Canada in the 1920s: Years of Contrast, Conflict, and Change

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Canada in the 1920s: Years of Contrast, Conflict, and Change by Mind Map: Canada in the 1920s: Years of Contrast, Conflict, and Change

1. Politics

1.1. Significant Politicians

1.1.1. William Lyon Mackenzie King came from a prominent Ontario family, followed in the footsteps of his idol, Wilfred Laurier.

1.1.2. Arthur Meighen came from a rural Ontario background. He was a schoolteacher at first, moving on to become a small, successful lawyer in Manitoba. In 1908 he ran for the Conservatives and was elected to parliament. National Archives of Canada. William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia, 22 May 2005. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

1.2. The King-Byng Affair

1.2.1. Because of Prohibition, many people were illegally smuggling alcohol from Canada to the United States. In 1926, Conservatives accused the Liberals of taking bribes from alcohol smugglers. King denied the accusations, but the Progressive Party, which supported the Liberals after the 1925 election, withdrew their support, causing the Liberals to lose the coalition government.

1.2.2. To solve this problem, Mackenzie King went to the Viscount Byng of Vimy, the Governor General of Canada at the time. When he asked the Viscount to dissolve government, the Viscount refuse. As Canadians were outraged at the event, Mackenzie King resigned, and soon after Meighen's Conservatives were forced out of parliament.

1.2.3. As a result, the Viscount was forced to dissolve parliament and call another election, in which the Liberals won and Mackenzie King was back in power, promising to loosen Canada's ties with Britain. Rice Studio. Julian Byng, Viscount Byng of Vimy. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia, 5 May 2005. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

1.3. Farmer's Parties

1.3.1. In the 1920s, farmers movements were spreading throughout Canada. The goal was simple: to put more money with farmers, but the demands varied from region to region. Rapid urbanization in Ontario threatened the agrarian lifestyle, prompted the creation of the United Farmers of Ontario, or UFO.

1.3.2. The UFO placed value on the agrarian lifestyle, and by 1919 it became a political party, winning the majority of seats in the provincial election. However, the members of UFO were disunited. Some of them wanted to promote the agrarian lifestyle, others wanted a more balanced government.

1.3.3. The UFO supported prohibition and refused to limit teaching French in Ontario's schools. These policies were unpopular with voters, and in the 1923 election the UFO lost to the Conservatives. After winning, the Conservatives allowed alcohol to be bought and sold in Ontario, under heavy taxes and strict provincial control.

1.3.4. Farmer's parties started in the prairies as well. They weren't united, but they had a common enemy: central Canadian industrialists, railways, and banks. The strongest prairie farmer's party was the United Farmers of Alberta, or UFA. The UFA won the 1921 provincial election, and held power until 1935. It eventually dissolved and led to the creation of the Alberta Wheat Pool, which gave control of the sale of Albertan wheat to the farmers who grew it. The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. Towards the Dawn. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia, 31 Mar. 2009. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

2. Society

2.1. Immigration

2.1.1. By 1919, 20 percent of the population was made of immigrants. The Immigration Act of 1919 made a government list of preferred immigration nationalities. At the top were white, English-speaking Brits and Americans, followed by north Europeans, then by eastern and central Europeans. At the bottom of the list were Asians, Blacks, Gypsies, Jews.

2.1.2. The Act classified immigrations who had different customs for holding property as undesirable. People in Quebec feared that the increase in immigration would threaten Quebec's French culture. Industrialists complained as they required cheap labour. The railway companies demanded cheap immigrant labour to build and maintain railways throughout Canada.

2.1.3. The government eased immigration restrictions and passed the 1925 Railway Agreement, which allowed the railway companies to recruit immigrants themselves. This drew more immigrants from non-preferred nations. 165,000 Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Ukrainians, and Mennonites came to Canada this way. Labour unions, religious organizations, and farmers protested. The government renewed the agreement in 1928.

2.1.4. More than 1,300,000 immigrants came to Canada in the 1920s. In 1923 the government banned Chinese immigrants. Border officials turned back Black Americans, because "they were unsuited for the cold." Immigrants tended to live in neighbourhoods with similar cultural or national heritages; as a result major Canadian cities became more diverse. These neighbourhoods also became targets for racist groups like the KKK. Julien Henri. Come to Stay. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia, 24 Nov. 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

2.2. Residential Schools

2.2.1. The Canadian government wanted to protect Native peoples from white society, but the government also wanted to assimilate Native people into white society. Prime Minister John A. Macdonald said the government’s goal was “to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the inhabitants of the Dominion, as speedily as they are fit to change.”

