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April 29th 2010 No Comments

Images of the Dirty Thirties

“The recession was shorter and milder in Canada,” says Philip Cross, a business cycle specialist with Statistics Canada. This news, released in early April, must come as cold comfort to the 400,000 plus Canadians who’ve lost full-time jobs in the last 2 years – but it’s true that when compared to countries like Greece, Canada seems to be emerging relatively unscathed from the Great Recession.

This was not the case during the 1930s when Canada was among the hardest hit by the prolonged global crisis known as the Great Depression. In Bread & Water, Montrealer Mr Chartier shares his childhood memories of daily life during the 1930s.

Here are some other images of Canadian life during the “dirty thirties” – part of an exhibit mounted in 2004 by Montreal’s McCord Museum. As historian Michael Horn explains in his narration, the Depression devastated the Canadian economy, leaving a quarter of the workforce unemployed, and gave birth to new political parties on both left and right that would shape the country’s politics for decades to follow.

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Now, for a look at rural experience during the same period, here’s an NFB classic. Drylanders is a family drama about the opening of the Canadian West and the drought that marked the Depression years. “Today, the film still offers a gripping perspective on pioneer life, told in a sensitive way with beautiful cinematography and great acting,” says Albert Ohayon, a senior curator of the National Film Board collection.

Philip Lewis, writer-researcher

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