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Article

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.

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Canadian Peacekeepers in Haiti

Since 1990, peacekeepers from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and civilian police forces, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), have served in Haiti on various United Nations (UN) missions. The purpose of these missions was to help stop the internal violence and civil unrest that had plagued the country for years and help promote and protect human rights and strengthen police and judicial systems.

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Canadian Peacekeepers in Somalia

In 1992–93, Canada contributed military forces to UNITAF, a United Nations–backed humanitarian mission in the African nation of Somalia. The mission was hampered by the fact that some of the warring factions in the Somalia conflict attacked the international forces that were trying to restore order and deliver food to a starving population. The Canadian effort was also clouded by the murder of a Somali teenager by Canadian troops. The crime — and alleged cover-up by Defence officials in Ottawa — became one of the most infamous scandals in Canadian history.

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30 Historic Battles

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, The Canadian Encyclopedia created 30 lists of 30 things that have helped define our identity, from famous people and historic events, to iconic foods and influential artists.

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Second World War (WWII)

The Second World War was a defining event in Canadian history, transforming a quiet country on the fringes of global affairs into a critical player in the 20th century's most important struggle. Canada carried out a vital role in the Battle of the Atlantic and the air war over Germany and contributed forces to the campaigns of western Europe beyond what might be expected of a small nation of then only 11 million people. Between 1939 and 1945 more than one million Canadian men and women served full-time in the armed services. More than 43,000 were killed. Despite the bloodshed, the war against Germany and the Axis powers reinvigorated Canada's industrial base, elevated the role of women in the economy, paved the way for Canada's membership in NATO, and left Canadians with a legacy of proud service and sacrifice embodied in names such as Dieppe, Hong Kong, Ortona and Juno Beach.

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

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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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Sixty Years On, Korean War Still Echoes

When is a war not a war? For the Korean War, the answer is not always clear. This year, 2013, marks the 60th anniversary of the ceasefire of a war that not everyone describes that way. It had ambiguous beginnings, more than 20 participating countries, and still no formal end. But some things are evident. This year, Historica Canada is commemorating this sometimes-forgotten but still-resonant period of our recent history, and Canada’s role therein. Our country sent more than 26,000 members of our military to the Korean “theatre.” More than 500 Canadians died, and another 1,000 were wounded; 32 became prisoners of war.