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Canada and the War

The Halifax VE Day Riots, 7-8 May 1945

The population of Halifax nearly doubled during the war as service personnel poured into the port city by the tens of thousands. Many of the military resented the overcrowding and strained facilities, and the way they believed themselves ignored by Halifax's permanent residents. Bad feelings, combined with the poor preparations of military and local authorities for VE Day, turned spontaneous celebrations into a rampage. Liquor stores and restaurants had been closed so that everyone could enjoy the holiday, leading thousands of sailors and soldiers, along with many civilians, to "liberate" liquor and beer on a big scale. This in turn fuelled large-scale vandalism and looting, both in Halifax and next-door Dartmouth. 564 businesses suffered damage and 207 shops were looted. Three rioters died. Some of the rioters received lengthy prison sentences from the local criminal courts, but most sentences were later reduced. A federal inquiry later blamed the navy for poor discipline of its personnel. The navy's top officer on the east coast was fired.

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