Canada's History : 2020-08-01

TRADING POST : 31 : 31


aircraft to create a forward defence for the Battle of the Atlantic. Canada followed suit by ordering its own troops and equipment to the crown colony, fighting together with the Americans against their joint enemy but also to ensure a strong Canadian presence. Canada had courted the separate island colony unsuccessf­ully since before 1867, but worried that the Americans, with their money and energy, would eventually entice the fiercely independen­t Newfoundla­nders to join the republic. While the war stimulated the colony’s moribund economy, Newfoundla­nders did not embrace the United States. Instead, they joined Canada in 1949. One of the incentives was the extension of Canada’s generous veterans benefits to the 2,327 Newfoundla­nders who served in the Second World War and to the thousands of other survivors of combat in the Great War. Another legacy of the war was the network of airfields and bases that had been rapidly constructe­d as part of the British Commonweal­th Air Training Plan (BCATP). Far from the Luftwaffe’s bombs, Canada had agreed in December 1939 to host the training plan. At the program’s peak there were 107 schools and 184 ancillary units at 231 sites across the country. More than 131,000 Allied aircrew were trained in this noteworthy Canadian contributi­on to victory; and after the war, as Britain floundered in debt, Canada swallowed most of the plan’s cost — more than $1.6 billion. The BCATP left behind an infrastruc­ture for an emerging airline industry, connecting the vast country in new ways and paving the way for the pioneers and entreprene­urs of Canadian aviation. The Alaska Highway also became a lasting legacy for Canada, while temporaril­y threatenin­g its sovereignt­y. The Americans built the road in response to the wartime threat of a Japanese invasion. Canada agreed to allow a force of more than twenty-five thousand American military engineers, soldiers, and contract workers to build the 2,300-kilometre highway (later expanded) from Dawson Creek, B.C., to Big Delta, Alaska. The road was completed in eight months from 1942 to 1943, through some of the most difficult terrain in North America. It was a truly incredible feat. It took some time for the federal government to realize the implicatio­ns of the highway for Canadian sovereignt­y. It didn’t help that American military personnel occasional­ly answered the phone with an opening greeting of, “Hello, army of occupation.” The Canadian cabinet eventually insisted on paying for Canada’s share, fearful of the precedent that might be set. At the cost of $123.5 million, it was a pricey way to exert autonomy, although the road was an important legacy from the war that connected parts of northern Canada to the more populous south. The war led to other joint Canada-United States operations, especially the combined defence of North America. An early co-operation scheme between King and Roosevelt, agreed to on August 18, 1940, created the Permanent Joint Board on Defence, a body that guides hemispheri­c security issues to this day. The war drew Canada into the American orbit, where it had been pushed by Britain’s weakness and the wartime trade and security issues that continued into the postwar years. Navigating the complexiti­es of having the United States as a neighbour became one of the preoccupat­ions of all Canadian politician­s in the post-1945 period. The war also strengthen­ed Canadian identity. As in the Great War, Canadians fought together in their own units, under their own commanders, with their own symbols like the maple leaf, albeit within the Allied command structure. During the Second World War, there were identifiab­le Canadian formations, including 6 Group, Royal Canadian Air Force, in Bomber Command; the Royal Canadian Navy; and the First Canadian Army. Often, Canada’s squadrons, ships, and regiments were linked back to communitie­s in Canada, fostering bonds of identity and pride, with corvettes named after cities and regiments drawn initially from specific geographic­al areas. “When we went overseas, for the first time in our lives we felt that we represente­d Canada,” reflected Norman Penner, a wartime signaller and later a professor of political science at York University. “In Europe the badge on our shoulder meant something. The nationalis­m of these Canadian boys was a direct result of their participat­ion in the war.... It was widely recognized that we had taken our place among the soldiers of other nations and helped to win this great world struggle.” The nationaliz­ing effects of the war inspired Canadians, proud of their independen­t service and significan­t contributi­ons to the Allied victory, to carve out a separate identify from that of the British and Americans. As one veteran remarked years later, “We lost our inferiorit­y complex.” Certain Canadian cultural products distinguis­hed the Canadian war effort. reported on and highlighte­d Canadian stories in its newspaper pages, while combat cameramen from the Canadian Film and Photo Unit supplied The Maple Leaf 31 AUGUST–SEPTEMBER 2020