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VE-Day (Victory in Europe)

Victory in Europe — the official end of the fighting in Europe in the Second World War — was celebrated on 8 May 1945, after Germany's unconditional surrender. In cities and towns across Canada, a war-weary nation expressed its joy and relief at the news. In Halifax, the celebrations erupted into looting and rioting. The war was not over, as conflict with Japan continued.

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War Measures Act

The War Measures Act was a federal law adopted by Parliament on 22 August 1914, after the beginning of the First World War. It gave broad powers to the Canadian government to maintain security and order during “war, invasion or insurrection.” It was used, controversially, to suspend the civil liberties of people in Canada who were considered “enemy aliens” during both world wars. This led to mass arrests and detentions without charges or trials. The War Measures Act was also invoked in Quebec during the 1970 October Crisis. The Act was repealed and replaced by the more limited Emergencies Act in 1988.

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Hill 70 and Canadian Independence

Canada’s war of independence was the First World War. Unlike the Americans, our war of independence was not fought against the country from which we became independent, but alongside it. We started the war as a colony of Britain and ended it as an ally. The remarkable performance of the Canadian Corps and its first Canadian commander made these gains in autonomy possible.

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Guelph in the First World War

Guelph, Ontario, was typical of small Canadian cities during the First World War. Of its population of about 16,000, more than a third, 5,610, volunteered for military service; 3,328 were accepted. Today, 216 of their names are engraved on the city’s cenotaph. While Guelphites served overseas, the war had a profound and lasting effect on their hometown — an experience that provides an insight into wartime Canada.

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First World War (WWI)

The First World War of 1914–1918 was the bloodiest conflict in Canadian history, taking the lives of nearly 61,000 Canadians. It erased romantic notions of war, introducing slaughter on a massive scale, and instilled a fear of foreign military involvement that would last until the Second World War. The great achievements of Canadian soldiers on battlefields such as Ypres, Vimy and Passchendaele, however, ignited a sense of national pride and a confidence that Canada could stand on its own, apart from the British Empire, on the world stage. The war also deepened the divide between French and English Canada and marked the beginning of widespread state intervention in society and the economy.

(This is the full-length entry about the First World War. For a plain-language summary, please see First World War (Plain-Language Summary).)

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War of 1812

The War of 1812 (which lasted from 1812 to 1814) was a military conflict between the United States and Great Britain. As a colony of Great Britain, Canada was swept up in the War of 1812 and was invaded several times by the Americans. The war was fought in Upper Canada, Lower Canada, on the Great Lakes and the Atlantic, and in the United States. The peace treaty of Ghent (1814), which ended the war, largely returned the status quo. However, in Canada, the war contributed to a growing sense of national identity, including the idea that civilian soldiers were largely responsible for repelling the American invaders. In contrast, the First Nations allies of the British and Canadian cause suffered much because of the war; not only had they lost many warriors (including the great Tecumseh), they also lost any hope of halting American expansion in the west, and their contributions were quickly forgotten by their British and Canadian allies. (See also First Nations and Métis Peoples in the War of 1812.)

This article focuses primarily on land campaigns; for more detailed discussion of naval campaigns, see Atlantic Campaign of the War of 1812 and  War on the Lakes in the War of 1812. Additionally, this is a full-length entry on the War of 1812. For a plain-language summary please see War of 1812 (Plain-Language Summary).

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Vimy Ridge

Among Canada’s defining events, the Battle of Vimy Ridge in the First World War ranks high. It was a triumph — a major victory for the Allied side after a long, bloody stalemate — and a tragedy. In the four-day battle, 3,598 Canadians died and another 7,004 were wounded. In the century since it ended, on 12 April 1917, it has become something else: an event bordering on myth. “In those few minutes,” said Canadian Brigadier-General A.E. Ross of the victory, “I witnessed the birth of a nation.”

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Canada and Gas Warfare

Poison gas was used throughout the First World War by almost all armies. Its widespread use was unique in the history of warfare. The various types of gas, delivered by canisters, projectors, or shell, killed, maimed, and wore down morale. By 1918, soldiers of all armies encountered gas frequently while serving at the Western Front. Canadian soldiers were among the first to face the death clouds, at the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915. At least 11,572 Canadian soldiers were casualties of poison gas, yet many were denied pensions after the war. During the Second World War, chemical weapons were not used on the battlefield; however, the Suffield Experimental Station in Alberta developed and tested chemical and biological weapons beginning in 1941. From about the middle of the 20th century, Canadian officials worked on the global stage to ban chemical weapons, and in the 1990s, Canada signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (see Arms Control and Disarmament.)

Macleans

The Great War Haunts Us Still

IT'S BEEN 90 YEARS now since the Guns of August began to fire, and the smoke has yet to clear from the world they made. The fault lines of modern history - from the quagmire in Iraq through Yugoslavia's implosion to the Cold War and beyond - all branch back to the cataclysm of 1914-1918.

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Exercise Tocsin B

Exercise Tocsin B was a nationwide nuclear preparedness drill that lasted 24 hours between 13 and 14 November 1961. It was the last of three national survival exercises named Tocsin in 1960–61. It was also the largest and most widely publicized civil defence drill ever held in Canada. This Cold War exercise run by the Canadian Army simulated the impact of thermonuclear warfare in Canada. Its goals were to show how the state would warn Canadians of such an attack and how government would continue during the crisis. By raising popular awareness of the potential for a devastating nuclear attack, Tocsin B showed Canadians what was at stake in the Cold War.

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Wartime Prices and Trade Board

Wartime Prices and Trade Board, est 3 Sept 1939 by the Canadian government immediately before the onset of WORLD WAR II, and initially responsible to the Dept of Labour. Its creation reflected the government's concern that WWI conditions of inflation and social unrest should not return.

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The Great War in the Air

Airplanes became an important part of modern warfare during the First World War (1914–18). Aircraft technology developed rapidly and by war’s end, airplanes were involved in reconnaissance, artillery spotting, air-to-air combat, strafing ground targets, anti-submarine warfare, tactical and strategic bombing and home defence. More than 20,000 Canadians served in British flying services (Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force) during the war. Approximately 1,400 were killed or died from wounds or accidents. Canada did not have an air force during the First World War; a single-plane Canadian Aviation Corps was established in 1914, but never saw service and soon disbanded. Later, on 5 August 1918, two Canadian Air Force squadrons were formed in Britain, but were disbanded the next year when the British cut off funding. The Royal Canadian Naval Air Service was formed in September 1918 but lasted only three months before the war ended. Canada would not have a permanent air force until 1924 (see Royal Canadian Air Force).

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Canada and the Battle of the Scheldt

The Battle of the Scheldt was fought in northern Belgium and southwestern Netherlands in 1944 during the Second World War. It was part of the Allied campaign to liberate northwestern Europe and defeat Nazi Germany. The First Canadian Army played a crucial role in clearing the Scheldt of German forces, opening crucial supply lines via the port of Antwerp. However, this victory came at a cost. The Allies suffered nearly 13,000 casualties during the battle, including more than 6,300 Canadians.