Objects of Concern: Canadian Prisoners of War through the Twentieth Century

Objects of Concern: Canadian Prisoners of War through the Twentieth Century

Objects of Concern: Canadian Prisoners of War through the Twentieth Century

Objects of Concern: Canadian Prisoners of War through the Twentieth Century

Synopsis

Fifteen thousand Canadians were captured during Canada's twientieth-century wars. They experienced the bewilderment that accompanied the moment of capture, the humiliation of being completely in the captor's power, and the sense of stagnating in a backwater while the rest of the world moved forward. Jonathan Vance provides the first comprehensive account of how the Canadian government and non-governmental organizations have dealt with the problems of prisoners of war, examining Canada's role in the formation of aspects of international law, the growth and activities of national and local philanthropic agencies, and the efforts of ex-prisoners to secure compensation for the long-term effects of captivity.

Excerpt

Hockey magnate conn smythe, Trudeau Cabinet minister Gilles Lamontagne, and the composer and former conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Sir Ernest MacMillan, share something other than their public notoriety: they can all claim the dubious distinction of having been captured by the enemy during Canada's wars of the twentieth century. Like some 15,000 other Canadians, Smythe, Lamontagne, and MacMillan experienced the bewilderment that accompanied the moment of capture, the humiliation of being completely in the power of the captor, and the sense of stagnating in a backwater while the rest of the world moved forward.

Their captivity was spent in small worlds bounded by barbed wire, from which they were only infrequently allowed to emerge. Communication with the outside world was strictly controlled, as was their diet, clothing, recreational activities, and everything else that they had always taken for granted. in this unnatural habitat they spent months or years, often in the prime of life, with no way of knowing how long their captivity would last. If they were fortunate, they might make the most of a bad situation and throw themselves into study, prison camp theatricals, or sports, but when these amenities were unavailable, their existence could be almost unbearably boring. It was also immensely dangerous, and prisoners often existed in the full knowledge that their lives were of little consequence to their captors and could be ended at any time. and when it was all over, most people expected ex-prisoners to return home and drift back into civilian life as though nothing had happened.

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