On 9 September 1939, Canada declared war on Germany. Our nation was in a more sombre mood than at the beginning of the First World War. This time, Canadians, hardened by both the earlier conflict and the Great Depression, had a more realistic view of what they faced. They knew that the cost, both in terms of human life and the country's financial resources, would inevitably be enormous. Nevertheless, the majority were resigned to do whatever it took to defend Canada from an enemy that seemed to be overpowering, one that represented totalitarian values that were the opposite to those cherished in Canada. The existence of our nation, of our allies, and most importantly, of Great Britain, was in mortal danger.
Canada's contribution to the Second World War would be a remarkable achievement for a relatively small nation. A total of 1,136,999 soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen, served in the armed forces. Of these, 32,714 would be killed in action; 9,329 would die of other causes; and 54,414 would be injured; 8,995 would spend some time in a prisoner of war camp. All would sacrifice time from their families and years of income, neither of which could ever be recovered. Most would also be compelled to cope with the stress of battle and the death of comrades-in-arms who had become friends.
Later, after the defeat of Germany, the overwhelming evidence that the Nazis had promoted mass murder and oppression revealed just how terrible an enemy Canada and its Allies had faced. The horrors of the Holocaust made all Canadians re-examine themselves and the way that Canada treated its own citizens. In the end, our nation would come out of the war with an even greater commitment to justice and to the protection of minority rights.
If the First World War helped to turn Canada from a colony into a nation, the Second World War moved Canada onto the world stage. Canada's enormous contribution of manpower, money, and war material, and its potential contribution to reconstruction, meant that it had to be taken seriously in the planning for the post-war world. Once again, the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers had helped to transform the country.