Post-Industrial Era in Canada

Post- Industrial Era was harmful to male workers in the period 1870 to 1920

The industrial era is arguably one of the most revolutionary and essential times in human history, as to how it transgressed the society back then to the community in which we ultimately know today. The industrial revolution led to many new creations and inventions, the use of factories and heavy machinery conclusively led to a faster production rate and a new form of society in which transformed the way objects are produced and made. The Post- Industrial era was a different time and massive evolution from the industrial age. Things such as the changing landscape of cities, in which industrial Toronto was much more segregated than during the industrial period in how the rich and the poor were divided in where they live and also how business districts and residential communities were in different areas. Another huge transformation is the ways of transportation through the streetcar, which was a possible way of going through the city for all types of classes. Toronto serves as an excellent example of the change in landscape due to technological advances such as streetcars. Post- Industrial Era in Canada was a tremendous transformation in which created many endeavours within society and more importantly towards the working men of society. The male worker was explicitly one of the people who had a miserable and harmful experience throughout the times of 1870 -1920. Due to reasons of how the quality of life was unacceptable for the men living in slums and the horrid conditions within the workforce, while also looking how the standards of living were so poor within the workplace as men would receive meagre wages.

To start, A home is something very vital and essential for the comfort of people where they could relieve themselves from stress and mental illness. Between the years of 1870-1920, many workers didn’t have a very suitable home in which they lived in. A good majority of the working men had no other choice to live in working-class slums which were located in downtown cities; the most notable ones were the slums in Montreal and Toronto or the one in Winnipeg consisting many east European men. Many men and people had no other choice but to accept these locations due to the income they would receive and the lack of housing at the time. These working-class slums were classified as living hell for many people. Overcrowding was a severe problem within these slums, as the primary objective of the city was to fit in as many people as possible. This overcrowding led to making the standard of living terrible for the working class men living here as diseases would spread more rapidly, and fewer than half of houses in the slums didn’t have clean drinking water. The slums were also known to have no sewage systems, and human waste would be seen everywhere leaving a strong odour that would creek around the town. This would be an extremely harmful effect physically and mentally after men would come home from work after long hours at the job to a house which is almost destroyed and not suitable for humans to live. A quote from Rutherford’s book perfectly sums up the idea of slums within Canada, “these slums were “cancerous sores” on the body politic, “sources of bacteria” spreading disease, crime, and discontent throughout the city. They menaced the moral and physical character of Canadian manhood and thus the racial future of the whole nation.”[1]  The slums were also dangerous for other working men within the job sites because many men would pick up dreadful diseases and eventually go to work bringing the virus to more men within the workforce. Also, when these men got sick, they could not afford to stay home and avoid work due to the money they needed for them to survive and their families even though it was already little.

“The connection between inadequate wages, poor housing conditions, and a mortality rate which marked Montreal as one of the unhealthiest cities in the western world was perfectly clear to many contemporary observers… Mortality rates in the crowded working class wards remained at more than double the levels of higher income areas throughout the period under review.”[2]

 A home is a place since the start of humans where people can go and relax knowing the comfort of them and relieving them from a stressful workday or day in general. But in this case, the working class men found it very harmful to their physical and mental condition knowing they were coming home from working extremely long hours into a place many called a living hell.

