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Displaced Persons

Thousands of people during World War II in east and central Europe were uprooted from their homes due to German occupation. Many were taken as forced labour while others attempted to flee the war zone. Near the end of the war thousands more fled toward western Europe in advance of further occupation by troops from the Soviet Union. At this time these people were known to as "displaced persons." Today we would refer to them as refugees.

Between 1947 and 1962 Canada received nearly 250,000 displaced persons due to a changing attitude in immigration policy. This was more than all of the other countries accepting displaced persons combined. Ten percent of the 95,000 immigrants Alberta absorbed between 1946 and 1956 were European refugees.

Polish girls from forced labour campThe Canadian government hoped that the country's severe labour shortage could be solved by various "bulk-labour" schemes involving displaced persons. Generally, single men and women signed contracts committing themselves to a minimum of one or two years working in various industries such as agriculture, mining, logging, railways and domestic service. In Alberta many of these people wound up in the sugar-beet fields of the south. However, most of the displaced persons coming to Canada were skilled in areas that related more to urban life and a large majority made their way to the towns and cities as soon as possible.

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