Historic building in Mississauga played a key role in Canada’s WW II efforts

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Published November 10, 2023 at 2:03 pm

Anthony Urciuoli/hamilton.insauga.com photo
Mississauga's Small Arms Inspection Building functioned as a munitions factory and firearms inspection facility during World War II. (Photo: City of Mississauga)

As Mississauga prepares to mark Remembrance Day, city officials remind residents that an important piece of World War II history — and one that speaks to the key contributions to the effort from women — is located right here in Canada’s seventh-largest city.

The Small Arms Inspection Building stands on Lakeshore Road East and these days in its renovated form plays host to art shows, concerts, beer festivals and various other events of all shapes and sizes.

In days past, though, more specifically during the Second World War in the 1940s, it functioned as a munitions factory and firearms inspection facility that was key to Canada’s war efforts.

Small Arms Ltd., which operated the plant at the time, “recruited and supported a significant number of women, who made up about two-thirds of the factory’s workforce,” according to Mississauga records provided in an online information capsule of the facility, which today is a heritage-designated property due to its wartime role.

“This was critical to changing the role of women and recognizing their significance to the workforce in Canada,” heritage officials continued of the facility’s function some eight decades ago.

On Thursday, City of Mississauga officials took to social media to draw attention to the significance of the former munitions plant and the role women played when its production was at its height.

“Women in Mississauga played a pivotal role during WW II,” the city’s post to social media platform X reads. “The Small Arms Inspection Building in the city’s Arsenal Lands became a major female employer and manufactured rifles for the Canadian Army during WW II.”

At the conclusion of the war, the women who were hired for wartime work returned home and Small Arms Ltd. became Canadian Arsenals Ltd. until 1974, city records show.

These days, the Small Arms Inspection Building in Mississauga hosts various events, including musical concerts. (Photo: City of Mississauga)

The facility was subsequently leased to several companies including Good Year Tire & Rubber Co. and then in 1975 the federal government turned ownership of the building and property over to Canada Post.

The manufacturing plant was used as a mail-sorting station while the inspection building was used by Ontario Power Generation as a training facility, according to records.

Part of the building was also used by the Cadet Organization Police School, set up by the Royal Canadian Army as a youth training program and administered by Peel Regional Police.

Fast-forward to 2017, when the City of Mississauga bought the Small Arms Inspection Building with an eye toward turning it into “a bright, multi-purpose, open-concept arts and culture venue.”

Since then, it has served as a creative hub for artists in the community and played host to events of all sizes, including concerts and beer festivals.

The facility also serves as a space for artists. (Photo: City of Mississauga)

Moving forward, the city is looking to renovate and revitalize the north end of the building’s 24,000-square-foot space.

It’s also stepping up efforts to protect one of the city’s historic gems by building additional chain link fencing around the facility.

Originally managed by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, the building escaped demolition when the City of Mississauga intervened in 2008 to help protect it from the wrecker’s ball.

The building was subsequently designated under the Ontario Heritage Act in 2009.

Today, the Small Arms Society (CreativeHub 1352), a non-profit corporation, helps preserve the history of the building and continues to deliver community programming at the location.

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