 Furthermore, The working conditions today have seen a tremendous amount of change from the industrial era and post-industrial era. In today’s society many men and workers have a clean and safe working environment filled with strict laws in keeping it that way. The working conditions post the industrial era was arguably one of the worst in history, many men would be put in precarious positions exposed to many chemicals and sharp objects and could easily be wounded due to these circumstances. This made the working conditions extremely harmful to the quality of life in the effect the work environment had on their physical and mental health. “At the same time, industrialization threw up a host of new problems (or old problems in new guises)- child labour, unsanitary working conditions, industrial accidents, unemployment, and urban destitution- which generated new responses”.[3] This quote from the book of labouring lives by Paul Craven describes the number of problems that the post-industrial revolution brought to the many workers but more specifically men as they were the most significant percentage of the workforce. Also, many workers working primarily in the textile industry were extremely damaged by the fibres amongst the working conditions. What also wasn’t helpful within the post-industrial era was the very minimal number of the number of workforce inspectors, at the time of 1910 there were only ten inspectors to cover the whole province. With the new change of machinery, the working conditions for many men became very depressing as the work became very repetitive and boring. Average men artisans had compassion and thrive to finish objects and became proud of their worked they achieved after it was done. Machines made their skills out of date, as these working men would easily be replaced by the machines. This led to most of these men losing their jobs or at best a machine operator or within the process line. This took a considerable toll on the workers as the production made people feel dehumanizing and made them feel almost like apart of the line. This caused many of the workers to lose faith in their jobs as they were no longer completing the whole process. Furthermore, during the post-industrial revolution due to the factory work anyone can do the job or partake within the workforce. Even the most unskilled worker can replace any other person in the workforce or an artisan who is working the machines. This was very harmful and demoralizing towards Artisans and skilled labours as they wouldn’t feel special anymore since the most unskilled labourer could replace them in the industry.Another thing that was also evident in the working conditions was the extreme discrimination within the workforce. Many people would often times not say or protest in the company as because if workers were to stand up for the poor treatment and conditions they would just get fired and let go, this wasn’t an issue since any job was replaced due to the jobs being capable of very unskilled labour. Since the workers needed the job also due to poverty being a severe factor within many families, workers would often take the discrimination to receive the little money their family extremely required. The working conditions were deplorable in regards to the male workers, and while this was the condition the men had nothing to drown their sorrows in. Due to the prohibition being passed through the protests of the WCTU, no alcohol was allowed in Canada legally, which made the times of the men even harder since they had nothing to rely on to get their minds of the working conditions. To conclude, the working class men found it extremely harmful towards their body physically due to the horrid conditions that could lead to severe injuries in the long run. While also mentally through the repetitive job in which made them feel like a machine and how workers would continuously be faced with discrimination and former artisans lost control over their pride from work.

 Additionally, referring to the standard of living wages are a crucial part of a society in determining whether it is suitable and ok for the average family to live in a society and community. Often in today’s society, you see that the poorer countries in the world have the people making a meagre wage compared to the rich countries. This was important in looking at the times between 1870-1920, as the salaries at the time were extremely low compared to the average cost of food and mandatory items required to live. In Canada, during the post-industrial era, there were not too many laws regarding the aspects of working and the wage people received. This shows how drastically harmful it was to the working men as they received very little money to support themselves and even worse to support a whole family since most cases the working men was the primary or only income the family had. Even though during the time the wages did increase the cost of accommodations just as fast, if not even quicker. Rents during Canada at the time went increased by 20-25%, and specifically, rents in Toronto went up 50%. Also, the food and fuel were already expensive and even more during the winter since during winter almost any food cannot be harvested.

“A Kingston labourer, James Rushford, was adamant when he gave evidence to the Royal Commission on the relation between Labour and capital in 1888:’ A labourer who gets only $1.00 a day and has two or three small children cannot half support his children and clothe them the way he should, and he cannot pay school taxes and give them an education. There are hundreds of them that way”.[4]

This quote from Paul Cravens book gives a perfect example of how the typical male worker had the struggle to not only barely have enough funds to survive for themselves but their children, which made this almost impossible with the meagre wages that the average working men would receive. Also, the working class men found it extremely difficult to acquire funds as there was no compensation if people got work and sick. If a working-class man were injured from work or ill, they would receive no pay or help from the government at the time. During the times as mentioned in the second paragraph, it was common to be injured or sick from the working conditions which it is again harmful to the average men who are working extremely long hours under the influence of them being ill. The long hours very extremely tough for the working man as most of the men would only have time to work one job rather than two. Most men worked 10 hour days for six days a week, which could be really tough and especially when your sick and not being able to buy the appropriate foods and adequate items to recover and receive the proper nutrition. During the post-industrial era, there was persistent unemployment at the time to since many factories could replace anyone for anyone else. “Unemployment was a serious problem for poor families, but it was a distant second to the problem of low average wages.“ The quote from the book unemployment, living standards, and the working-class family in urban Canada in 1901, proves my point by stating how the main issue was the low wages. But the second would be the unemployment due to the severe need for money, and if the male worker were already struggling with a little income. Imagine if there was no source of income at all from the working class men. The quality of life was extremely tough and harmful for the average working men, as the men in most cases would single hauntingly work extremely long hours for a minimal wage for them.

