By Doug Nesbitt
In early 1933, three out of ten Canadians were unemployed. Kingston did not escape the Great Depression and unemployment was higher than usual because many people were attracted to the city and the Barriefield relief camp for work. But like the rest of the country, the camps could not accommodate everyone because over two million Canadians – 1 in 5 - were dependent on some form of relief.
There was almost no social safety net to speak of when the Great Depression hit in 1929. Old Age Pensions had been established a few years before and Workers’ Compensation had existed since 1914. Canada did not yet have social assistance or unemployment insurance. People relied heavily on paying for what they needed through wages. When the crash hit, charity from the churches was simply unable to cope with the crisis.