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Convalescent Homes

Following the war the federal government announced plans to build fifteen convalescent/rehabilitation centres across the country to help veterans re-adjust to civilian life. These facilities also offered the families of Canada’s fighting men with advice as to how to cope with and help manage the physical, emotional, and psychological problems many veterans faced.

The vast majority of those who served had been absent from home for several years. Most would return to changed circumstances: departed or deceased family members, grown and/or additional children. Some returned home with wives or husbands, at times, unbeknownst to other family members. Parents who had bid farewell to young, naïve teenagers welcomed home hardened, mature young men whom they no longer wielded authority over.

 The programs established by the government were based on the findings of a study completed by Mr. Louis Bennett, Director of the New York City Veterans' Service Centre. Bennett compiled and analyzed 15,000 case records associated with returning American servicemen. Overall, he concluded that emotional support and family-related services were of far greater use to many veterans than was finding employment.

One of the convalescent centres opened by the government was housed in the former official residence of Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor in Edmonton. The structure was used as a convalescent home for wounded military personnel from 1944 to 1950. It was purchased by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1951 and served as a home for disabled veterans until 1962-63 at which time patients were transferred to the newly constructed Colonel Mewburn Centre near the University of Alberta.

A similar facility, housed in the mansion and property formerly owned by Senator Patrick Burns, was purchased in July 1941 in Calgary by the Department of Pensions and National Health. Named the Calgary Military Hospital, it was put into immediate use as a convalescent hospital for injured service personnel. The newly constructed, 250-bed Colonel Belcher Hospital officially opened in Calgary in December 1943. Expansion of this facility continued throughout the 1940s and 1950s. The first additions to the Colonel Belcher took place in 1943–44 as part of a nationwide program designed to double the capacity of the country’s military hospitals from eight to sixteen thousand beds.

References

Calgary Public Library. (August 2, 2005) “Colonel Belcher Hospital.” (accessed October, 2007)

The Globe and Mail. (September 30, 1944) “The war veteran's problems.” (accessed October, 2007)

Legislative Assembly of Alberta. “Alberta's Government House.” (accessed October, 2007)


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