On to Civvy Street: Canada’s Rehabilitation Program for Veterans of the Second World War
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by Peter Neary
McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, 2011
381 pp., illus., $29.95 paperback
When Canada has gone to war, few have planned for the cost in treasure or blood. Fewer still have thought about war’s aftermath and what will be owed to veterans.
After the cataclysmic Great War, the debt-ridden governments of the 1920s were hard-pressed to meet the needs of veterans. Cheated of reimbursement and struggling in the face of an uncaring bureaucracy, many veterans were disillusioned at having been cut loose by the state. The Second World War saw even more men and women in uniform, with close to 1.1 million serving in Canada and overseas. Early in the conflict, the government of William Lyon Mackenzie King sought to avoid repeating the same perceived failures of an earlier generation.
While Canada paid a terrible price during that war, the nation emerged from it prosperous and able to reward its veterans. Peter Neary’s On to Civvy Street recounts that story in enormous detail. The Veterans Charter, a series of programs and grants for veterans, allowed them to go to university, establish businesses, buy homes, and start families. The program was a success, as is this definitive history.
This review appeared in the August-September 2012 issue of Canada's History magazine.
— Tim Cook (Read bio)
Tim Cook is the author of five books, including The Madman and the Butcher: The Sensational Wars of Sam Hughes and General Arthur Currie (Allen Lane, 2010).