Great Depression in Canada Pictures

01
of 17

Prime Minister R.B. Bennett

R.B. Bennett, Prime Minister of Canada
R.B. Bennett, Prime Minister of Canada. Library and Archives Canada / C-000687

The Great Depression in Canada lasted for most of the 1930s. Pictures of relief camps, soup kitchens, protest marches, and drought are vivid reminders of the pain and desperation of those years.

The Great Depression was felt across Canada, although its impact varied from region to region. Areas dependent on mining, logging, fishing, and farming were especially hard to hit, and drought on the Prairies left the rural population destitute. Unskilled workers and young men faced continuous unemployment and took to the road in search of work. By 1933 more than a quarter of Canadian workers were unemployed. Many others had their hours or wages cut.

Governments in Canada were slow to respond to the desperate economic and social conditions. Until the Great Depression, the government intervened as little as possible, letting the free market take care of the economy. Social welfare was left to churches and charities.

Prime Minister R.B. Bennett came to power by promising to aggressively fight the Great Depression. The Canadian public gave him the full blame for the failure of his promises and the misery of the Depression and tossed him from power in 1935.

02
of 17

Prime Minister Mackenzie King

Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada
Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada. Library and Archives Canada / C-000387

Mackenzie King was Prime Minister of Canada at the beginning of the Great Depression. His government was slow to react to the economic downturn, was unsympathetic to the problem of unemployment and was turfed from office in 1930. Mackenzie King and the Liberals were returned to office in 1935. Back in the office, the Liberal government responded to public pressure and the federal government slowly began to take some responsibility for social welfare.

03
of 17

Unemployed Parade in Toronto in the Great Depression

Unemployed Parade in Toronto in the Great Depression
Unemployed Parade in Toronto in the Great Depression. Toronto Star / Library and Archives Canada / C-029397

Members of the Single Men's Unemployed Association parade to Bathurst Street United Church in Toronto during the Great Depression.

04
of 17

A Place to Sleep in the Great Depression in Canada

A Place to Sleep for a Price
A Place to Sleep for a Price. Library and Archives Canada / C-020594

This picture from the Great Depression shows a man sleeping on a cot in an office with the government rates listed beside him.

05
of 17

Soup Kitchen During the Great Depression

Soup Kitchen During the Great Depression
Soup Kitchen During the Great Depression. Library and Archives Canada / PA-168131

People eat in a soup kitchen in Montreal during the Great Depression.

06
of 17

Drought in Saskatchewan in the Great Depression

Drought in Saskatchewan in the Great Depression
Drought in Saskatchewan in the Great Depression. Library and Archives Canada / PA-139645

Soil drifts against a fence between Cadillac and Kincaid in the drought during the Great Depression.

07
of 17

Demonstration During the Great Depression in Canada

Demonstration in Great Depression in Canada
Demonstration in Great Depression in Canada. Library and Archives Canada / C-027899

People gathered for a demonstration against the police during the Great Depression in Canada.

08
of 17

Temporary Housing Conditions at Unemployment Relief Camp

Temporary Housing Conditions at Relief Camp in Ontario
Temporary Housing Conditions at Relief Camp in Ontario. Canada Dept of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-034666

Squalid temporary housing at Unemployment Relief Camp in Ontario during the Great Depression.

09
of 17

Arrivals at Trenton Relief Camp in the Great Depression

Arrivals at Trenton Unemployment Relief Camp
Arrivals at Trenton Unemployment Relief Camp. Canada Dept of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-035216

Unemployed men pose for a photo as they arrive at the Unemployment Relief Camp at Trenton, Ontario during the Great Depression.

10
of 17

Dormitory at Unemployment Relief Camp in Great Depression in Canada

Relief Camp Dormitory
Relief Camp Dormitory. Canada Dept of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-035220

Dormitory at the Trenton, Ontario Unemployment Relief Camp during the Great Depression in Canada.

11
of 17

Unemployment Relief Camp Huts at Barriefield, Ontario

Unemployment Relief Camp Huts at Barriefield, Ontario
Unemployment Relief Camp Huts at Barriefield, Ontario. Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-035576

Camp huts in the Unemployment Relief Camp at Barriefield, Ontario during the Great Depression in Canada.

12
of 17

Wasootch Unemployment Relief Camp

Wasootch Unemployment Relief Camp
Wasootch Unemployment Relief Camp. Canada Dept of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-037349

Wasootch Unemployment Relief Camp, near Kananaskis, Alberta during the Great Depression in Canada.

13
of 17

Road Construction Relief Project in the Great Depression

Road Construction Unemployment Relief Project
Road Construction Unemployment Relief Project. Canada Dept of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-036089

Men do road construction work at an Unemployment Relief Camp in the Kimberly-Wasa area of British Columbia during the Great Depression in Canada.

14
of 17

Bennett Buggy in the Great Depression in Canada

Bennett Buggy in the Great Depression in Canada
Bennett Buggy in the Great Depression in Canada. Library and Archives Canada / C-000623

Mackenzie King drives a Bennett Buggy in Sturgeon Valley, Saskatchewan during the Great Depression. Named after Prime Minister R.B. Bennett, automobiles drawn by horses were used by farmers too poor to buy gas during the Great Depression in Canada.

15
of 17

Men Crowded Into a Room to Sleep During the Great Depression

Men Crowded Into a Room to Sleep During the Great Depression
Men Crowded Into a Room to Sleep During the Great Depression. Library and Archives Canada / C-013236

Men are crowded together into a room to sleep during the Great Depression in Canada.

16
of 17

On to Ottawa Trek

On to Ottawa Trek
On to Ottawa Trek. Library and Archives Canada / C-029399

Strikers from British Columbia boarded freight trains making the On to Ottawa Trek to protest conditions in unemployment relief camps during the Great Depression in Canada.

17
of 17

Relief Demonstration in Vancouver 1937

Relief Demonstration in Vancouver 1937
Relief Demonstration in Vancouver 1937. Library and Archives Canada / C-079022

A crowd in Vancouver protests Canadian relief policies in 1937 during the Great Depression in Canada.