"War effort is a man staying and working an extra hour or two or five hours a day; it is a woman cutting short her noon hour to get back to finish the job ... War effort is something, which is as microscopic in the unit as the individual, but as mighty in the sum total as an army." - Elsie MacGill, Canadian aeronautical engineer
The Second World War revitalized Canada, socially and economically. The country mobilized for an all-out war effort on the home front after years of languishing in the Great Depression.
Mobilizing for war
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Fighting from the Home Front
The Canadian government was front and centre in the frenzied home front activity. Prime Minister Mackenzie King invoked the War Measures Act in 1939, which gave the government sweeping powers to mobilize the country for war.
Under the Act, the Canadian economy was totally managed and regulated. The country was able to act with lightning speed to begin supplying Britain and the Allies (countries fighting Germany) with weapons of war. Canada went from a country in economic crisis to one of the world's most industrialized nations during the war.
Canada's economic war machine was massive and varied. New factories were built, and old ones adapted for war purposes. Factories churned out thousands of guns, ships, fighter planes and military vehicles. More than half of Canada's war production went to its European Allies.
C.D.Howe was the man behind Canada's economic success story. As the Minister of Munitions and Supply, Howe assumed near dictatorial powers telling businessmen what they would produce and how much and how fast.
Women were a significant part of the economic war machine. With men fighting overseas, women - over one million - worked in factories around the country. Elsie MacGill achieved almost hero status when she managed the construction of fighter planes in Fort William, Ontario.
Canada's intense dedication to the war effort also extended outside the factories. It became the style of the day and in some cases the law of the land for Canadians do what they could to support the war.
To preserve cardboard, milk bottle caps were banned. To preserve sugar, no icing was allowed on cakes - wedding cakes excepted. To preserve cloth, the width of the lapels on men�s suits and the length of ladies skirts were regulated. Hoarding was a crime punishable by up to two years in prison.
Despite numerous government edicts, Canadians willingly pitched in. Women knit sweaters and tended small "Victory Gardens" to grow food for the war effort. Children gathered bottles and cans to help the supply materials for factories.
The dark side of Canada's war effort was treatment of Japanese Canadians. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, 23,000 Japanese Canadians were relocated from the British Columbia coast to internment camps in the interior. It was the largest displacement of people in Canada's history.
But for the most part the home front remained united. Prime Minister Mackenzie King worked hard to avoid a repeat of the conscription crisis of the First World War.
At the end of the Second World War, soldiers came home to a revitalized, prosperous nation. Canada would build on its wartime successes as it entered the second half of the 20th century.