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Great Depression of the 1930's

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During the Great Depression of the 1930's, Canada's Prairie provinces

suffered more than any other area in Canada. This time frame brought for

the farmers many years of droughts and grasshopper plagues, as each year

got worse without any rainfall whatsoever. The impact of the Great

Depression on the Prairie provinces was devastating and it's impact on the

region was social, political and economical. During this period

unemployment reached high levels, prices of products were falling and

purchasing power was getting very weak. To try to help out unemployed

people, mostly men, the government introduced relief camps. During the

1930's in Prairie Canada, the Great Depression created harsh conditions and

it was a struggle until it ended.

The event which triggered the Great Depression was the Stock Market

crash of October 24, 1929 in New York. Another important cause was that:

Later in the 1930's, the wide adoption of the gold exchange in

many countries was widely criticized as a great mistake which

greatly contributed to the severity and length of the Great

Depression. 1

In Canada, wheat, the most important export, was being over-produced

around the world, despite the fact that the 1928 supply of wheat was still

available in 1929.

A good reason for the stock market crash in 1929 was that,

the values of stocks of the New York Stock Exchange were

grossly over-valued, but government and business appeared to

ignore the signs. 2

Canadian revenues that came in from export sales were dependent

largely upon the United States who had the money for growth; the

commodities were grain, pulp and paper and metals. Then when the New York

crashed on October 1929, stock prices fell dramatically. When the stock

market crashed, the Canadian economy suffered after the United States

invoked high tariffs to shut out Canadian goods. In the Prairie provinces

of Canada, in addition to economic depression was the effect of the nine

years of drought and crop failures.

When the Great Depression plagued Canada, the country was not ready

for it; there are three main reasons why:

1) Seasonal unemployment was predictable since wages for

seasonal labour were high enough.

2) Cyclical unemployment and recovery in the past always

occurred eventually. Canada was a new world society, with

a developing farm frontier.

3) There was a working class political pressure. 3

Dependence on foreign trade of wheat contributed to Canada's main cause of

the Great Depression.

The Weather in the Prairies greatly contributed to the disastrous

effects which took place upon the Prairies during the 1930's. Crops which

were green and healthy in June, had reduced to nothing in two to three

weeks. The cause of devastation to the crops was usually from dust storms.

The drought created five to seven years of dried-out crops. A description

of the Prairie land was that ...

The Prairies were like a great rich land without rain. The

heat everyday was too hot to adjust to during the day and

too hot to sleep at night. It was like living a dry sauna.

The wind was so hot and sucking that it sucked up the

moisture. 4

In 1931, events which occurred were blizzards, dust storms consisting of

hot dry, wind and complete crop failure. In 1932 it was the year when

grasshoppers plagued the land. In 1933 the effects of drought and

grasshoppers were the main factors which contributed to the downfall of the

Prairie provinces in the first few years of the Great Depression. In 1934,

soil began to blow in mid June and destroy gardens and crops and cause the

cancellations of many fairs in the villages across the southern plains. In

1936, it was the coldest winter with blizzards contributing to chilling

records and also events where people froze to death. During the summer of

1936, it was the longest and hottest summer. Temperatures reached one

hundred degrees Fahrenheit regularly and also caused a few deaths. The

drought and high winds caused desert-like conditions to spread over the

Prairies. "In May and June of 1937 the weather ended up being hotter,

drier, windier and dirtier than the year before." 5

Impact of the dust storms reduced visibility to a few feet, lakes went




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