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RCAF (Women's Division)

Members of the Women’s Division (WD) of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) were wartime pioneers. Thousands of young Canadian women volunteered to serve at home and abroad during the Second World War as part of the air force.

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Roméo Dallaire

Roméo Dallaire, soldier, advocate, senator 2005-2014 (born 25 June 1946 in Denekamp, the Netherlands). Roméo Dallaire served with distinction in the Canadian Forces and was so affected by his experiences that he became an advocate for the world's victims of genocide, particularly in Africa.

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Documenting the Second World War

When Canada declared war on Germany on 10 September 1939, tens of thousands of Canadians enlisted to serve in the armynavyair force and supporting services. The military scrambled to buy equipment, train recruits and prepare for war. Little thought was given, at first, to documenting the war effort. By 1940, however, the military was recruiting historians, most notably Charles Stacey, to collect records and write accounts of Canadian operations. In the following years, artists, photographers and filmmakers also served with the various branches of the armed forces. Today, their diligent work provides a rich visual and written catalogue of Canada’s history in the Second World War.

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Jim Leech

James William (Jim) Leech, CM, CD, pension fund executive, financial services entrepreneur and philanthropic leader (born 12 June 1947 in St. Boniface, Manitoba). Leech was president and CEO of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan from 2007 to 2014. He helped develop the pension plan into one of the largest in the world and the highest performing in terms of investment return and member satisfaction. He has also worked with charitable groups and advised both federal and provincial governments. Leech has long been involved with Queen’s University, where he is chancellor. He is a member of the Board of the non-profit organization Historica Canada, publisher of The Canadian Encyclopedia.

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Igor Gouzenko

Igor Sergeievitch Gouzenko, Soviet intelligence officer, author (born 26 January 1919 in Rogachev, Russia; died 25 June 1982 in Mississauga, ON). Igor Gouzenko was a Soviet cipher clerk stationed at the Soviet Union’s Ottawa embassy during the Second World War. Just weeks after the end of the war, Gouzenko defected to the Canadian government with proof that his country had been spying on its wartime allies: Canada, Britain and the United States. This prompted what is known as the Gouzenko Affair. Gouzenko sought asylum for himself and his family in Canada. His defection caused a potentially dangerous international crisis. Many historians consider it the beginning of the Cold War.

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Charles de Beauharnois de La Boische, Marquis de Beauharnois

Charles de Beauharnois de La Boische Beauharnois, Marquis de Beauharnois, (baptized 12 October 1671 in La Chaussaye, near Orléans, France; died 12 July 1749 in Paris, France). Beauharnois was a naval officer in the wars of Louis XIV. From 1726 to 1747, he was the governor of New France. He initially built upon Indigenous alliances and defended New France from British incursions. However, the loss of Louisbourg in 1745 and the subsequent deterioration of relationships with Indigenous allies both occurred under Beauharnois and contributed to the eventual conquest of New France.

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Walter Patterson

Walter Patterson, army officer, landowner, first British governor of St. John’s Island [Prince Edward Island] (born c. 1735 near Rathmelton, County Donegal, Ireland; died 6 September 1798 in London, England). Patterson served with the British army in North America during the Seven Years’ War. In 1770, he was sworn in as the first British governor of St. John’s Island (renamed Prince Edward Island in 1799). His time as governor was marked by land speculation and political uproar.

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No. 2 Construction Battalion

The No. 2 Construction Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) — also known as the Black Battalion — was authorized on 5 July 1916, during the First World War. It was a segregated non-combatant unit, the first and only all-Black battalion in Canadian military history.

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Arthur Roy Brown

Arthur Roy Brown, fighter pilot (b at Carleton Place, Ont 23 Dec 1893; d at Stouffville, Ont 9 Mar 1944). A flight commander with 209 Squadron, Brown has often been credited with killing Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen, the famed "Red Baron".

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Margaret Ecker

Margaret Alberta Corbett Ecker, journalist (born 1915 in Edmonton, AB; died 3 April 1965 in Ibiza, Spain). Margaret Ecker was an award-winning newspaper and magazine writer. She was the only woman to serve overseas as a war correspondent for the Canadian Press wire service during the Second World War. She was also the only woman present at Germany’s unconditional surrender in 1945. Ecker was made an officer of the Netherlands’ House of the Orange Order in 1947, making her the first Canadian woman to receive that honour.

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Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry

Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry, military engineer (born 3 October 1682 in Toulon, France; died 23 March 1756 in Quebec City, QC). Chaussegros de Léry contributed to the development of New France by fortifying the colony’s towns, namely Quebec and Montreal. His relief maps of Quebec and Montreal are still regarded as accurate models of these cities. Some consider Chaussegros de Léry the father of the first truly Canadian architecture. (See also Architectural History: The French Colonial Regime.)

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Bonnie Henry

Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer of British Columbia (2018 to present), epidemiologist, physician (born 1965 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island). Dr. Bonnie Henry is best known for leading British Columbia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She has also worked to eradicate polio and to contain Ebola and SARS. Henry is a family care physician and a specialist in preventative medicine. She is the first woman to serve as BC’s provincial health officer.

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Coulson Norman Mitchell, VC

Coulson Norman Mitchell, VC, engineer, soldier (born 11 December 1889 in Winnipeg, MB; died 17 November 1978 in Montréal, QC). During the First World War, Captain Mitchell was the only member of the Canadian engineers to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.

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Calixa Lavallée

Callixte Lavallée, composer, pianist, conductor, teacher, administrator, soldier (born 28 December 1842 in Verchères, Canada East; died 21 January 1891 in Boston, Massachusetts). A pioneer in music both in Canada and the United States, Calixa Lavallée was considered one of the “national glories” of Quebec. He is best known for composing the music for “O Canada” and was twice president of the Académie de musique de Québec. Despite this vaunted stature, he spent much of his life outside Canada, served with the Union Army during the American Civil War and called for Canada to be annexed by the United States. The Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée, awarded by the St-Jean-Baptiste Society of Montreal for outstanding contributions to the music of Quebec, is named in his honour.

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Oka Crisis

The Oka Crisis, also known as the Kanesatake Resistance or the Mohawk Resistance at Kanesatake, was a 78-day standoff (11 July–26 September 1990) between Mohawk protesters, Quebec police, the RCMP and the Canadian Army. It took place in the community of Kanesatake, near the Town of Oka, on the north shore of Montreal. Related protests and violence occurred in the Kahnawake reserve, to the south of Montreal. The crisis was sparked by the proposed expansion of a golf course and the development of townhouses on disputed land in Kanesatake that included a Mohawk burial ground. Tensions were high, particularly after the death of Corporal Marcel Lemay, a Sûreté du Québec police officer. Eventually, the army was called in and the protest ended. The golf course expansion was cancelled and the land was purchased by the federal government. However, it did not establish the land as a reserve, and there has since been no organized transfer of the land to the Mohawks of Kanesatake.