WWII Prime Minister Mackenzie King. The Prime Minister of Canada during WWII was William Lyon Mackenzie King. King had to oversee Canada’s war effort, provide leadership to Canada’s soldiers and govern Canada effectively.
The Prime Minister of Canada during WWII was William Lyon Mackenzie King.
King had to oversee Canada’s war effort, provide leadership to Canada’s soldiers and govern Canada effectively.
He once said, "It is what we prevent, rather than what we do that counts most in Government."
King did not possess a captivating image. He did not give spellbinding speeches or champion a radical platform.
King was mild-mannered, passive and conciliatory. Yet, he was Prime Minister for 22 years including half the Great Depression and all of WWII.
King was born in Berlin (…now Kitchener…), Ontario.
He was a bachelor with many female friends.
King was highly eccentric. He communicated with spirits including Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, his dead mother and several of his dogs all named Pat. He sought personal reassurance from the spirit world, rather than seek political advice.
King hoped WWII could be avoided. He supported appeasement. King met Hitler who he described "a reasonable and caring man...who might be thought of as one of the saviors of the world."
King told Jews that Kristallnacht "might turn out to be a blessing.” In 1939, King refused to allow a 909 Jewish refugees aboard the passenger ship St. Louis refuge in Canada. When asked how many Jews would be allowed to immigrate immediately after World War II, one of King’s civil servants quipped, "None is too many".
Internment of Japanese-Canadians
After the bombing of 1941 Pearl Harbor, King directed the forcible internment of 22,000 Japanese-Canadians from Canada’s west coast. While they were incarcerated, the Canadian government confiscated and sold their property and belongings.
After the war, King offered Japanese-Canadians the option of “repatriation" to a war-ravaged Japan, and Canadians of Japanese origin were not allowed to move back to coastal areas
King led Canada through WWII.
During WWII, Canada contributed food supplies, financial aid, refuge, spies, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, ships, aircraft, tanks, ammunition and over a million Canadian troops to the Allied cause.
During WWII, 42,000 Canadians were killed.
National unity was Mackenzie King's most important goal.
He knew that unity did not mean forcing all Canadians to adopt one vision for Canada. Rather, unity is including many…and sometimes conflicting…viewpoints.
It was this wisdom and his ability to compromise that allowed King to successfully negotiate the issue of conscription in 1944.
King promised not to impose conscription during WWII.
However after France surrendered in 1940, King introduced conscription for home service. Only volunteers were to be sent to fight.
By 1942, the Army needed more soldiers.
So, King held a quasi-national vote asking the nation to relieve him of the commitment he had made not to use conscription. He said that his policy was "conscription if necessary, but not necessarily conscription."
French-Canadians voted overwhelmingly against conscription, but most English Canadians supported it. In 1943, conscripts were sent to fight in the Aleutian Islands in 1943 - technically North American soil, and therefore, it was not "overseas"
Over 15,000 conscripts went to Europe, though only a few hundred saw combat during WWII.
Perhaps King’s biggest WWII contribution was the relationship he maintained with USA President Franklin D. Roosevelt to ensure USA support for the war and Canadian industry.
For example, Canada and USA constructed the Alaska Highway between 1942 to 1943. It is an all-weather, gravel road extending 2,451 kilometres from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Fairbanks, Alaska.
King helped found the United Nations in 1945.
After the war, King quickly removed government controls over the economy.
He began negotiations to make Newfoundland a province of Canada.
The Cold War also started. In Canada, a Russian spy network was discovered.
In 1947, the first Canadian citizenship certificate is granted. “I speak as a citizen of Canada," said. Mackenzie King. Prior to this day in 1947, Canadians were British subjects living in Canada.
About Canadian autonomy, King said, "Without citizenship, much else is meaningless.”