Family Allowances: Improving Children’s Welfare

This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.

Family Allowance Poster, ca. 1944: Canadian War Museum 20070104-007

During the Second World War, many families had suffered because their wages had not matched wartime inflation. By introducing family allowances, the government directly improved both the purchasing power of families with children and their standard of living. The family allowance program gave many Canadians their first experience of the benefits of the welfare state.

Introduced in Parliament by William Lyon Mackenzie King’s Liberals on 25 July 1944, family allowances were paid by monthly cheque directly to mothers of children under 16 beginning in 1945. This was Canada’s first universal social welfare program. The legislation was not without controversy, and there is ongoing debate about the program’s merits and the form payments should take.

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Canadian War Museum

The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s national museum of military history and one of the world’s most respected museums for the study and understanding of armed conflict.

The Museum traces its origins back to 1880, when it consisted primarily of a collection of militia artifacts. The Museum opened at its new location on the LeBreton Flats site in downtown Ottawa on May 8, 2005. Its opening not only marked the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe (V-E Day) but also the 125th anniversary of the Museum itself. Since its opening in 2005, the Museum has welcomed approximately 500,000 visitors every year.