Great Depression as a Turning Point in Gender Relations in Canada

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Canadian identity did change between 1900 and 1980. Britain was a push for Canada to develop its own identity. Britain gradually loosened political and cultural ties with Canada during twenties century.

In early 1900s Canada was only accepting white Europeans. The idea was that people from northern Europe would adapt better in the cold than the countries from the south.

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In 1914, the World War I had started, Canada was expected to fight alongside with motherland - Britain. During this period, Canadians established separate identity among Anglophones though performing exceptionally in The Battle of Vimy Ridge and the Battle of Passchendaele.

In 1931, the British Parliament has passed a law, Statue of Westminster, which surrendered British government’s ability to make laws for Canada and other colonies. Commonwealth was formed as a token of friendship in which colonies have royalty to the king or queen as it has been for the past 67 years. Canada could enjoy full independence in domestic and foreign polices. Britain only retained a few symbolic powers.

In 1939, Britain declared war on Germany. Although Canada was not obligated to help Britain in the war, however pro-British settlement was still strong. Prime Minister, Lion Mackenzie King, signed a declaration to send Canadian troops to support Britain.

After Second World War Canada established its own citizenship.

Throughout 60s and 70s Crown symbol were completely removed from Royal Mail or changed as Coat of Arms. And lastly, Canada came up with a unique national flag - Maple Leaf flag was adopted.

In conclusion, Britain had a great influence on Canada but events that happened throughout eighty years shaped and changed Canadian identity. From being mainly white country, it transferred to multinational country with its own flag, anthem, and coat of arms.

Great Depression was tough time for many Canadians. As economy went down, lots of companies and factories had to shut down leaving thousands and thousands of people unemployed.

Men always had a notion of leaders and “breadwinners and homemakers” in the families. As tough times progressed more and more men were left without jobs which created lots of tension between men and women in labour force. Women had to leave their jobs and return to their domestic duties – cooking, cleaning, raising children, and taking care of the families.

During the crisis, it was widely believed that jobs would go better to men but women “argued that the opposition women faced was gendered, not economic. Women, in other words, were denied work on an equal basis with men precisely because they were women.” (“Married men should, I feel, be treated differently”: Work, Relief, and Unemployed Men on the Urban Canadian Prairie, 1929-32 Eric Strikwerda)

Government was stressed by the fact that there are lots of unemployed men. They were afraid that they would create riots, so government created relief camps for married men. Even though, single men tried to find way to get into relief camps as well but as crisis progressed it was much tougher to avoid the system. Single men were getting married and applying for the assistance on the third day of marriage or “bought marriage certificates”.

Families tried to avoid having kids. It was already tough to feed yourself and a family with low-income job and none to minimal assistance from the government that can be considered as abandoning “female’s role”.

Everything has changed when Canada entered World War II. Men left to military front and women returned to labour force – factories and other jobs that needed to support Canada at war. Post war, many women stayed in work force or found employment in “female” service industries. Of course, after war, came “baby boom” era and women were portrayed as housewives but many of them worked and got education.

In conclusion, Great Depression was a downshift for women as they had to give up their jobs and return to household duties. Gender relation turning point happened much earlier (i.e before Great Depression) when women gained the right to vote.

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