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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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EAH Alderson

​Edwin Alfred Hervey Alderson, KCB, first commanding officer of the 1st Canadian Division (October 1914–September 1915) and of the Canadian Corps (September 1915–May 1916), army officer, author (born 8 April 1859 in Capel St Mary, England; died 14 December 1927 in Lowestoft, England).

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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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James Howden MacBrien

James Howden MacBrien, soldier, policeman (b at Port Perry, Ont 30 June 1878; d at Toronto 5 Mar 1938). MacBrien served in the militia, the North-West Mounted Police and then the South African Constabulary 1901-06.

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Viscount Byng of Vimy

Field Marshall Julian Hedworth George Byng, 1st Viscount Byng of Vimy, Commander of the Canadian Corps from 1915 to 1917 and Governor General of Canada from 1921 to 1926 (born 11 September 1862 in Hertfordshire, United Kingdom; died 6 June 1935 in Essex, United Kingdom). Byng led the Canadian Corps to victory at the Battle of Vimy Ridge during the First World War. As governor general, he is best known for his role in the King-Byng Affair, when he formally refused Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s advice to dissolve Parliament and call a federal election.

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Battle of Vimy Ridge

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was fought during the First World War from 9 to 12 April 1917. It is Canada’s most celebrated military victory — an often mythologized symbol of the birth of Canadian national pride and awareness. The battle took place on the Western Front, in northern France. The four divisions of the Canadian Corps, fighting together for the first time, attacked the ridge from 9 to 12 April 1917 and captured it from the German army. It was the largest territorial advance of any Allied force to that point in the war — but it would mean little to the outcome of the conflict. More than 10,600 Canadians were killed and wounded in the assault. Today an iconic memorial atop the ridge honours the 11,285 Canadians killed in France throughout the war who have no known graves.

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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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Herbert Cyril Thacker

Herbert Cyril Thacker, army officer (b at Poona, India 16 Sept 1870; d at Victoria 2 June 1953). Thacker, briefly chief of the general staff in 1927-28, was commissioned in the Royal Canadian Artillery in 1891.

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Charles Lightfoot Roman

Charles Lightfoot Roman, MD, CM, surgeon, author, researcher, lecturer (born 19 May 1889 in Port Elgin, ON; died 8 June 1961 in Valleyfield, QC). Charles Lightfoot Roman was one of the first Black Canadians to graduate from McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine and became a recognized expert in industrial medicine. He was also one of the first Black Canadians to enlist for service in the First World War, and was the only known Black person to serve with the Canadian General Hospital No. 3 (McGill). Lightfoot Roman was also likely the first Black Grand Master of a traditional Masonic lodge.

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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.

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Sir William Dillon Otter

Sir William Dillon Otter, soldier (b at Clinton, Ont 3 Dec 1843; d at Toronto 6 May 1929). A veteran of the Battle of RIDGEWAY in 1866 and a part-time soldier, Otter joined the permanent force in 1883.

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Maurice Arthur Pope

Maurice Arthur Pope, engineer, army officer, diplomat (b at Rivière du Loup, Qué 9 Aug 1889; d at Ottawa 20 Sept 1978). Son of Sir Joseph Pope and grandson of Sir Henri T. Taschereau, he was a strong nationalist who believed that Canadians must respect the traditions of both founding peoples.

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Sir Samuel Hughes

Sir Samuel Hughes, teacher, journalist, soldier, politician (born at Darlington, Canada W 8 Jan 1853; died at Lindsay, Ont 24 Aug 1921). A Conservative and an enthusiastic supporter of Sir John A. Macdonald's National Policy, Sam Hughes was elected to Parliament for Victoria North in 1892.

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Olivar Asselin

Olivar Asselin, journalist, soldier, philanthropist (born 8 Nov 1874 in Saint-Hilarion de Charlevoix, Québec; died 18 April 1937 in Montréal, Québec). Olivar Asselin was a writer, journalist, philanthropist and public intellectual in Québec at the turn of the 20th century. He was widely regarded as a giant in the world of Québec journalism and had a remarkable talent for recruiting and mentoring young writers during his extended career. As a fervent French Canadian nationalist and fierce polemist, he was deeply engaged in virtually every public issue of his day.