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Article

War Brides

The term “war brides” refers to women who married Canadian servicemen overseas and then immigrated to Canada after the world wars to join their husbands. The term became popular during the Second World War but is now also used to describe women who had similar experiences in the First World War. There are no official figures for war brides and their children during the First World War. In the Second World War, approximately 48,000 women married Canadian servicemen overseas. By 31 March 1948, the Canadian government had transported about 43,500 war brides and 21,000 children to Canada.

Article

Governor General of Canada

Canada is a constitutional monarchy. As such, there is a clear division between the head of state and the head of government. The head of government is the prime minister, an elected political leader. The head of state is the Canadian monarch; their duties are carried out by the governor general, who acts as the representative of the Crown — currently Elizabeth II — in Canada. (Lieutenant-Governors fulfill a similar role in provincial governments.) The governor general has extensive ceremonial duties. They also fulfill an important role in upholding the traditions of Parliament and other democratic institutions. Canada’s most recent governor general was Julie Payette. Following her resignation on 21 January 2021, the chief justice of the  Supreme Court of Canada, Richard Wagner, assumed the responsibilities of the office until a replacement could be confirmed.

Article

Lillian Freiman

Lillian Freiman (née Bilsky), OBE, benefactor, community activist, organizer, civic leader and Zionist (born 6 June 1885 in Mattawa, ON; died 2 November 1940 in Montreal, QC). Lillian Freiman used her high social status and wealth to help those less fortunate, both within and beyond the Jewish community. For her work assisting First World War soldiers and leading the Poppy Campaign, the Canadian Legion made her an honorary life member in 1933. Freiman was the first woman to receive this honour.

Article

Canadian Women's Army Corps

During the Second World War, Canadian women, for the first time, were mobilized for service in the Canadian Armed Forces. Of the roughly 50,000 women who enlisted, more than half served in the Canadian Army. Most were assigned jobs involving traditional female work such as cooking, laundry and clerical duties, but women also pioneered roles in the mechanized and technical fields. The Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) performed essential services, both at home and overseas, that helped bring about Allied victory.

Article

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. By replacing men in aviation support roles, they lived up to their motto — "We Serve that Men May Fly” — and, through their record of service and sacrifice, ensured themselves a place in Canadian history.

Article

William Pearly Oliver

William Pearly Oliver, CM, minister, army chaplain and community organizer (born 11 February 1912 in Wolfville, Nova Scotia; died 26 May 1989 in Lucasville). Oliver was a social activist, educator and minister. He cofounded the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP) and the Black United Front (BUF). He was also instrumental in the creation of the Black Cultural Society and the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia.

Article

Arthur Roy Brown

Arthur Roy Brown, fighter pilot and ace, businessman, civil aviation pioneer (born 23 December 1893 in Carleton Place, Ontario; died 9 March 1944 in Stouffville, Ontario). Brown is credited with killing Germany’s top First World War ace, Manfred von Richthofen, the famed “Red Baron.” Richthofen may, however, have been shot down by two Australian army machine-gunners.

Article

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.

Article

Origène Poulin (Primary Source)

Origène Poulin was a conscripted French-Canadian soldier who was sent to the Aleutian Islands with an American-Canadian expedition during the Second World War. After landing on the island of Kiska, he spent seven months facing extreme wind, snow, fog and rain. Listen as Poulin explains the conditions on Kiska and his training.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

Article

Jules Blais (Primary Source)

Jules Blais served on HMCS Sea Cliff to accompany merchant ships during the Second World War. He was present at the sinking of the U-877 in December 1944. Blais rescued survivors from the freezing waters before dressing them and stowing them away aboard the ship. Listen to Blais describe his naval service and his interactions with German POWs.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

Article

James Barry

James Miranda Steuart Barry, FRS (probably born Margaret Anne Bulkley), military surgeon, physician (born c. 1789–99; died 25 July 1865 in London, England). Posted across the British Empire, Barry reformed medical standards in the British army. His final and highest-ranking position was as inspector-general of military hospitals in the Province of Canada in the 1850s. After his death, it was reported that Barry’s assigned sex at birth was female. This has sparked significant debate about his identity.

Note on pronouns: This article refers to James Barry with masculine pronouns, as this was how Barry referred to himself throughout his life.

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

Article

Joseph Aaron “Joe” Friedman (Primary Source)

Joseph Aaron “Joe” Friedman was a Romanian-Jewish Canadian tail gunner in the Royal Canadian Air Force who enlisted when he was 17 years old. Friedman took part in carpet bombing operations before he was shot down and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Germany. Listen to Friedman describe his experiences in the Air Force and comment on the controversy of carpet bombing.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

Article

Alex Polowin (Primary Source)

Alex Polowin was a Lithuanian-Jewish Canadian who served in the Royal Canadian Navy on HMCS Huron, a Tribal class destroyer. Polowin escorted convoys to Murmasnk to supply the Soviets, hunted down the battleship Scharnhorst, and supported the amphibious invasion of Normandy in 1944. Listen to Polowin describe his motivations for enlisting in the Navy and the operations in which he took part.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.