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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 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
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Persons of National Historic Significance, Canada, Canadians, William Lyon Mackenzie King, World War I, Canada in the World Wars and Interwar Years, Military history of Canada during World War II
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