Ordeal by Fire: Canada, 1910-1945

By Ralph Allen | Go to book overview

XX
The hazards of peace--The Winnipeg general strike

HAVING emerged from a difficult physical and moral test, Canada now faced an even more difficult intellectual test. The blacks and whites of Ypres and Vimy, of Parliament Hill and the anti-conscription rallies at Lafontaine Park, now began to melt into a less interesting gray. A time for quick speech and quick action had given way to a time for contemplation.

It was not a Buddha's serene contemplation of his eternal and accustomed navel. It was more like an adolescent's half-scared study of his first signs of a beard. Where did Canada go from here? Just as importantly, where did the individual Canadian go from here?

To each question the probable answers were dispiriting and anticlimactic. The soldiers coming home rolled their puttees extra tight, shined their shoes extra black, swung their arms extra high to bands playing extra loud-and wondered where to get a job. Good jobs were scarce and soon grew scarcer. Moreover, prices had gone up far more than wages. Voices of belittlement, gloom, and anger soon rose everywhere. The one that galled most of all was the voice that cried, unofficially but stridently, in the name of the United States: "We won the war!" Editorial writers and public speakers were proclaiming the message to the ends of the earth and in endless variations. They gave the American Expeditionary Force the foolish but maddening nickname "After England Failed." The DetroitFree Press summed up their viewpoint in a sentence: "A flood of American manhood set in the direction of the European battlefields and filled and swelled until it overwhelmed

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