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Jobs and the Workplace

After six long years of conflict the Second World War finally drew to a close during the spring and summer of 1945. In the years spanning 1939 and 1945 more than one million Canadians enlisted in the Armed Forces. Following Germany’s surrender, demobilization was carried out as quickly as possible. Repatriation was sometimes frustrating and slow for those anxious to rebuild their lives with loved ones and families they had left behind. The vast majority of Canada’s fighting force that had served overseas were home by the end of 1945 or early 1946. The exception was the 17,000 Canadian troops required under the terms of the allied occupation of Germany; they did not return to Canada until mid-late 1946.

Most men aspired to return to their previous place of employment. Returning servicemen expressed a desire to find a reliable, well-paying job as soon as they returned home. Adjusting to civilian life and a civilian work environment was not always easy: veterans often suffered from restlessness. These same individuals also struggled with a return to a sedentary lifestyle and family life.

The Liberal government's Post-Discharge Re-establishment Order paved the way for pensions and other benefits. Among the many facets of the legislation was a guarantee that a member of the military could return to his previous position or a similar job with his former employer.

Not all veterans had jobs prior to the war; others were no longer capable of returning to their previous positions. To overcome these types of situations the Department of Veterans Affairs (created in 1944) established a range of programs and benefits under the umbrella name, Veteran’s Charter. In short, the onus was on the government to provide “opportunity with security” for returning military personnel so they were not left destitute while they rebuilt their lives. The Department dealt with all matters affecting veterans and their dependents: medical treatment, rehabilitation of the disabled, education, insurance, welfare, allowances, pensions, loans, land settlement, and housing. Those who had difficulty finding a job were eligible for financial assistance through the federal government's War Veterans Allowance Program. The government spent $51 million dollars on this program between 1941 and 1951.

The Veterans' Land Act was designed to aid veterans buy land for their homes or businesses. Approximately 33,000 veterans used the program to purchase farm land. The Act provided $4,800.00, financed at 3.5 percent interest to acquire a full-sized farm. More than 140,000 veterans sought grants and loans to become full-time farmers, smallholders, or commercial fishermen. Veterans Affairs provided vocational training to approximately 80,000 veterans. Others accessed the program to help with the purchase of household appliances such as stoves, refrigerators and washing machines.

In conjunction with the Wartime Housing Limited program, a Crown corporation established in 1941, the Act provided inexpensive houses for returning veterans and for families of Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen killed during the war. Those veterans who did not want land or training could obtain a re-establishment credit that would allow them to renovate their homes, buy furniture, or start a business.

References

Keshen, Jeff. “Getting It Right the Second Time Around: The Reintegration of Canadian Veterans of World War II”, in The Veterans Charter and Post-World War II Canada, eds. Peter Neary and J.L Granatstein. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1998.

Pensions and National Health. “Training and education-doorways to opportunity.” The Globe and Mail, October 19, 1944. (accessed October, 2007).


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