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Article

Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars

Thousands of Indigenous peoples served in the Canadian military forces in the First World War and Second World War; most were volunteers. On the home front, most Indigenous communities participated in the national war effort in diverse ways. The world wars were dramatic events for Indigenous peoples in Canada (see Indigenous Peoples and the First World War and Indigenous Peoples and the Second World War). Conflict offered these marginalized populations opportunities to renew warrior cultural traditions, reaffirm sacred treaties, prove their worth to indifferent non-Indigenous Canadians, break down social barriers and find good jobs.

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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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Royal Canadian Navy

Canada's navy has defended Canadian interests in home waters and overseas since the early 20th century — despite often struggling for ships and resources under sometimes neglectful governments. The navy was a vital part of Canada's contribution to the Second World War, including the Battle of the Atlantic and the Allied invasions of Italy and Normandy. In the decades since, the navy has served consistently around the globe with the United Nations and NATO, while protecting sovereignty on Canada's three coasts.

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12e Régiment blindé du Canada

12e Régiment blindé du Canada (12e RBC) is the junior of three regular armoured regiments in the Canadian Army. The regiment was established in 1871 as a militia infantry battalion and was converted to an armoured regiment in 1936. In 1968, the Regular Force regiment was formed, designated 12e RBC. The regiment or detached squadrons have served in peace operations and in Afghanistan. 12e RBC has been based at CFB Valcartier, Quebec, since 1968 and is part of 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, 2nd Canadian Division.

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Jules Blais (Primary Source)

"We sank a German submarine, U-877."

See below for Mr. Blais' entire testimony.

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

Korean War

The Korean War began 25 June 1950, when North Korean armed forces invaded South Korea. The war’s combat phase lasted until an armistice was signed 27 July 1953. As part of a United Nations (UN) force consisting of 16 countries, 26,791 Canadian military personnel served in the Korean War, during both the combat phase and as peacekeepers afterward. The last Canadian soldiers left Korea in 1957. After the two world wars, Korea remains Canada’s third-bloodiest overseas conflict, taking the lives of 516 Canadians and wounding more than 1,000. In total, an estimated three million people died during the war. More than half were civilians. The two Koreas remain technically at war today.

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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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Kangaroo APCs (Armoured Personnel Carriers)

“Kangaroo” is the nickname given to a series of military transport vehicles (APCs) designed by the Canadian army in 1944, during the Battle of Normandy. (See Second World War.) It was a modified version of existing armoured vehicles such as the M7 (Priest) self-propelled gun, the Ram tank and the Sherman tank. Major components of these vehicles, such as their turret, were removed, thus allowing them to be used to transport infantry soldiers, safe from enemy fire.

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Royal Canadian Legion

The Royal Canadian Legion is a non-profit, national organization that serves Canadian war veterans and their families and lobbies government on their behalf. It is best known for selling poppies every fall and organizing Remembrance Day ceremonies across the country. In recent decades, the Legion has struggled with declining membership, due in large part to the loss of Second World War and Korean War veterans.

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Canadian Arctic Sovereignty

Arctic sovereignty is a key part of Canada’s history and future. The country has 162,000 km of Arctic coastline. Forty per cent of Canada’s landmass is in its three northern territories. Sovereignty over the area has become a national priority for Canadian governments in the 21st century. There has been growing international interest in the Arctic due to resource development, climate change, control of the Northwest Passage and access to transportation routes. As Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in 2008, “The geopolitical importance of the Arctic and Canada’s interests in it have never been greater.”

Article

Military Service Act

The Military Service Act became law on 29 August 1917. It was a politically explosive and controversial law that bitterly divided the country along French-English lines. It made all male citizens aged 20 to 45 subject to conscription for military service, through the end of the First World War. As such, the Act had significant political consequences. It led to the creation of Prime Minister Borden’s Union Government and drove most of his French-Canadian supporters into opposition.

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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

The Royal Canadian Dragoons

The Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCD) is the senior of three regular armoured regiments in the Canadian Army. The regiment was established in 1883 as a cavalry unit. Since then, it has served in major conflicts at home and overseas, including the North-West Rebellion, Boer War, First and Second World Wars and, more recently, the war in Afghanistan. The Dragoons have also served in peace operations in Egypt, Cyprus, Somalia and the Balkans. The regiment has been based at CFB Petawawa, Ontario, since 1987. It is currently part of 2nd Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, 4th Canadian Division. A detached squadron serves at CFB Gagetown, New Brunswick.

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Victoria Rifles of Halifax

The Victoria Rifles of Halifax was a Black volunteer militia unit of about 70 men in Nova Scotia in the 1860s. The unit participated in anniversary celebrations of the founding of Halifax and in a parade honouring the Prince of Wales, who visited Nova Scotia in 1860. Despite their dedication and skill — and the support of some white Haligonians — the “Victorias” were subjected to anti-Black racism both within and outside the militia. The unit disbanded after approximately four years.

Article

Canadian Rangers

The Canadian Rangers are a unique organization within the Armed Forces, created to provide a paramilitary presence in the North and in other remote areas made up of mainly local Indigenous populations. The current number of Canadian Rangers in 2021 is roughly 5,000.

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CANTASS

The Canadian Towed Array Sonar System (CANTASS) has been used by Canadian ships since the late 1980s for long-range detection and identification of submarines. It is a passive system that “listens” but does not transmit any noise. The CANTASS uses a hydrophone array developed by the US Navy in conjunction with a powerful signal processor developed by Litton Systems Canada Ltd. The CANTASS has been fitted to the Annapolis-class destroyers, Halifax-class frigates, and the Oberon and Victoria-class submarines.

Article

Halifax-class Frigates

The Halifax class of helicopter-carrying frigates (FFH) are multi-purpose warships of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). There are 12 ships in the class. They were conceived in the 1970s as a replacement of the St Laurent and related classes of destroyer escorts, to provide antisubmarine warfare (ASW) protection for the fleet. The Halifax class entered service in the early 1990s, just after the end of the Cold War, and proved instead to be highly versatile general-purpose warships. Due to a major class-wide modernization project completed in the 2010s, they remain the backbone of the RCN surface fleet. The Halifax class will be replaced in the 2030s by the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) ships announced in 2019.