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Canadian Prisoners of War

Prisoners of War (POWs) are members of the military captured in wartime by the enemy. Since the late 19th century, international rules have governed the treatment of POWs, although these are not always followed. Thousands of Canadians have endured time as POWs in conflicts ranging from the First World War to the Korean War.

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Masumi Mitsui

Masumi Mitsui, MM, farmer, soldier, Canadian Legion official (born 7 October 1887 in Tokyo, Japan; died 22 April 1987 in Hamilton, ON). Masumi Mitsui immigrated to Canada in 1908 and served with distinction in the First World War. In 1931, he and his comrades persuaded the BC government to grant Japanese Canadian veterans the right to vote, a breakthrough for Japanese and other disenfranchised Canadians. Nevertheless, Matsui and more than 22,000 Japanese Canadians were displaced, detained and dispossessed by the federal government during the Second World War (see Internment of Japanese Canadians).

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Canadian Command during the Great War

The Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), of some 630,000 men during the Great War of 1914–18, consisted almost entirely of civilian soldiers. Pre-war farmers, clerks, students, and workers voluntarily enlisted to serve King and Country, although close to 100,000 were conscripted for service in the last year of the war. Most of the Canadian senior officers were drawn from the middle class — lawyers, engineers, professional soldiers, businessmen, farmers, and even a dentist.

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David Currie, VC

David Vivian Currie, VC, auto mechanic, welder, soldier, House of Commons sergeant-at-arms (born 8 July 1912 in Sutherland, SK; died 24 June 1986 in Ottawa, ON). During the Second World War, Major Currie was the only member of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.

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Charles Cecil Merritt, VC

Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt, VC, barrister, soldier, Member of Parliament (born 10 November 1908 in Vancouver, BC; died 12 July 2000 in Vancouver). During the Second World War, Lieutenant-Colonel Cec Merritt was the first Canadian to earn the Victoria Cross (VC) in the European theatre, the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.

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Oliver Hazard Perry

Oliver Hazard Perry, American naval officer, known as the hero of Lake Erie (b at South Kingston, Rhode Island, 23 Aug 1785; d at sea near Trinidad and Tabago, 23 Aug 1819).

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Richard Pierpoint

Richard Pierpoint (also Pawpine, Parepoint; Captain Pierpoint, Captain Dick; Black Dick), loyalist, soldier, community leader, storyteller (born c. 1744 in Bondu [now Senegal]; died c. 1838, near present-day Fergus, ON). Pierpoint was an early leader in Canada’s Black community. Taken from West Africa as a teenager and sold into slavery, Pierpoint regained his freedom during the American Revolution. He settled in Niagara, Upper Canada, and attempted to live communally with other Black Canadians. In the War of 1812, he petitioned for an all-Black unit to fight for the British and fought with the Coloured Corps.

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George Vancouver

George Vancouver, naval officer, explorer (b at King's Lynn, Eng 22 June 1757; d at Petersham, London, Eng 12 May 1798). Vancouver was with James COOK on his expeditions to the South Seas (1772-75) and the NORTHWEST COAST

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Andrew Hamilton Gault

Andrew Hamilton Gault, army officer (born in England 18 August 1882; died at Montréal 28 November 1958). Of Canadian parents, he attended McGill University. Commissioned in the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, he served in the South African War and joined the Canadian Militia on return to Canada.

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Zouaves

Between February 1868 and September 1870, 7 contingents totalling 507 Canadians enrolled in the papal army (whose soldiers were known as Papal Zouaves) to help defend Rome from the Italian troops who wanted to bring about Italian unification.

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Sam Steele

Sir Samuel Benfield Steele, CB, KCMG, mounted policeman, soldier (born 5 January 1848 in Medonte, Canada West; died 30 January 1919 in London, England). As a member of the North-West Mounted Police, Steele was an important participant in the signing of Treaty 6 and Treaty 7, the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the North-West Rebellion and the Klondike gold rush. His military career began as a private in the Red River Expedition, included service in the South African War as an officer commanding Lord Strathcona’s Horse and as a major general during the First World War.