Work for Welfare reinstated during WWII

A new monthly ration scale and “work for welfare” policy was reintroduced by Indian Affairs in 1940, during the early years of WWII. Rations were supplied to able-bodied  people only if they were employed in an acceptable form of work, as stipulated by the government. Acceptable work included: gardening, farming, clearing land, road construction, drainage projects, wood-cutting, building-repair, caretaking, fishing, and trapping.


[NAC RG-10, Central Registry, Vol. 7094, File 1/10-3-0, Relief Food Policy, 1888-1963] Circular C-118-1, to Inspectors and all Indian Agents from H.W McGill, director, Indian Affairs Branch, Department of Mines and Resources, Ottawa, 22 May 1940; Memorandum to Inspectors and Indian Agents from H.W McGill, 15 June 1940.

The government restricted the allowances provided to First Nations during wartime. The work for welfare policy was intended to procure engagement in patriotic services by participating in a wartime industry/economy. It should be noted that at this time, First Nations peoples were not yet considered citizens by the Canadian state and therefore were not allowed to vote unless they gave up their status, according treaty rights, and 'assimilated' via the terms of the state. Undoubtedly, many First Nations people did not want to enfranchise and lose their status in this manner, as predicted by the federal government. Despite this, many First Nations people volunteered their labour, energy, and even registered for active duty, such as the highly decorated Francis Pegahmagabow. Through participation in the settler economy via the Work for Welfare policy, the Government hoped it would hasten assimilation into Euro-Canadian society.
Rural or Urban
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