Relief Camps In The 1930s

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With the Stock Market Crash of 1929, Canada fell into a great depression. Economic instability led to a political change in government as Prime Minister R.B. Bennett was elected to provide aid for the people. He created relief camps for the single, homeless, and unemployed men living in cities. These camps had a tremendous effect on Canadian society as they made people realize the significance of public assistance. Prior to the 1930’s, there was little government interference in the economy. It also gave way to change as the camps were proven to be ineffective. To begin with, the 1920’s was a time of artificial prosperity. People relied too much on credit, or the bank willingness to give out loans, until the entire financial system faced a…show more content…
These men would gather in cities hoping to find some sort of job that would provide for their basic needs. In 1932, there were about 70,000 “vagabonds” that threatened public order. The Canadian government worried that these men could start a communist revolt and overthrow the government (9). In response, Prime Minister R.B. Bennett created labor camps (located in remote, rural areas) for single, unemployed, homeless men under the direction of the Department of National Defence (3). By placing the men in the camps, the government hoped to immobilize their ability to assemble and they prohibited the men from voting (5). The camps were “voluntary” as the government could not force someone to relocate into a camp, but the men who did not wish to leave the cities could be arrested for vagrancy (5). The men received food, shelter, and clothing in exchange for 44 hours of labor a week (6). They performed work considered to be “boondoggles” as they planted trees and cleared brush (3). In addition, they also developed infrastructure as the made roads and built public buildings (5). The men were paid 20 cents a day and came to be known as the Royal 20 Centers (3). Their pay was 1/10 of what normal laborers were paid for doing the same kind of task…show more content…
Prime Minister R.B. Bennett had not provided adequate funding for the camps(1). The inhabitants were fed nasty food and had bad living conditions (7). One male who spent time in the Canadian relief camps stated that he felt as if he was enslaved in the camps because he had nowhere to go and was essentially obligated to stay at the camp (2). The wages were poor and he hated the manner in which the camps were run. He noted feelings of mutual resentment in the camp, as the men were angered at the government’s way of handling the situation. Thus, to these men, the relief camps had a negative impact on Canadian society. The government had previously hoped that the camps would prevent the rise of communism. However, by grouping these men together, “Bennett basically provided basic training camps for the army of unemployed” (5). The men were frustrated with the Great Depression and once they were in the relief camps, they became angered at the poor conditions and wages. They directed this anger at the government for its ineffectiveness in providing them adequate jobs (5). In the words of Ron Liversedge, someone who lived through the Great Depression in Canada and attended the relief camps, “there were more men reading Marx, Lenin, and Stalin than there were reading girlie magazines”
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