2.2.2. The government excluded Native people in their own affairs, refused to recognize existing powers of Native tribal self-government, and outlawed the expression of Native culture. Treaties obligated the government to provide and maintain schools on Native reserves. This was too expensive, and the schools were run by churches to cut costs.

2.2.3. By 1923, there were 72 Native residential schools in Canada. In 1920, it was necessary for Native children aged 7 to 15 to attend these schools. The government saw the residential schools as a way to assimilate Native children into white society. The government feared that Native children would “revert” back to their Native ways if they had contact with their communities and families, or if they were sent back to their communities.

2.2.4. The residential schools prohibited children from speaking their Native languages, did not allow them to wear their traditional dresses. Children would be severely punished if these rules were broken. Native parents were not allowed to contribute to the content of the studies taught at the schools, and they had no control over how the schools were run. Until 1930, the residential schools' curriculum focused on religious instruction and moral education that promoted the values of white society.

2.2.5. Frederick Ogilvie Loft, a Native person who served in World War One, helped form the League of Indians, which is a group of Native peoples and tribes fighting for right to vote without removing their unique Native status. However, in response to this, the Canadian government banned political organization amongst Native groups. Unknown. Qu'Appelle Indian Industrial School, Saskatchewan. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia, 27 May 2006. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

2.3. Women's Rights

2.3.1. Emily Murphy became a police magistrate in the province of Alberta in the year 1916. However, she was soon challenged and ridiculed by male lawyers, who stated that she was not a "person" under British law, and not allowed to hold appointed office.

2.3.2. In response to this, Murphy vowed to overthrow this law, with the help of MLA Louise McKinney. Women throughout Canada were outraged when the Canadian government did not appoint any female senators.

2.3.3. Henrietta Muir Edwards, the cofounder of the National Council of Women, Irene Parlby and Nellie McClung, elected members of Legislative Assembly of Alberta, supported Murphy’s movement. Together, these five women became to be known as the "Famous Five."

2.3.4. They pushed the "Persons Case" to the Supreme Court of Canada by 1928. Murphy and her colleagues argued that women were “qualified persons,” and therefore must be entitled to hold appointed public office.

2.3.5. However, the Supreme Court of Canada disagreed and denied their case. Murphy and her colleagues took the case to the highest court, the British Privy Council, which ruled in favor for women. Unknown. Emily Murphy. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia, 23 Mar. 2012. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

3. Technology

3.1. Radio

3.1.1. Radio was making its beginnings in the 1920s as a major source of entertainment, news, and other such information.

3.1.2. In the 1920s, the entire family would sit around a radio and listen to music, comedy, soap opera, education, news, preaching, poetry, and sports.

3.1.3. However, the vast majority of the content on radio stations came from the south - from the United States, and it was harder for Canadian content producers to compete with the American broadcasters. Ed Uthman. Detail of the Grebe radio. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia, 3 Mar. 2010. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

3.2. Car

3.2.1. The 1920s truly signified the emergence of the automobile as a staple of Canadian culture. In 1923, a person could afford a new Ford for $455, with monthly payments. Later, the prices would drop and a person could buy a new Ford Model T, manufactured in Windsor, for a mere $424.

3.2.2. Soon, the Canadian car industry was booming with big American companies such as Chevrolet, Pontiac, General Motors, or Buick. By 1929, a large portion of Canadian families owned an automobile, and car ownership amongst Canadians had grown 300 percent.

3.2.3. Now that there were more cars on the road, the public was demanded for more roads. By 1929, there had been over 600,000 kilometres of paved roads, streets, avenues, and boulevards criss-crossing across Canada. A staple of Canadian culture, the "Sunday drive," was gaining popularity, which also marked the era of road trips and mass tourism in Canada. A popular destination was Niagara Falls. Unknown. Line of Russell cars, by the Russell Motor Car Company, sitting outside Toronto City Hall, Ontario, Canada. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia, 29 Aug. 2008. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

3.3. Infrastructure

3.3.1. With the emergence of the car as an essential part of Canadian culture, there was heavy importance placed on the building of roads and highways.

3.3.2. In the 1920s, the provincial governments were given the power to plan and supervise road planning and construction at all levels. Highways were built using a new generation of technology such as trucks and trawler tractors.

