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The Great Depression

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The Great Depression was ushered in by the stock market crash of October 29, 1929. It ended as dramatically a decade later on September 3, 1939, when the Second World War began. The widespread poverty and suffering during the 1930s—the result of unemployment, drought and lack of a social safety net—transformed social welfare in Canada.

Until the 1930s, mainly private charities dealt with unemployment and poverty. However, charity work was usually organized to meet temporary or seasonal crises, such as poor harvests or fires. This approach could not cope with an economic crisis the length and intensity of the Great Depression.

Although the federal and provincial governments were completely unprepared, they intervened and made care of the poor, sick, unemployed and disadvantaged a high priority.

During the 1930s, the unemployed received uneven treatment across Canada. Married men or men with families were favoured over single men and women when relief or relief work was distributed. Many cities established residence requirements to keep out job seekers from other provinces or towns.

To help spur an economic recovery, the federal government increased its spending on relief, subsidies and work camps, among other things. This resulted in a ballooning national debt.

1917 Canada Year Book - Related tables

  1. Coast stations for communication by wireless telegraphy with ships at sea, fiscal year 1916

1927 Canada Year Book - Related tables

  1. Number of public hospitals and benevolent institutions in Canada, selected years from 1923 to 1927
  2. Statistics of hospitals for mentally defective people, by province, latest year reported

1937 Canada Year Book - Related tables

  1. Acreages, yields and values of principal crops grown in Canada, 1927 to 1936
  2. Average annual salaries of school teachers, by provinces, 1926, 1930, 1935, or latest year reported
  3. Average daily hospital charges in Canada and index numbers thereof (on the 1913 base), 1913 and 1921 to 1935
  4. Canada's leading domestic exports, fiscal years 1890, 1900, 1910,1920, 1930, and 1936
  5. Compensation paid and accidents compensated by the Nova Scotia Workmen's Compensation Board, 1917 to 1936
  6. Enrolment in provincially controlled vocational schools in Canada, by provinces, school year ended June 30, 1935
  7. Financial summary of old age pensions in Canada, by provinces, as at December 31, 1936
  8. Index numbers of employment as reported by employers in leading cities, as of the first of each month, January 1935 to December 1936, with yearly averages since 1922
  9. Index numbers of rates of wages for various classes of labour in Canada, 1913 to 1936
  10. Index numbers of retail prices, rents and costs of services, by months, 1933, 1935, 1936, and January to April, 1937
  11. Loans to provincial governments under the relief acts, by provinces, fiscal years ended March 31, 1933 to 1937
  12. Minimum wage rates for female workers in Canada under orders of provincial minimum wage boards, as on December 31, 1936
  13. Mothers' allowances in Canada, fiscal year 1934 to 1935
  14. Prices of a family budget of staple foods, fuel and lighting, and rent, for 60 cities in Canada, 1920, 1926, and 1928 to 1936
  15. Rates of wages and hours of labour in various trades and for unskilled factory labour in certain cities of Canada, 1936
  16. Summary of principal statistics of the mineral industries of Canada, by groups, 1929 to 1935, and by provinces, 1935
  17. Summary of principal statistics of the mineral industries of Canada, by industries, 1934 and 1935
  18. Total dominion expenditures under relief legislation, 1930 to 1936
  19. Treasury bills sold in Canada, issued March 1, 1934, to February 15, 1937

Related charts

  1. Mineral production of Canada