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Canada’s Challenges in the 1920s

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After World War 1, the treaty of Versailles helped reorganize the world with a new international system. Canadian soldiers returned to Canada with pride and newfound respect expecting to return to ordinary civilian life, however they were confronted with tension and several immediate post-war challenges before the glamorous era of the “roaring twenties”. Following World War 1, Canada was affected by the many challenges they faced, such as the Spanish flu, the Winnipeg General Strike, and Alcohol prohibition.

Throughout history, disease and epidemic has taken countless lives. After World War 1, soldiers returning home had spread a new flu virus, known as the Spanish flu. The Spanish Flu brought extreme emotional distress to Canada. Many cheerful soldiers returned home stricken with grief to find their family members dying from this disease. The soldiers, as well as other citizens were overwhelmed by the Flu’s disruption in society. Hospitals were flooded with sick victims, streets were quiet, and everyone wore masks. The flu spread rapidly worldwide and far exceeded the death tolls from the war. The Spanish Flu distinguished itself from other influenza strains because it was virulent to young adults in their 20s to 30s. Subsequently, many children became orphaned.

The disease also caused many families to struggle financially because they had lost the family’s money provider. The Spanish Flu also transformed Canada’s healthcare system. During the 1920s the government had no specific department to handle health issues. Therefore, the Agriculture department handled quarantine, and the government handled the flu’s media exposure. Eventually as a result of the Spanish flu, the Department of Health was formed in 1919, and was responsible for health issues. Lastly, the Spanish Flu contributed to Canada’s troubled economy. Businesses lost considerable amounts of money due to the government closing them down, and businesses also lost profits from a lack of demand for goods, or simply because workers were falling too ill to be able to support the demand of goods.

After World War 1 ended, numerous economic problems surfaced. Living conditions were extremely difficult because of labour unrest and inflation. Unemployment was caused by wartime industries closing down and the abundance of veterans that overwhelmed the job market. Inflation dramatically increased living prices. The phenomenon known as the Winnipeg General Strike, took place on May 15 – June 25, 1919 and was provoked from economic discontent. The Winnipeg General Strike affected Canada because of the anti-labour campaign put into place. The Government and Citizen’s community feared a communist revolution and immediately intervened, they denied workers requests and formed a strong anti labour campaign to prevent any labour unions. The aftermath of the strike left Canadian workers bitter and unhopeful. The Winnipeg General Strike also affected politics. It allowed new political involvement of labour leaders. After labour leaders were arrested from the strike on “bloody Saturday”, June 21, 1919 the labour leaders were thrown in jail, however, in 1920 they were elected to the provincial government and became involved in politics.

In conclusion, the Winnipeg General Strike drew attention to the economic problems and terrible working conditions that workers faced. Labour conditions had caused workers to join labour unions and fight for better working conditions. One day, 30 000 workers promptly walked away from their jobs causing a temporary paralysis in the city, Canadians protested for better wages and working conditions. This strike also sparked similar strikes in Canada. Alcohol prohibition was introduced post-war to lower crime rates. Before the war, alcohol was a thriving industry with an enormous supply and demand. Although, many frowned upon the prohibition, the prohibition reduced crime rates. Arrests for intoxication, and alcohol related crimes decreased because the prohibition stated that manufacturing, transporting, importing, exporting, and selling alcohol was illegal. Prohibition also improved industrial efficiency because less people went to work impaired by alcohol. Lastly, alcohol prohibition allowed more money to be spent at home. This was a positive effect of the prohibition because many people were living in poverty.

The post-war problems that affected Canada were the Spanish Flu, the Winnipeg General Strike, and Alcohol prohibition. Although the challenges Canada faced had many negative effects, Canada was changed and developed as a country because of its challenges.


1. “Canada in the 1920s.” Canada in the 1920s. N.p., 17 Jan. 2006. Web. 11 Oct. 2012. <http://www.ascension.k12.nf.ca/curriculum/social/canhistory_1201/new_page_7.htm>. 2. Cruxton, J. Bradley., and W. Douglas Wilson. “Chapter 6-8.” Spotlight Canada. 4th ed. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1980. 134-79. Print. 3. Morton, Desmond. “First World War (WWI).” – The Canadian Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2012. <http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/first-world-war-wwi>.

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