The Canadian Home Front

The War At Home ............................................................................................

At the Begining of the War
In the begining the war could be viewed as good by a large population of Canadians. Before the war broke out Canada was economically in a ressesion. But by 1916 the Canadian Government was booming. *1 Robert Roberts, whose family ran a shop in Salford, explains how the economy started booming during the begining stages of the war. 'Some of the poorest in the land started to prosper as never before. In spite of the war, slum grocers managed to get hold of different and better varieties of foodstuffs of a kind sold before only in middle-class shops, and the once deprived began to savour strange delights ...' primary source*2

This picture shows how the Canadians at home faced food shortages as a result to save more for Canadians overseas. This is a picture of an 8 page booklet of what to and what not to eat. *3
This picture shows how the Canadians at home faced food shortages as a result to save more for Canadians overseas. This is a picture of an 8 page booklet of what to and what not to eat. *3
Canada's Booming Economy

The boost canadians were getting from the war came from the need of amunitions, food, and resources. Canada was seperated from the actual fighting so it could focus on providing for the countries overseas. During the war exports of Canadian goods reached a record high. The Shell Committy, which was later replaced by the more efficient and less corrupt Imperial Munitions Board, focused on making shells and amunitions. Once it was taken over by the Imperial Muntions Board Canadians were building ships, airplains as well as shells and ammunitions. The war effort at home provided jobs for Canadians, but didn't result in higher wages or better working conditions. Also because of high export resources such as lumber, copper, lead, wheat and beef were being depleted. Causing a inflation of prices for goods meaning that business made money, while the workers who were paid low had to pay more for their food and goods. This was the beginning of worker demands for higher wages and improved working conditions.*1

How To Pay For The War
The government would post signs like this throughout the city to encourage victory bond purchases. *4
The government would post signs like this throughout the city to encourage victory bond purchases. *4
Despite the high production and export, the government was unable to pay for its contribution for the war effort. To pay its debts the canadian government introduced a series of bonds, taxes and loans. Income tax was introduced as a temporary measure. The well off families and individuals had 3% of their income taken away, or taxed, and put towards the war effort. Businesses had to pay a tax of 4% on their profits. People were also encouraged to by victory bonds. Canadians would buy these bonds and when the war was over they were to be paid 5% interest. To get people to buy these bonds propoganda posters were made that generally focused on patriotism. Even with all these measures taken, it did not cover the entire amount owed. In 1918 a deeply indebted Canadian government was forced to borrow money from other countries, including United States.*1

The Role Of Women
The roles of women changed majorly with the war continuing. With a large portion of the male population overseas and an increase in jobs available left women the chance to take on new roles. Some women set up committees to send food and letters overseas, or joined to help out the Red Cross. The most significant change was the contribution to the labour force. With Canada's increased industrial production created a great demand for labour, women were hired to take on all sorts of jobs. With women's increased involvement and importance to the country the campaign for women's suffrage was strengthened. Without the effort of women, Canada's economy durning WW1 would have collapsed.
For greater detail visit Women in the War

Propaganda During The War
Those left on the home front could only view positives of the war partially because of the propaganda and because of the the boost the war was giving the economy. Propaganda focused on persuading Canadians to support the war. By either enlisting or to buy victory bonds. The signs were usually very appealing to Canadians because of their patriotism.
Recruiting Poster *6
Recruiting Poster *6

For greater detail visit Propaganda in World War 1

Conscription Crisis
With the war continuing on farther than what was assumed, the need for soldiers greatly increased. Not enough people were enlisting to compensate for the amount of casualties (casualties rate greater than recruit rate). Originally Prime Minister Borden had promised that there was going to be no conscription (compulsory enlistment for military service), but that was soon to change. When Borden learned how many people that were already dead and steadily being injured he was shocked. The British Prime Minister, George, convinced Borden that the war had to be won at all costs and therefore they required more men. When Borden returned to Canada he introduced the Military Service Act, which made enlistment compulsory. The people of Quebec were outraged while most other Canadians supported. The supporters of this act hoped that this would help bring the war to an end. This Act soon divided the country into either the French or the English, and the Conservatives or the Liberals. The French and English relations strained because there were no French speaking units until very late in the war. Also there were restrictions in the use of French in schools outside Quebec.
The majority of the French Canadians felt no patriotic connections to Britain or France because their ancestors had come to Canada generations before. To them, the Military Services Act was viewed as a means to force them into fighting a war they didn't believe in. The French were not the only ones to openly oppose to conscription. The farmers in the prairies needed their sons and hired workers for farm work and the industrial workers thought they were already contributing to the war effort, so why should they have to give up their jobs to fight overseas? Also the coal miners of Vancouver Island were urged to increase productivity but their wages and working conditions were not improved. The miners have a hard time providing for their families and conscription put on more strain. They could easily be taken away and their family would lose their limited income.*1

With so much opposition of conscription, Prime Minister Borden decided to call an election for a way to settle the country down. Borden wanted to make sure of his re-election so before announcing the election he passed 2 acts. The Military Voters Act and the Wartime Elections Act. The Military Voters Act allowed men and women to vote while they were overseas. The Wartime Election Act allowed female relatives of soldiers to vote. With these to acts, he also cancelled the vote of immigrants who had come from enemy countries in the last 15 years.*1 These individuals who had originally been invited to Canada prior, found themselves soon to be branded as enemy aliens. These individuals were at risk for being arrested for an indefinite period without trial.*5 These acts were very strategic. This ensured his election because soldiers overseas would vote for him because he is for conscription and wants to send more men overseas for relief. Female relatives would also vote for him because they wanted their relatives overseas to get support. In a way he fixed the vote so the majority of people who could vote would want to support him. This also caused division between the liberal party by invited those who consented to conscription to join his party. In other words he was skewering the opposition.*1

Many historians have described that World War 1 as a situation where Canada united to improve our independence. They also argue that the soldier’s sacrifices on the battlefield created a strong sense of purpose throughout Canada and won Canada the right to act as an independent nation.*5


*1 Cranny, Michael, and Garvin Moles. Counter Points. Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2001
*2 "Wars and Conflict--The Home Front In World War I."BBC.British Broadcast Corp,14 Mar. 2005. <
*3 War Meals. Photograph. Canada. The Canadian Great War. Web. <
*4 Boyd, John. Now Buy Victory Bonds. 1917. Photograph. Toronto, Canada.
*5 "World War 1: War At Home." Manitoba: life and times. Manitobia. <>.
At The Front. Photograph. Canada. First World War. Web. <>.