In summary, the post-industrial era was extraordinarily progressive and very important for Canadian society into what it became today. During 1870- 1920 the quality of life was terrible for the average working men within society. The homes in which the many men lived in were in horrendous conditions which were filled with many diseases and many cases lacking the necessities of life. While also focusing on the working men within the workforce who was working in constant terrible conditions, filled with many dangerous and sharp objects and with many times being discriminated by the owners. With comparing it to times like today, it is very noticeable about how times have changed through the harmful of experiences of workers now and back then. At last, looking at the extremely low wages and the little compensation the workers had to deal with and barely scrape enough money for the people to survive. As the new industrial revolution changed the face of society with the many inventions and creations, it is also clearly evident how about the dangers and how harmful it was to the community and more specifically the working men.

End Notes

  1. The quote from Paul Rutherfords book tomorrow’s Metropolis: The Urban Reform Movement in Canada, 1880-1920, is explaining and describing how slums were during the years of 1870-1920. As many people would consider them to be an extreme dangerous place filled with disease and sorrow.
  2. The quote from Terry Copps “The Anatomy of Poverty: The Condition of the Working Class in Montreal, 1897-1929,” explains and shows the fact about the higher mortality rate in the slums which demonstrates the issue of the slums in Canada. While also showing how big of an issue this was in Canada due to Montreal being the worst city in the west.
  3. The quote from Terry Copps “The Anatomy of Poverty: The Condition of the Working Class in Montreal, 1897-1929,” trying to bring in further evidence from Terry;s novel to show the terrible issues the factory brought to people.
  4. The quote from Paul Cravens book “Labouring Lives: Work and Workers in Nineteenth Century Ontario,” is being used within the essay to show an example of how much the average men was getting paid, and demonstrated how it was extremely difficult for men to support themselves and a family.
  5. The quote from Peter Baskerville and Eric Sagers book “Unemployment, Living Standards, and the Working-Class Family in Urban Canada in 1901.” Shows the reader about how the working-class men struggled within the time frame and how the standard of living was extremely harmful due to the two reasons, which were unemployment and low wages.

Work Cited List

  • Rutherford, Paul. “Tomorrow’s Metropolis: The Urban Reform Movement in Canada, 1880-1920.” Historical Papers, vol. 6, no. 1, 1971, p. 203., doi:10.7202/030466ar.
  • Armstrong, Frederick H., and Terry Copp. “The Anatomy of Poverty: The Condition of the Working Class in Montreal, 1897-1929.” The Journal of American History, vol. 62, no. 1, 1975, p. 163., doi:10.2307/1901373.
  • Ghorayshi, Parvin, and Paul Craven. “Labouring Lives: Work and Workers in Nineteenth Century Ontario.” Canadian Public Policy / Analyse De Politiques, vol. 22, no. 2, 1996, p. 189., doi:10.2307/3551913.
  • Sager, Eric W., and Peter Baskerville. “Unemployment, Living Standards, and the Working-Class Family in Urban Canada in 1901.” The History of the Family, vol. 2, no. 3, 1997, pp. 229–254., doi:10.1016/s1081-602x(97)90014-2.
  • Azoulay, Dan. “Working Men, Working Women/ Social Reform.” AK/ HUMA1740, Jan 8, 2019. York University. Lecture.
  • Azoulay, Dan. “The National Policy / The Urban- Industrial Landscape.”AK/ HUMA1740, Nov 27, 2018. York University. Lecture.


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