The Halifax Relief Fund & Commission

“Children getting food from a relief station”
Credit: International Film Service, Nathaniel N. Morse, Nova Scotia Archives. Accession no. 1989-298 / negative: N-7081.

The response to the Halifax Explosion was global in size. In addition to the relief trains that now filled the tracks headed to Halifax, monetary donations soon began pouring in when the city officials issued a Public Appeal to the rest of Canada (Mac Donald, Curse of The Narrows – The Halifax Explosion 1917, p. 221). Donations came from businesses, private individuals, churches and federal governments. Australia gave $250,000; Britain and the United States both donated $5 million (Mac Donald, Curse of The Narrows – The Halifax Explosion 1917, p. 222). In Boston, a benefit concert featuring Australian soprano Nellie Melba, Austrian violinist Fritz Kreisler and the Boston Symphony sold out the day it was announced (Mac Donald, Curse of The Narrows – The Halifax Explosion 1917, p. 222). When the Eastern Steamships Company provided another ship for deliveries to Halifax, such was the response for donations that the police had to be called in for crowd control (Mac Donald, Curse of The Narrows – The Halifax Explosion 1917, p. 222). Monetary donations to the Halifax Relief Fund would eventually total over $20 million (approximately $319 million in 2017).

A donation to the Halifax Relief Fund made by the Chief and Councilors of the Samson Band, from Hobbema (now Maskwacis), Alberta.
Credit: Library And Archives Canada. Textual records: 90: Open, Microfilm reel: C-10185, File no. (creator): 507827, Textual records: Restrictions not set, Volume 32: Restricted by law 4088, Former archival reference no. RG10. Finding aid no. 10-13. MIKAN no. 2060459, Item 2.

Originally created by city officials on the day of the explosion, the Halifax Relief Commission was incorporated in 1918 to administer a $30 million disaster relief fund. The Commission was responsible for the medical care, compensation and rehabilitation of those injured or disabled by the Explosion, as well as instigating reconstruction efforts. In 1976, the Halifax Relief Commission was finally shut down, and its remaining $1.5 million and 68 dependents transferred to the Canada Pension Commission (Historica Canada – Canadian Encyclopedia, “Halifax Relief Commission”, 2017).