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Response of the Government of Alberta

The Government of Alberta’s initial response to the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 was similar to that of the federal government. Premier William Aberhart assured Albertans their province was committed to assisting Great Britain, defending Canada, and preserving democracy. News of the beginning of the Second World War was met with considerable anxiety by most Albertans. Public opinion about how best to deal with Germany was mixed. Many still bore the physical and emotional scars of the Great War (1914–1918), a brutal and protracted conflict that cost the lives of more than 6,000 Albertans.

Recruitement poster, Edmonton Regiment

The Alberta Government supported Prime Minister King's declaration of war, and Premier Aberhart was of the opinion that Alberta, Canada, and the rest of the Commonwealth had an obligation to support Great Britain in the event of war in Europe. Aberhart shared King’s views on the matter of military conscription. As it had twenty years earlier, the issue of conscription proved to be contentious and divisive, with some supporting compulsory military service from the start of the war; others maintained the government had no right to require people to serve. Many of these individuals also questioned the country’s participation in the conflict in the first place. Many farmers supported Aberhart's anti-conscription stance, fearing the loss of manpower—notably capable, strong young men required to work on the farms.

Recruitement poster, Edmonton Regiment As the war progressed, more and more Albertans supported the war effort, recognizing that the Axis nations of Germany, Japan, and Italy represented a global threat to humanity. Support for Canada’s direct involvement increased considerably with Germany’s invasion of France and Belgium and with the start of its firebombing campaign of British cities.

Reference

Byfield, Link. “In a poor and hostile world the hostilities resume,” in Aberhart and the Alberta Insurrection, 1935–1940, ed. Ted Byfield. Edmonton: United Western Communications Ltd., 2000.


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