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Bren Gun Scandal

Before the Second World War, the British government was anxious to acquire new, secure sources for weapons production. The Canadian government was reluctant to co-operate, fearing isolationist opinion, especially in Québec.

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Ross Rifle

In the early 20th Century, the Ross rifle, a Canadian-made infantry rifle, was produced as an alternative to the British-made Lee-Enfield rifle. The Ross rifle was used during the First World War, where it gained a reputation as an unreliable weapon among Canadian soldiers. By 1916, the Ross had been mostly replaced by the Lee-Enfield.

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Canada and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Canada has a long, complicated history with weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Canadian soldiers have been attacked with chemical weapons and have used them offensively. (See Canada and Gas Warfare.) Canada has researched chemical, biological and nuclear weapons; but also, ways to defend against them. Some chemical weapons were tested in Canada and against Canadians with long-term consequences. Canada played a crucial role in the development of nuclear weapons. (See Canada and the Manhattan Project.) The country employed nuclear weapons primarily as defensive weapons during the Cold War. Canada signed international documents limiting the use of these weapons. Canada no longer has weapons of mass destruction. However, Canada is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and NORAD — alliances that employ nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

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Hawker Hurricane

The Hawker Hurricane was a combat aircraft of the 1930s and 1940s, designed by the British aircraft manufacturer Hawker Aircraft Ltd. The Hurricane was one of the principal combat aircraft that defended the United Kingdom during the Battle of Britain. This fighter plane played a pivotal role in the Second World War, primarily serving with the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and Soviet Air Force. The Hurricane was mass-produced, with over 14,000 examples manufactured from 1937 to 1944. The Hurricane was produced in the United Kingdom and in Canada, with 1,451 examples built at the Canadian Car & Foundry plant, which was located in Fort William (now Thunder Bay), Ontario. Hurricane production in Canada lasted from 1938 to 1943 and was overseen by Elsie MacGill, the first woman in Canada to earn a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering. MacGill was popularly known as the “Queen of the Hurricanes” for overseeing the rapid production of the aircraft. At the height of production, the Canadian Car & Foundry plant produced 15 new aircraft each week. 

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Canada and Antisubmarine Warfare during the Cold War

During the Cold War, the Canadian Navy played a crucial role in antisubmarine warfare (ASW), working closely with its allies to patrol and monitor the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for Soviet submarine activity. Canada invested in new technology and continually modernized its fleet of ships and aircraft to better detect and counter Soviet submarines. It also operated strategic warning systems with its allies, particularly the United States. By the end of the Cold War, Canada had developed a very high reputation in the field.

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St Laurent-class Destroyer Escorts

The St Laurents were developed in the early Cold War as a high-speed, long-range antisubmarine frigate to counter the growing Soviet conventional submarine threat. They were the first major warship class designed and built in Canada and incorporated many ground-breaking features, earning them the nickname, the “Cadillacs.” Seven St. Laurents were built. The success of the design inspired a succession of follow-on classes: the Restigouche, Mackenzie and Annapolis classes. A total of 20 ships — all named after Canadian rivers — were built around the same hull configuration and propulsion plant. These iconic ships were the mainstay of the Canadian fleet from 1955 to 1995, including most of the Cold War.

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Prestonian-class Frigates

The Prestonians were a group of 21 Second World War frigates reactivated by the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) in the 1950s for antisubmarine warfare (ASW). This was a stopgap measure to meet Canada’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) force goals until the purpose-built St Laurent-class destroyer escorts came into service. Although originally built as Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) vessels, the Prestonians had to be extensively modified to meet the more complex demands of Cold War ASW, which they performed until withdrawn in the mid-1960s.

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Land Mines

Land mines, used in zones of conflict to prevent access, are containers filled with explosives. Usually camouflaged or hidden, the devices maim and even kill when detonated by their unsuspecting victims. Land mines are small, inexpensive and easy to deploy.

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CS2F Grumman (de Havilland) Tracker

The Tracker was a twin-engine fixed-wing aircraft acquired by the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) to be flown off aircraft carriers for antisubmarine warfare (ASW) as a replacement for the Grumman Avenger. Originally developed for the United States Navy (USN), a Canadian version was manufactured under licence by de Havilland Canada as the CS2F. After unification the plane was redesignated as the CP-121; the Trackers became shore-based aircraft after the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure was decommissioned. The Trackers became fully operational in 1959 and were withdrawn from service in 1989.

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Canada and the Manhattan Project

Canada helped develop the world’s first nuclear reactors and nuclear arms. During the Second World War, Canada participated in British research to create an atomic weapon. In 1943, the British nuclear weapons program merged with its American equivalent, the Manhattan Project. Canada’s main contribution was the Montreal Laboratory, which later became the Chalk River Laboratory. (See Nuclear Research Establishments). This Allied war effort produced the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. It also led to the development of Canada’s nuclear energy industry.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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Bomarc Missile Crisis

The CIM-10B Bomarc was the world’s first long-range, nuclear capable, ground-to-air anti-aircraft missile. Two squadrons of the missile were purchased and deployed by the Canadian government in 1958. This was part of Canada’s role during the Cold War to defend North America against an attack from the Soviet Union. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s refusal to equip the missiles with nuclear warheads led to a souring of Canada’s relationship with the United States, especially once the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the issue to the fore. The issue split Diefenbaker’s Cabinet and contributed to his party losing the 1963 election.

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UFOs in Canada

For 45 years, the Canadian government investigated unidentified flying objects (UFOs). Several of its departments and agencies collected sighting reports of UFOs in Canadian airspace from 1950 to 1995. These investigations started during the Cold War, spurred by fears of Soviet incursions. What began as a military question eventually became a scientific one. From the start, however, the government was reluctant to study this topic. It devoted few resources to it, believing UFOs to be natural phenomena or the products of “delusional” minds. By contrast, many Canadian citizens were eager for information about UFOs. Citizens started their own investigations and petitioned the government for action. In 1995, due to budget cuts, the government stopped collecting reports altogether. For their part, citizen enthusiasts have continued to investigate UFOs.