World War II

Over one million Canadians fought in World War II. The historical record shows that Nazi expansionism’s threat to British interests, not opposition to fascism or anti-Semitism, led Ottawa to war. (Only two years before the war Prime Minister Mackenzie King visited Hitler and in his diary King repeatedly expressed sympathy towards the Nazis.) Canada and the Two World Wars explains that “Canada went to war in September 1939 for the same reason as in 1914: because Britain went to war.”

While defeating Nazism was morally justifiable, Canadians participated in the British-led bomber command that killed 600,000 German civilians. The massive bombing campaign explicitly targeted industrial and civilian targets.

Without Canada’s major contribution to World War II Britain and France may not have held their African colonies. By land, sea and air thousands of Canadians fought in colonial Africa during the Second World War. “During the Second World War,” notes Canadian African studies scholar Douglas Anglin, “considerable numbers of Canadian airmen served in R.A.F. [Royal Air Force] squadrons in various parts of the continent, particularly North Africa.”

Canadian soldiers replaced British forces in Jamaica from 1940-1946, as well as in Bermuda and the Bahamas during segments of this period. Perceptions of race underlay the use of Canadian troops during World War Two. According to Defence Minister Norman Rogers, the British Governor of Jamaica “had intimated that it will be risky to remove all white troops.”