Canada is a nation constructed from small stones of determination, and piles of perseverance. Today, Canada stands tall as a beacon of democracy and a fortress of ideological freedom. From the small stones of determination, to the status it wears proudly today, much has changed. It is the history that has shaped Canada into the nation it is; from the victorious moments to the days of misery and hardship. A prominent decade of true misery and hardship recalled by Canadians is the Great Depression. The Great Depression of the 1930s was a time of severe poverty, unemployment and unjust treatment experienced like never before by Canada.
The Great Depression was unforeseen, yet inevitable. The Great Depression led many families to undertake drastic measures. This spark ignited a flame of downwards spiralling, leading the worst to be brought out in Canadians everywhere. Some say the 1930s was a time most difficult for single, unemployed men. These men needed work and a roof to sleep under. In a nation littered with jobless men, it was difficult to find work for every unemployed man. However, Prime Minister R. B Bennett found the simple solution to be relief camps. Bennett feared the idea of Canada, like Russia, would become a communist society.
What he feared more was the idea that single unemployed men could overthrow the government, which led him to create relief camps. Bennett’s true motive for creating the relief camps was to hide the men from the public, and thus prevent the men from influencing the public negatively, by leading them to riot and protest. He did this by locating the camps in isolated areas. The idea of relief camps was brilliant at first, as it provided meals and protection from the harsh winters. Unfortunately, the conditions inside the camps were sickening. Although meals were served, they were not easily consumed due to the horrid taste.
A resident once said, “No, we never starved. The food was good. I mean good when it arrived but it was pretty awful when it hit out plates. ” A camp in Riding Mountain Park displayed how horrid the conditions truly were. The building was made of tarpaper and has no windows. The floors were covered with black mud and carried a permanent atrocious stench, with a single, unsanitary toilet for the 88 men that resided in the camp. What was truly sickening was how the camps were considered ‘in fine condition’ after inspection. In addition, the men were treated horribly. You’ve got to realize this, in the relief camps of the thirties we weren’t treated as humans.
We weren’t treated as animals, either, and I’ve always thought we were just statistics written into some big ledger in Ottawa”, said a resident of a relief camp. They worked continuously, yet were only rewarded twenty cents per day. This was meaningless, for after two months of work, only eight dollars could be earned. “Everything about those camps was wrong, but the thing most wrong was that they treated us like dirt…They wanted us out of sight, as far out of sight as they could manage. To the many residents of the relief camps it was a jail, infested with slaves the government was trying to hide from the rest of society.
The horrid conditions and unfair treatment within the relief camps is yet another reason why the Great Depression brought out the worst in Canadians. The Great Depression was well known for the poverty it inflicted Canadians. Many families suffered like never before during the 1930s. It was a struggle to feed a family for one week with the little money they obtained. Even those who were fortunate enough to have work found it difficult to pay for grocery and other necessities.
Many families reached a point of desperation where selling personal items and even family members was necessary. Those who could not afford to sell their belongings or family members ate what was available to them. This meant squirrels, gophers or any other animals that wandered into the backyard. “It was quite good, that gopher pie, but I always thought it best if you told any visitors you were eating squirrel pie. ” The lack of money led families to hoard food and the little money they had. The needy families suffered the most.
The government offered relief, or welfare, for those who qualified. An odd form of welfare was an open jail for the homeless. Similar to the relief camps, the state of jail was horrible. It was described as a very old, thick-walled stone building, with two stories. At the end of the corridor stood the toilet and one wash basin. No beds or bedding was provided and the floors were black and swarming with bed bugs. One recalls, “Men were all suffering from gastric trouble due to hunger and the hard boiled beans, weak kidneys from the freezing cold, and frozen feet.
In consequence, there was a steady line-up all night through at the toilet- two to three hundred men to one toilet… ” Another form of relief was a soup kitchen. Again, the conditions were terrible. People suffered from hours of waiting in harsh weather conditions to be served dry bread, boiled beans, and coffee or tea. In addition, eating the meal was often done in ankle deep sludge. This was not something to be thankful for, as the cost to feed a single person was four cents. It was clear the soup kitchens could put in more effort. The Prairies suffered the most, as their way of life had always been less secure.
Moreover, the families required a car and gas in order to get relief, as they had to travel to the city. In addition, many Canadian and American farmers had their property taken away for failing to meet payments on it. “Given the time to await better weather and better crops, he would be able to pay off the money and run a profitable farm. But banks did not usually wait. ” The poverty, for most unfortunate Canadians was the worst of the Great Depression. Those who tried to help were not helping enough, or were not quite helping at all.
The conditions of soup kitchens and jails endured by desperate Canadians is an example of how the worst was brought out in Canadians during the Great Depression. Some may believe that the Great Depression did not affect every Canadian, and therefore was not severe at all. Certainly, the wealthy did not suffer at all, as poverty was never a problem for them. The wealthy men were fortunate enough to have high paying jobs that supported their families throughout the decade. Some may even argue that the Great Depression benefited them, as prices were very low.
A loaf of bread was worth a nickel and a hamburger was a dime for a pound. … the average factory man who kept his job in the 1930s enjoyed a slight increase in his standard of living (though his wages dropped, they did not fall as fast as the cost of living)… ” Indeed, the wealthy did not suffer as much as the poor, and in some cases, did not suffer at all, however this does not affect the overall impact the Great Depression had on Canadians. Only a small percent of fortunate Canadians did not suffer while many others lived in misery. Due to overall negative impact of the 1930s, the Great Depression was remains one of the darkest times in Canadian history.
Today, Canada is nation well known for the freedom and rights it provides Canadians. This was not always the case until after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was introduced 1948. Before 1948, human rights abuse was a large part of Canada, especially during the 1930s. It was not always the people of Canada who comhvmitted these crimes, rather the government itself. The single, unemployed male population were sickened with the horrid conditions of the relief camps and a ridiculous law, which “… provided for the suppression of any organization alleged to advocate the verthrow the government by force and violence,” and, “… anyone arrested under this law was to be held guilty until proven innocent… ” This law had never been a key issue until the 1930s, where it was used to take advantage of those attempting to express their rights. This led to the formation of a protest known as, On-To-Ottawa Trek. Bennett’s fears of a communist Canada were slowly becoming a reality, and in realizing this, he ordered the R. C. M. P. to prevent the trek. The trekkers were stopped in Regina, despite their right to peaceful assembly, yet the trekkers refused to surrender.
Instead, they continued to protest, and thus starting a riot. The R. C. M. P were forced to arrest the leaders of the protest. A trekker wrote, “I wouldn’t say it was a riot, not at first. We were peaceably enough there in Regina and then the police on one side and the mounties on the other started to pull the guys, our speakers, off the platform. There was whistles blowing and horses charging and you could say it was the police doing the charging. ” What Bennett did was unacceptable, and the reason behind why he is considered one of Canada less intelligent Prime Ministers.
When human rights are forgotten, as they were in the 1930s, the worst is immediately brought out of people, as displayed in the On-to-Ottawa trek. The Great Depression of the 1930s can easily be considered Canada’s worst years due to the misery and suffering inflicted upon Canadians. It had and extensive psychological impact on the citizens, further proving when the will to survive is tested under extreme measures, the worst is brought out in individuals. The 1930s will always remain a period of darkness in Canada’s history, for never was a time of such struggle experienced by Canadians.
Subject: Great Depression,
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 January 2017
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