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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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Ancaster Bloody Assize of 1814

The Bloody Assize of Ancaster was a series of trials conducted after the War of 1812, in 1814, in which 19 men accused of supporting the American cause were officially charged with High Treason. The Ontario Archaeological and Historic Sites Board erected a memorial plaque in Ancaster to commemorate the trials.

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Canada and Antisubmarine Warfare during the Cold War

During the Cold War, the Canadian Navy played a crucial role in antisubmarine warfare (ASW), working closely with its allies to patrol and monitor the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for Soviet submarine activity. Canada invested in new technology and continually modernized its fleet of ships and aircraft to better detect and counter Soviet submarines. It also operated strategic warning systems with its allies, particularly the United States. By the end of the Cold War, Canada had developed a very high reputation in the field.

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Imperial Munitions Board

Imperial Munitions Board, established November 1915 in Canada by the British Ministry of Munitions, with Canadian government approval. Headed by J.W. Flavelle, a prominent Toronto businessman, the board was responsible for letting contracts on behalf of the British government for the construction of war materials in Canada. 

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Nobel Prizes and Canada

The Nobel Prizes are awarded annually for achievements that have significantly benefitted humankind. The prizes are among the highest international honours and are awarded in six categories: physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, peace, and economics. They are administered by the Nobel Foundation and awarded by institutions in Sweden and Norway. Eighteen Canadians have won Nobel Prizes, excluding Canadian-born individuals who gave up their citizenship and members of organizations that have won the peace prize.

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Seven Years' War

The Seven Years' War (1756–63) was the first global war, fought in Europe, India, and America, and at sea. In North America, imperial rivals Britain and France struggled for supremacy. In the United States, the conflict is known as the French and Indian War. Early in the war, the French (aided by Canadian militia and Indigenous allies) defeated several British attacks and captured a number of British forts. In 1758, the tide turned when the British captured Louisbourg, followed by Quebec City in 1759 and Montreal in 1760. With the Treaty of Paris of 1763, France formally ceded Canada to the British. The Seven Years’ War therefore laid the bicultural foundations of modern Canada.

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

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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.)

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Battle of Sainte-Foy

On 28 April 1760, during the Seven Years’ War, the confrontation known as the battle of Sainte-Foy took place on the heights of Quebec City between the French and British armies. Seven thousand men under the command of French general François-Gaston de Lévis met 3,400 soldiers under the command of General James Murray in violent combat which ended with a major victory for the French. Following the battle, the French laid an unsuccessful siege to Quebec City and were eventually forced to retreat due to the arrival of British reinforcements on the St. Lawrence River.

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Prestonian-class Frigates

The Prestonians were a group of 21 Second World War frigates reactivated by the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) in the 1950s for antisubmarine warfare (ASW). This was a stopgap measure to meet Canada’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) force goals until the purpose-built St Laurent-class destroyer escorts came into service. Although originally built as Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) vessels, the Prestonians had to be extensively modified to meet the more complex demands of Cold War ASW, which they performed until withdrawn in the mid-1960s.

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CH-124 Sea King

The Sea King entered service with the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) in 1963 as an all-weather shipborne helicopter to provide close antisubmarine warfare (ASW) protection for ships at sea. By the time it was retired from service 55 years later, in 2018, it had undergone a variety of modifications and role-changes. Throughout, it maintained its well-earned reputation as the workhorse of the fleet. Sea King helicopters were a critical element in nearly every naval operation at home and abroad.

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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.

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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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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. The Act’s military value was questionable, but its political consequences were clear. 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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Battle for Hill 70

The capture of Hill 70 in France was an important Canadian victory during the First World War, and the first major action fought by the Canadian Corps under a Canadian commander. The battle, in August 1917, gave the Allied forces a crucial strategic position overlooking the occupied city of Lens.

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Canadian Peacekeepers in Rwanda

From 1993 to 1995, Canada was a leading contributor to a series of United Nations peacekeeping missions in the African nation of Rwanda. However, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), led by Canadian Major-General Roméo Dallaire, was powerless to prevent the slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans in 1994. Following the genocide, a new contingent of Canadian troops returned to Rwanda as part of UNAMIR II, tasked with restoring order and bringing aid to the devastated population. Hundreds of Canadian soldiers, including Dallaire, returned from their service in Rwanda deeply scarred by what they had witnessed.

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Canadian Peacekeepers in the Balkans

From 1991 to the present, members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and civilian police forces, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), have served in peace operations in the Balkans. Their mission was to provide security and stability following the breakup of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Nearly 40,000 Canadians have served in the Balkans, and 23 CAF members died while deployed there.