Turning Point – 1943
Wartime Balance Sheet
The legislation on reintegration of veterans gave service people the right to resume their prewar employment with - unlike the situation in 1919 - the seniority and pay they would have enjoyed had they stayed home. Indeed the Canadian Veterans Charter was more generous than its American counterpart. Every veteran received a $100 allowance to purchase civilian clothing, and a premium of $7.50 for every 30 days served in the western hemisphere plus 25 cents for every day served elsewhere. Those who had remained overseas received seven days' pay for every six months spent outside the country. Thus a private with three years' service including two years overseas would receive $512. He could buy $10,000 of life insurance, generally without a medical examination; if he wanted to settle on a farm, low-interest, 3.5-percent, loans were available. University education or occupational training would be paid for a period of time equal to that spent in uniform. If none of this was acceptable to the young man, he would be paid a premium to buy and maintain a house. Veterans had access to full unemployment insurance benefits (introduced in 1941) after only 15 weeks of work. No other belligerent nation had such an attractive demobilization plan. It was as if the government was trying to redeem itself for the dreadful situation into which it had sent many of its volunteers.
During the war the 45,000 female volunteers were generally paid 20 percent less than men of the same rank. On their return, however, they were entitled to the same benefits. In 1946, 16,000 of these women would be married and 20,000 working. In general, the women would opt for occupational training much more than the men, most often in traditional women's trades like nursing, hairdressing and dressmaking. 85
In many ways the Second World War continues to this day. Veterans' hospitals still contain too many bodies and souls forever broken. The Canadian Hong Kong veterans have gone before the United Nations Human Rights Commission to obtain reparation for their ill treatment at the hands of the Japanese. The Merchant Marine Coalition of Canada is demanding veteran status for its members, 40 percent of whom came from Quebec in 1939-45, as C.D. Howe once pointed out. The median age of all these surviving veterans is approximately 80 years.
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