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Servicemen trade rifles for textbooks

The Story

Life is getting back to normal for the hundreds of thousands of recently discharged servicemen and servicewomen. For many of them, that means going to - or returning to - university. In this radio clip from 1946, veterans are advised of government benefits including a free month of university for every month they served. They are also offered living allowances. But they still need to find summer jobs so the radio host begs employers to come through. "These kids aren't snobs...so give them a chance, please."

Medium: Radio
Program: Vets Gazette
Broadcast Date: June 18, 1946
Reporter: Lloyd Wallace
Duration: 5:08

Did You know?

• After the war, about 50,000 veterans crowded into Canada's universities. Makeshift campuses were erected, some of them using wartime factories and barracks. Carleton University in Ottawa was founded primarily to accommodate returning soldiers.

• Similar education grants were also available to veterans who learned trades at vocational schools.

• Education was only one component of the Veterans Charter passed in 1944. Other parts provided for were: a one-time clothing allowance; a year's free medical care and lifetime care for any service-related condition; cut-rate life insurance, usually without a medical exam; low-interest loans to buy farmland under the Veterans' Land Act; capital to veterans who wanted to start a business;

• Post-war planners pushed the government to provide a generous package. They noted that many First World War veterans ended up in bread lines because their pensions and benefits were modest and full of exclusionary conditions.

• There were fears the flood of men and women into the civilian work force would send unemployment skyrocketing, and plunge Canada into another economic depression. That didn't happen. Canada entered 20 years of unprecedented prosperity following the war.

• The government extended the same pensions and benefits to ex-servicewomen as it did to male veterans, after waffling on the question for a few months. About 12,000 women took advantage of the education allowance.

• Status Indian veterans were denied many of the benefits given to non-Native Canadians. The Native veterans each got up to $2,320 in resettlement funds - a fraction of that for other soldiers. They were also refused education and training grants and spousal benefits.

• In 2002, the Canadian government offered Native veterans payments of up to $20,000 if they agreed not to sue. By July 2005, about 1,200 people had received the compensation.

• Another group that failed to share in the generous resettlement package was veterans of Canada's Merchant Marine. The former crew members of the civilian ships that supported the war effort - and were frequent targets of German U-boats - fought for decades to get parity with their military counterparts. On Feb. 1, 2003, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced a $50-million package to compensate merchant sailors and their spouses.

• The Veterans Charter provisions were eroded over decades of peacetime. Criticism that the remaining benefits were too meagre resulted in the passage in 2005 of a new Veterans Charter, with enriched provisions, coming into effect in April 2006.


Welcome Home, Soldier! Life in Postwar Canada more