3.3.3. Public transport also gained increasing importance as the usage rates grew and grew. Horse-drawn buses had been replaced by electric streetcars throughout Canada. Alfred Pearson. York Township, Weston Road, north of Rogers Road, looking north. Now Toronto, Canada. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia, 8 Aug. 2008. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

4. Economics

4.1. Taxes and Tariffs

4.1.1. In the 1920s, there were three main factors which shaped the Canadian economy: freight rates, tariffs, and industrialization.

4.1.2. Tariffs were put in place by the government to protect industries. By imposing taxes on imported goods, people would buy local goods, thereby supporting the local industries.

4.1.3. The government implemented increased freight rates, which made it expensive to ship goods to different cities. This affected the economy in all areas. Industries that relied heavily on freight shipments moved to the large cities to better serve their customers and save money.

4.1.4. During the 1920s, the price of wheat went from $2.45 to $0.80 a bushel. Other nations were producing more of their own wheat, Canadian farmers lowered their production costs. They hired less people, forcing labourers to move to larger cities, and used more mechanized methods, contributing to industrialization. Unknown. Men completing tax forms. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

4.2. Economic Prosperity

4.2.1. During the 1920s, there was a "bubble" of prosperity, meaning many Canadians had disposable income, income that they could spend on things other than the necessities. Canadians were spending more on luxury and leisure products. There was also more advertising, ushering in the era of a consumeristic society.

4.2.2. The 1920s also made it easier for workers to earn more money with less working hours. For example, some people could earn around $40 dollars a week, which was a respectable sum at the time, and they could spend this money as disposable income.

4.2.3. There were also new ways to spend the new disposable income that many families now had. Monthly plans, lay-away plans, they all created more ways to spend money, and also was the beginning for credit. Unknown. Postcard depicting John Bull and Uncle Sam under sign "To Canada" bringing in sacks of money "for investment in Canada" Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia, 19 Feb. 2011. Web. 19 Nov. 2015

4.3. Northern Industry

4.3.1. The 1920s brought an insatiable desire for natural resources, as industries produced more, there was a growing need to access the northern, resource-rich parts of Canada.

4.3.2. However, resources in northern Canada were inaccessible, as they were located in cold, desolate places that couldn't be accessed easily.

4.3.3. New bush planes were starting to come into service, operated by pilots who served in World War One. In 1917, Fairchild Aerial Surveys of Canada became the first company in Canada to begin flying to the north.

4.3.4. This was the key to opening up the north for mineral exploration and development. The new bush pilots began flying forest-fire patrols, delivering mail and freight, transporting passengers, and conducting aerial surveys. By the 1920s, there were more than 250 bush planes in active service. Witnack, Edgar Franklin. Junkers W34 ExCC. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia, 2 Feb. 2007. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

5. Entertainment

5.1. American Culture

5.1.1. In the 1920s, new technology such as the radio allowed for American culture to be spread throughout Canada, and many people were not happy about this fact - they feared the thought of American cultural domination.

5.1.2. In fact, the first radio stations in North America were located in Montreal. However, soon thereafter well-funded American broadcasters were broadcasting throughout Canada, overshadowing Canadian broadcasters. Witnack, Edgar Franklin. 1928 - The American Magazine. Digital image. Flickr. Yahoo!, 12 Dec. 2011. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

5.2. Art

5.2.1. After the first World War, Canadians had an increased sense of pride in their country. The Group of Seven embodied this pride through their artwork.

5.2.2. The Group of Seven was a group of commercial artists and friends in Toronto in the 1920s. They enjoyed capturing the beauty of Canada's rugged outdoors in their paintings and other artworks. Thomson, Tom. The Jack Pine. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia, 6 June 2010. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

5.3. Sports

5.3.1. Hockey was a major sport in the 1920s. The National Hockey League, or NHL, was formed during this era.

5.3.2. During this time, Canada also proved itself on the world stage at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, where the Canadian team won two gold medals.

5.3.3. Canadian women were also major players in the world of sports in the 1920s. Ethel Catherwood, known as "Saskatoon Lily," broke the world record for the high jump when she won the gold medal at the Olympics. Agence De Presse Meurisse‏. Colombes : Meeting Des Champions : Caterwood, Championne Olympique Saut Hauteur (portrait). Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia, 10 Aug. 2015. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

6. Citations

6.1. Richardson, W. G. "Technology." The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Web. 2 July 2006. <>.

6.2. Fielding, John, and Rosemary Evans. "The Roaring Life in Canada." Canada: Our Century, Our Story. Scarborough: Nelson Thomson Learning, 2001. Print.