Map shows how the First World War changed Toronto
by Katherine DeClerq
When Britain declared war against Germany and Austria-Hungary on Aug. 9, 1914, they effectively sentenced Canada to years of overseas fighting, internal conflict, and economic depression. Big cities like Toronto were transformed into military hubs, whose sole purpose was to build supplies and train troops.
As a British colony, Canada had no choice but to fully participate in the First World War. The wall that used to divide soldiers and citizens began to crumble, meaning that everyone was expected to contribute to the war effort. By enacting the War Measures Act, the federal government possessed unlimited power to redistribute resources as they saw fit and take extraordinary action in terms of censorship and conscription.
Total war allowed for the mobilization of entire populations. Citizens could be reassigned to help farms that lost most of their workers to the war. Factories and plants started to build munitions or shells, and parks were transformed into training centres for soldiers. To finance all of these changes, the government sold Victory Bonds. They also created the war income tax in 1917, which collected three per cent of people's gross earnings. This tax was not suspended after the war.
Toronto soon became a military headquarters. Soldiers were recruited and trained there. As English-Canada’s largest city, citizens were eager to help fight alongside the United Kingdom. City Hall donated horses and offered territory to the British government for military use. Officials even encouraged residents to enlist by offering active soldiers free life insurance, an act that cost the government $4.4 million.
By the end of the war, over 45,000 Torontonians had served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force or with the British Army.
Parks and tourist attractions were completely transformed. Exhibition Park housed 10,000 troops between 1915 and 1916, and officials even set up a “receiving station” for internal aliens on the site, where citizens of German or Ukrainian decent were sent if their loyalties were deemed questionable.
Hundreds of thousands of soldiers travelled through Toronto using the railway system. Union Station helped send these men and women to Quebec or Nova Scotia, where they could board a ship for England.
When the war ended in November of 1918, 4,904 soldiers and nurses did not return home to Toronto.
The map above shows some of the military locations in Toronto that were used during the First World War.
To see larger photos, read the story here.
Map icons from the Noun Project:
- Train by Tiago Rodrigues
- Bomb by Cris Dobbins
- Bicycle by Diego Naive
- Fort by William Hodges
- Rifle by Mahmudur Rahman Shovy
- Jail by Nick Abrams
- Soldier by Marat
- Hospital by MaJo Ox
- Airplane by Juan Pablo Bravo
- Information icon by Charlene Chen