How the Great War upended Canada’s political, social, economic norms
Country pulled together during First World War, but divisions enhanced by conscription LEARN MORE ABOUT VOTE AT THESTAR.COM/WORLD One person dead after mid-air crash between two planes Postmedia cancels print deliveries to schools over pot ads
OTTAWA—The legacy of the First World War will be omnipresent when Canadians stop on Sunday — the 100th anniversary of the end of the War to End All Wars — to pay tribute to those who made sacrifices for the country and its way of life.
There will be the red poppies pinned to lapels and the haunting words of “In Flanders Field,” penned by Lt.-Col. John McCrae after the Second Battle of Ypres.
There will be the National War Memorial, originally built to commemorate the 60,000 Canadians who died during the war, and Remembrance Day itself, which has been recognized every Nov. 11 — the day the Great War ended — since 1931.
Yet the enduring impact is felt in countless other ways as well, many of them subtle — and not all of them positive, despite the popular refrain that Canada came into its own as a country during the First World War.
That’s because while the war ushered in many changes as the country pulled together during those four bloody years in a way it never had before, it also created deep divides and challenges — some of which remain today.
“The war enhances divisions between French and English, between east and west, between rural and urban. It tends to exacerbate and divide based on income and inequality,” said historian Mark Humphries of Wilfrid Laurier University.
“So these are kind of the lasting legacies for Canadians.”
No event was more divisive — or politically transformative — than the introduction of conscription. It was the issue upon which the December 1917 federal election was fought, and it broke the country along both linguistic and geographic lines.
French-Canadians were deeply angry at being forced to fight a war they didn’t believe in, while many rural Canadians and union workers felt betrayed after the government broke its promise during the election to exempt them and their sons.
Mixed into the equation was a great deal of disillusionment as companies made huge profits off the war, even as average workers struggled with low pay and returning veterans faced difficulty finding work or accessing services and benefits. A tablet computer displays a digital poppy during a ceremony marking the start of the Canadian Legion’s Remembrance Day campaign. Postmedia Network Inc. will no longer be delivering newspapers to schools across Canada in order to comply with federal laws that restrict how cannabis is advertised to minors, the company said Sunday.
A spokesperson for the Canadian news media company said print deliveries have been cancelled to elementary and high schools across the country that take part in the Newspapers in Education program.