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Article

Wartime Elections Act

The Wartime Elections Act of 1917 gave the vote to female relatives of Canadian soldiers serving overseas in the First World War. It also took the vote away from many Canadians who had immigrated from “enemy” countries. The Act was passed by Prime Minister Robert Borden’s Conservative government in an attempt to gain votes in the 1917 election. It ended up costing the Conservatives support among certain groups for years to come. The Act has a contentious legacy. It granted many women the right to vote, but it also legitimized in law many anti-immigrant sentiments.

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Canada and SOSUS

The Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) was a network of passive sonar stations established by the United States Navy (USN) in the early 1950s to “listen” for Soviet submarines. SOSUS was a core element of antisubmarine warfare (ASW) during the Cold War. It developed out of intense postwar oceanographic research into how sound is propagated under water. Given Canada’s shared responsibility for the defence of North America, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) was actively engaged in this research and mission and helped operate SOSUS. The mission was highly classified throughout the Cold War and only declassified in 1991. SOSUS became part of the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS), a broader network of fixed and towed sensors that remains operational.


Article

Canada and Peacekeeping

Peacekeeping is the term usually applied to United Nations (UN) operations in countries affected by conflict. Peacekeepers work to maintain peace and security, protect human rights and help restore the rule of law. Peacekeepers can be members of the armed forces, police officers or civilian experts. As a result of Lester Pearson's leadership in the 1956 Suez Crisis and Canada's role in the UN Emergency Force he helped create, many Canadians consider peacekeeping part of the country's identity. However, since the 1990s Canada's reputation as a peacekeeping nation has been affected by scandal and by the failure of some overseas missions. Although Canada’s contribution to peace operations has declined since then, Canadian peacekeepers continue to serve overseas in such places as Mali. In total, more than 125,000 Canadians have served in UN peace operations. Canadians have also participated in UN-sanctioned peace operations led by NATO and in missions sponsored by the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO). Approximately 130 Canadians have died in peace operations.

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Canada and Antisubmarine Warfare in the First World War

When the First World War began in August 1914, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) was unprepared to fight a war at sea. Founded only in 1910, it consisted of two obsolete cruisers, HMCS Niobe and HMCS Rainbow, and about 350 regular sailors, augmented by 250 reservists. During the war, it was assigned a growing number of tasks, which it was ill-equipped to perform. This included protecting Canadian coastal waters against German U-boats. The RCN scrambled to find ships and sailors but was ill-equipped to fight enemy submarines, which sank several vessels in Canadian waters in 1918.


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Canada and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Canada has a long, complicated history with weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Canadian soldiers have been attacked with chemical weapons and have used them offensively. (See Canada and Gas Warfare.) Canada has researched chemical, biological and nuclear weapons; but also, ways to defend against them. Some chemical weapons were tested in Canada and against Canadians with long-term consequences. Canada played a crucial role in the development of nuclear weapons. (See Canada and the Manhattan Project.) The country employed nuclear weapons primarily as defensive weapons during the Cold War. Canada signed international documents limiting the use of these weapons. Canada no longer has weapons of mass destruction. However, Canada is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and NORAD — alliances that employ nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

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Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion

The Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion was a battalion of Canadians that fought against fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). It is also a collective name for more than 1,500 Canadian volunteers who served in the conflict, either with the “Mac-Paps” or in other units.

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Conscription in Canada

Conscription is the compulsory enlistment or “call up” of citizens for military service. It is sometimes known as “the draft.” The federal government enacted conscription in both the First World War and the Second World War. Both instances created sharp divisions between English Canadians, who tended to support the practice, and French Canadians, who generally did not. Canada does not currently have mandatory military service. The Canadian Armed Forces are voluntary services.

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Sinking of HMHS Llandovery Castle

On the evening of 27 June 1918, while sailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Liverpool, England, the Canadian hospital ship Llandovery Castle was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat (U-86). Of the 258 crew and passengers, only 24 survived. Almost all the Canadian Army Medical Corps personnel were killed: six male officers, 64 enlisted men and 14 nursing sisters. Only one lifeboat escaped; the rest were either sucked under as the ship sank or attacked by the U-boat. The submarine’s officers were later charged with committing a war crime.

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Unification of the Canadian Armed Forces

On 1 February 1968, the Canadian Forces Reorganization Act (Bill C-243) came into effect, and the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force ceased to exist as separate entities. The three previously separate armed services were combined into a unified Canadian Armed Forces. Liberal Minister of Defence Paul Hellyer drove the change. Its merits were widely debated before and after the Act came into effect. By 2014, many of the changes introduced by unification had been reversed.