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
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.
The 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.
This digital collection was
produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital
Collections initiative, Industry Canada.