Canada in the 1920s: The Roaring Twenties

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The 1920s were regarded as the “Roaring Twenties”. Today, it is generally thought of as a decade of “prosperity, fun and wild living”. (Cranny & Moles. (2001). Counter Points: Exploring Canadian Issues. Mark Cobham, Pearson Education Canada Inc. Toronto.).


The radio became very famous during the 1920s

There was general happiness among people due to the end of the war. And the lives of many people improved due to technological advancements and a booming economy. There was growth in the demand for natural resources and manufactured goods such as pulp and paper. Mining was booming during this decade too. In this decade, the Canada’s largest trading partner changed from Britain to the US.  The US invested heavily in Canadian primary industries, and the majority of Canadian resources were sent the the US. Almost half the oil refineries and infrastructure was American owned. The US set up businesses in Canada itself in order to prevent paying Canadian taxes.

Due to these changes, the Canadian economy was booming, although what many people didn’t realize was that by just exporting raw materials and not manufacturing goods, Canada was losing a lot of potential profit. Its economy also became very dependent on all its customers. But despite that, on the social level this decade was considered to be a happy period. This decade also showed and increase of the involvement of women in social and political matters in Canada.

Another important event which occurred in the 1920s was the introduction of prohibition. Women demanded that Prohibition be introduced in order to stop men from abusing women while drunk. Prohibition was introduced in the beginning of the decade. Although Prohibition showed a decrease in crime rate, it gave rise to organized crime. People began producing and selling illegal alcohol all throughout the continent. Illegal bars called Speakeasies were opened secretly. Prohibition was repealed in Canada before the US, after which many people began bootlegging illegal alcohol from Canada to the US.


Speakeasies like this one were common during the Prohibition period

Despite people calling this decade the “Roaring Twenties”, this decade was far from happy for many people. The war veterans were the major sufferers during this decade. After returning home the veterans realized that there were very few jobs remaining. They also got paid much less than they expected, and the government didn’t have a pension program for them. Another group that suffered in the twenties were the workers. During the war, workers had agreed to a lower wage in order to help the government for the war effort, but after the war the wages still stayed the same, whereas the cost of living increased due to inflation. Workers were also forced to work long hours,  had a long week, and the factories had bad working conditions. Dissatisfaction among the workers resulted in the formation of unions, and later formed the collective union of all the workers in Canada called One Big Union (OBU). The extent of the workers’ anger was seen in Winnipeg, with the Winnipeg general strike, where almost every worker in the city went on a strike which later turned aggressive.


The Winnipeg general strike



Statistics Canada (2008), Children listening to radio. Retrieved from:

SpeakEasy Market Strategies (2013), Retrieved from:

The Canadian Encyclopedia (2012), Winnipeg General Strike. Retrieved from:


Wikipedia (2013), Prohibition. Retrieved from:

Wikipedia (2013), Roaring Twenties. Retrieved from:

Falk (2010), Social Studies Eleven: Student Workbook.  Hazelmere Publishing, British Columbia.

Cranny & Moles. (2001). Counter Points: Exploring Canadian Issues. Mark Cobham, Pearson Education Canada Inc. Toronto.

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