Canada was one of the many countries that were affected by the Great Depression happened during the 1930’s. The financial crisis along with the natural disaster created hard times for farmers and society in Canada. The depression left millions of Canadians suffering from unemployment, starvation and homelessness.
Suicide rates also increased dramatically due to unemployment and separation of family members, racism targeting the minorities were built as well. The Great Depression challenged Canadians to a large extent, brought economic impact on the society, as well as social and psychological impact on the Canadian families.Economic impact on the societyRegardless of the financial crisis and the natural disasters, they both brought a hard time for Western farmers and the society in all. Some provinces like Saskatchewan and Alberta, had experienced severe droughts. Due to lack of water, the crops could not grow well. This caused low percentage of the sales of the major products such as wheat. Grasshoppers and wheat rust destroyed the wheat fields, all of these created disasters to the Western areas.
Although the west experienced the most difficult part of the depression, other parts of Canada also suffered heavy losses. In British Columbia, the fish and fruit markets were fairly low. With the depletion of global resource demands, the workers in the BC area had experienced the full impact of the economic downturn. Additionally, as unemployment rate rose, fewer people had the extra money to buy other goods including cars. Therefore, the production in those sectors fell as well.Social impact on the familiesDuring the Depression, most Canadians were poor and unemployed.
A small portion of wealthy minority did make the same amount of money as before during the depression, but the majority were affected severely. After the stock market crashed, people had to borrow money to pay for their debts. In fact, only 300,000 of 11,000,000 Canadians were able to earn enough money and pay their income taxes, and over 25% of Canada’s labour force was unemployed. Many people did not have the ability to feed their families.
As jobs disappeared, people hoped for a chance to make money, especially farmers. They decided to hop on trains searching city by city in order to find decent jobs due to unemployment, despite the fact that “riding the rails” was really dangerous and illegal. The living condition for Canadians was also bad.
For many people, the first thing they need to do every morning was waiting in lines in front of the “soup kitchen” for a free breakfast. Their breakfast could be just simple as bread and butter. Sometimes people even ate animals on the streets. Numerous people suffered from illnesses and deaths due to malnutrition. In 1932, the federal government and Prime Minister R.
B Bennett responded to the depression by setting up relief camps. Homeless people see the relief camps as warm shelters. But in reality, the condition in these camps were not such as desired. Firstly, people were unhappy about the fact that the camps were overcrowded. Statistics shows that all in total, 170,248 men had stayed in these camps. Secondly, the government was offering people to do meaningless jobs, such as cleaning bush, planting trees, and building roads.
As their salaries, these people get room, board, medical care and 20 cents per day. Thirdly, it is because of the military way of control over the camp. Considering all of the reasons above, workers decided to go on strikes. This is known as the On-to-Ottawa Trek. One year later, after this massive protest and riot that killed one person, the federal government shutted down those unpopular relief camps.
Now, countless people lost their jobs again and had to go back to their wasted lives.Psychological impact on the familiesThis was the time when suicide rates in Canada raised tremendously. As a sociologist Émile Durkheim wrote in his book, “It is a well-known fact that economic crises have an aggravating effect on the suicidal tendency.” People had given up hope for a brighter future. Men especially, could not control their stress level and sadness from unemployment and separation with their loved ones.
Many male bankers, financiers and investors jumped off their office windows and fell to their deaths in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash. Statistic shows that the suicide rates of male increased significantly during the initial years of the depression.Discrimination began to build towards minority groups in Canada. There were a large amount of tension between Anglo-Canadians and the minorities, such as Chinese immigrants. The Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, known as The Chinese Exclusion Act, literally banned the entry of all Chinese except for students, diplomats, merchants (excluding laundry, restaurant and retail operators), and Canadian-born Chinese returning from education in China. Although the immigration to Canada from other countries were controlled for years, only the Chinese people were rejected completely. The few groups of Chinese people left in Canada were still blamed as they were the major causes of this financial crisis.
The government banned Chinese people from the rights to vote and other properties that they used to have.