy, and the Battle of Normandy. Axis U-boats operated in Canadian and Newfoundland waters throughout the war, sinking many naval and merchant vessels. The Canadian mainland was also attacked when the Japanese submarine I-26 shelled the Estevan Point lighthouse on Vancouver Island.
The Conscription Crisis of 1944 greatly affected unity between French and English-speaking Canadians, though was not as politically intrusive as that of the First World War. Of a population of approximately 11.5 million, 1.1 million Canadians served in the armed forces in the Second World War. Many thousands more served with the Canadian Merchant Navy. In all, more than 45,000 died, and another 55,000 were wounded.
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|Canadian LGBT History|
Introduction • Contributors • Print version