The patriotic consensus: Winnipeg, 1939-1945

Thumbnail Image
Perrun, Jody C.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Historians have established the framework of Canada’s general political, economic, and military participation in the Second World War, but there has been little research into the ways that the national war effort affected individuals or local communities. This dissertation explores the wartime experience of ordinary Winnipeggers through their responses to recruiting, the treatment of minorities, war finance publicity, participation in voluntary community service, and the adjustments made necessary by family separation. It questions the prevailing narrative of the war as a unifying national experience, focusing on issues like civilian morale and the relationship between citizens and the state. In some ways, the depth of the patriotic consensus was remarkable in a city that was far removed from any real enemy threat. The population was highly polyethnic, with strong class divisions and a vibrant tradition of political protest. Both factors meant a greater number of potential fault lines. But the large number of ethnic groups in Winnipeg and the Left’s relative lack of political power also meant that there was no dominant minority to seriously challenge the interpretation of the war expressed by the city’s charter group. Social cohesion was enhanced in Winnipeg despite the absence of real danger for a number of reasons: the connection of ethnic communities to occupied or threatened homelands, like Poland or the United Kingdom; the effectiveness of both official and unofficial information management, such as Victory Loan publicity; and the strong identification people maintained with family and friends in the armed forces, war industries, or state institutions. The war effort affected people as individuals and as members of families and the wider community. Its impact was at times unjust and destructive yet most hardships were ultimately accepted as necessary for the war’s successful prosecution.
Second World War, Home Front