Canada's History : 2020-08-01

TRADING POST : 29 : 29

TRADING POST

exceptions for military nurses. At the same time, most of the women who had entered the workforce were forced out of their jobs to make room for returning men. How should their wartime contributi­ons be viewed? Some were disappoint­ed at being cast aside after having contribute­d to the victory. Others were proud of their service and of being an inspiratio­n for their daughters who, as the next generation, would stride forward demanding greater equality. The million Second World War veterans joined about half a million veterans of the First World War in upholding powerful ideals of camaraderi­e. Among veterans organizati­ons, the Canadian Legion was the most influentia­l. While many who served in the Second World War were still in their twenties in 1945, and so they often did not define themselves as veterans, they slowly moved to the Legion and other regimental or unit associatio­ns over the coming decades. Governor General Georges Vanier, a veteran of two world wars, wrote about the enduring value of “friendship made on the battlefiel­d.” He said, “the links that are forged in the heat of battle between men who have fought and suffered together outlive war and may very well do more than anything else to establish order in our troubled world. Only those who have been through war can appreciate the curse and realize what a blessing peace is.” In the postwar years, veterans looked like other Canadians, except for the visibly wounded. Yet they were different. They were marked by war and by their shared service. As a group, they were non-partisan, with the Royal Canadian Legion and other similar organizati­ons pursuing the goal of ensuring that veterans had sufficient state support in the form of pensions, programs, and care. Veterans also strained against the fading of the war from social memory; they did not want their comrades’ sacrifices to be forgotten. They sold poppies, marched on Remembranc­e Day, and reminded Canadians of the importance of the Second World War and other conflicts where Canadians paid the ultimate price in defence of liberal and democratic ideals. A s the war changed much within Canada’s borders, it also forced Canada to think about its relationsh­ip with other nations. But the cautious and tired King had made little impact at the inaugural United Nations conference in San Francisco in April 1945. He was fearful of commitment and preoccupie­d with domestic harmony, even though Canadians had revealed in a January 1945 Gallup poll that they were overwhelmi­ngly in favour of membership in a body like the United Nations. (Now ubiquitous public-opinion polling began in Canada during the Second World War.) In this the public agreed with some of the best and brightest of the country’s diplomats, who sought a more weighty role for Canada on the world stage. While King did little to advance Canada’s external role from 1945, much changed after he retired in 1948. King hand-picked Louis St. Laurent to succeed him as Liberal leader and prime minister. St. Laurent and his minister of external affairs, the internatio­nalist Lester B. Pearson, pushed to have Canada face outward. “We have learned that we don’t get peace just by winning a war,” wrote Pearson in 1944. “If we are going to get peace and keep it, we will have to rethink our way out of the blunders and betrayals that led to World War Two.” Pearson became an invaluable leader over the next two decades, positionin­g Canada as a middle power focused on 29 AUGUST–SEPTEMBER 2020