Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Canada at war

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.


Students will learn how Canada’s government and people provided funding and matériel to support our armed forces during the First World War, 1914 to 1918, and the Second World War, 1939 to 1945. Students will research and write reports focusing on wartime funding and production in Canada during the two world wars. These will be written as possible feature articles for the editors of a history magazine, such as The Beaver.


  • To use historical sources to demonstrate the research skills of locating, classifying, analysing and interpreting.
  • To read a variety of graphs, charts, tables and text for specific purposes.
  • To formulate questions, opinions, inferences and conclusions from their analyses.
  • To understand and use terminology and definitions relevant to wartime finance.
  • To appreciate the complexities and challenges of the government's budgetary and production processes during wartime.
  • To communicate information and ideas in writing with a high degree of clarity.

Suggested grade level and subject areas

Economics, History, Business, Accounting


15 to 20 minutes for the introduction (steps 1 to 5)
100 minutes to complete the worksheets (steps 6 to 9)

Vocabulary (as used in the context of this lesson)

Appropriation – the process by which the government collects and spends money for specific purposes, such as fighting a war.
Bonds – interest-bearing financial certificates by which governments promise to pay back borrowed money.
Capital gain (or loss) – the difference between the purchase price and the price received when an item such as real estate or stock is sold.
Income tax – progressive tax introduced as a temporary measure in the First World War.
Interest – percentage return on capital from loans, bonds and investments in general.
Matériel – supplies and equipment for military use.
Maturity of bond – reaching face value at the end of the term, e.g., at the end of the fifth year on a five-year bond.
National debt – total debt owed by the federal government. Each year’s surplus or deficit is applied to the previous year’s national debt to give the current amount.
National deficit – the excess of government spending over government revenues in a given year.
Price of bond – price at which a bond is bought, which may be lower than the face value.
Profit or loss – positive or negative amount left over after all costs have been met.
Progressive tax – a tax that is charged at a higher rate for higher incomes.
Servicing the debt – payments applied to the principal and interest on the debt.
Yield – return on investment.


Canada Year Book Resources

Please see complete list of resources after the Enrichment section.

Classroom instructions

  1. Present the following outline to the class:
    We will be researchers for a major Canadian history magazine. Working in teams, our job will be to research and write a series of articles on the theme of financing and production of goods and services during the two world wars, and how these activities influenced industrial and social change in post-war Canada.
  2. Have students brainstorm what might have been needed in terms of funding and matériel for Canadians to carry on a lengthy war such as the First World War or the Second World War.
  3. Have students work with you to develop a mind map on a whiteboard, chalkboard or chart paper, or in electronic format.
  4. Review the vocabulary and remind students to use the proper terms in their worksheets and reports.
  5. Have the class divide into pairs or groups to research different themes. Instruct them that each of them will individually provide an article for the history magazine, whether they do their initial research in a smaller or larger group.
    The themes to be researched:
    1. Government revenue during the war years, 1914 to 1918 and 1939 to 1945
    2. Government expenditures, 1914 to 1918 and 1939 to 1945
    3. Government borrowing, 1914 to 1918 and 1939 to 1945
    4. Wartime production, 1914 to 1918 and 1939 to 1945.
  6. Give each student a copy of student worksheets 1, 2 and 3. Have the students search the editions of the Canada Year Book for the years of the war they have been assigned. They will find Canada Year Book page references for each war on Student worksheet 2 (printer-friendly format).
  7. Remind students to analyse and interpret statistics that they find and to use the statistical tables and text information to help them draw conclusions for their reports. They need to record appropriate information on their research organizers and to clarify the trends and conclusions with other group members.
  8. Have students share their findings and discuss the key issues that seem to be emerging for each theme. Clarify important points for their reports.
  9. Have each student prepare an article of 300 to 400 words, using the evaluation rubric for guidance. Review the rubric before they begin writing.


Students may wish to research and write about local aspects of financing the war effort from 1914 to 1918 or from 1939 to 1945. Some possible topics:

  • Provincial and municipal participation in the war effort
  • Corporate contribution to the war effort
  • Government regulation of private industry to discourage profiteering.

Students may want to take the activity to the next step and compile their articles into a magazine format.

The teacher could present this assignment as the production of a magazine article in two steps: first doing the research to create an outline, then writing the actual article.

Canada Year Book Resources

1916/1917 (PDF)

1947 (PDF)