Ships and Memories: Merchant Seafarers in Canada's Age of Steam

By Eric W. Sager | Go to book overview
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9
WAR

War suddenly increased and changed the dangers of seafaring. Merchant seafarers from Canada served in war zones and dangerous waters. Many were under military orders. Their ships were torpedoed, and many died in the burning wreckage. Many others drowned. More than 1,100 of Canada's merchant seafarers were killed in the Second World War, and their casualty rate may have been higher than that in any other service. 1 The war service and sacrifices of merchant seafarers have never been properly recognized, and by 1991 they were still entitled to only a few of the benefits available to other war veterans. Not until 1992 did the federal government promise to extend veterans' benefits to merchant mariners -- long after most of them would be able to take advantage of such benefits.

In fact many ploys by politicians, Services, and Veterans' Affairs have been used to play down the role of merchant mariners -- perhaps to give weight and greater recognition to their own roles and branches, but most likely because they saw us as second class citizens and pawns. After all, an army private who collected a medal and benefits just by taking a three-hour

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