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October Crisis

The October Crisis refers to a chain of events that took place in Quebec in the fall of 1970. The crisis was the culmination of a long series of terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ), a militant Quebec independence movement, between 1963 and 1970. On 5 October 1970, the FLQ kidnapped British trade commissioner James Cross in Montreal. Within the next two weeks, FLQ members also kidnapped and killed Quebec Minister of Immigration and Minister of Labour Pierre Laporte. Quebec premier Robert Bourassa and Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau called for federal help to deal with the crisis. In response, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau deployed the Armed Forces and invoked the War Measures Act — the only time it has been applied during peacetime in Canadian history.


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Governor General of Canada

Canada is a constitutional monarchy. As such, there is a clear division between the head of state and the head of government. The head of government is the prime minister, an elected political leader. The head of state is the Canadian monarch. Their duties are carried out by the governor general, who acts as the representative of the Crown — currently Elizabeth II — in Canada. (Lieutenant-Governors fulfill the same role in provincial governments.) The governor general performs a wide array of ceremonial duties. They also fulfill an important role in upholding the traditions of Parliament and other democratic institutions. Inuk leader Mary Simon was formally installed as Canada’s 30th Governor General on 26 July 2021. She is the first Indigenous person to hold Canada’s viceregal position.

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Canada and the Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis lasted from 16 to 28 October 1962. The Soviet Union had stationed nuclear missiles in Cuba, which posed a threat to the United States and Canada. It brought the world to the edge of nuclear war. Canadian armed forces were placed on heightened alert. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s hesitant response to the crisis soured already tense relations between Canada and the US and led to the downfall of his government in 1963.

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CFB Cornwallis (HMCS Cornwallis)

HMCS Cornwallis was established as a training centre for members of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS) during the Second World War. Although it closed in 1946, it resumed operations as a training centre in 1949. After unification of the Canadian armed forces in 1968, it was renamed CFB Cornwallis and became the English-language training centre for recruits from all elements (sea, land and air). The base was decommissioned in 1995. More than 500,000 members of the Canadian armed forces trained at HMCS/CFB Cornwallis.

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CS2F Grumman (de Havilland) Tracker

The Tracker was a twin-engine fixed-wing aircraft acquired by the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) to be flown off aircraft carriers for antisubmarine warfare (ASW) as a replacement for the Grumman Avenger. Originally developed for the United States Navy (USN), a Canadian version was manufactured under licence by de Havilland Canada as the CS2F. After unification the plane was redesignated as the CP-121; the Trackers became shore-based aircraft after the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure was decommissioned. The Trackers became fully operational in 1959 and were withdrawn from service in 1989.

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Canada and the Cold War

The Cold War refers to the period between the end of the Second World War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. During this time, the world was largely divided into two ideological camps — the United States-led capitalist “West” and the Soviet-dominated communist “East.” Canada aligned with the West. Its government structure, politics, society and popular perspectives matched those in the US, Britain, and other democratic countries. The global US-Soviet struggle took many different forms and touched many areas. It never became “hot” through direct military confrontation between the two main antagonists.

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St Laurent-class Destroyer Escorts

The St Laurents were developed in the early Cold War as a high-speed, long-range antisubmarine frigate to counter the growing Soviet conventional submarine threat. They were the first major warship class designed and built in Canada and incorporated many ground-breaking features, earning them the nickname, the “Cadillacs.” Seven St. Laurents were built. The success of the design inspired a succession of follow-on classes: the Restigouche, Mackenzie and Annapolis classes. A total of 20 ships — all named after Canadian rivers — were built around the same hull configuration and propulsion plant. These iconic ships were the mainstay of the Canadian fleet from 1955 to 1995, including most of the Cold War.

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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.


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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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Canada and the Battle of Kapyong

The Battle of Kapyong is one of Canada’s greatest, yet least-known, military achievements. For two days in April 1951, a battalion of roughly 700 Canadian troops (the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Regiment) helped defend a crucial hill in the front lines of the Korean War against a force of about 5,000 Chinese soldiers. Besieged by waves of attackers, the Canadians held their position amid the horror of close combat until the assaulting force had been halted and the Canadians could be relieved. Their determined stand contributed significantly to the defeat of the Communist offensive in South Korea that year.

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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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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.

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Capitulation of Montreal 1760

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the capitulation of Quebec City in 1759 made the strategic situation of New France desperate. Despite a victory at the Battle of Sainte-Foy, the French forces found themselves isolated in Montreal by the British. The French commander, François-Gaston de Lévis, wanted to continue the fight. However, to avoid a pointless loss of life, the Governor of New France, Pierre-Rigaud de Vaudreuil, decided to surrender the city. With the capitulation of Montreal to the British forces on 8 September 1760, Great Britain completed its conquest of New France.

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Middle Power

In international relations, the term middle power refers to a state that wields less influence on the world stage than a superpower. As the term suggests, middle powers fall in the middle of the scale measuring a country’s international influence. Where superpowers have great influence over other countries, middle powers have moderate influence over international events. Canada was considered to be a middle power during the postwar period — from 1945 until about 1960. Though Canada was not as powerful or prominent as the United Kingdom or the United States during this time, it was an international player that influenced events through moral leadership, peacekeeping and conflict mediation.

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The Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont-Hamel

On 1 July 1916, Allied forces launched a major offensive in France during the First World War. The opening of the Somme offensive turned into one of the deadliest days in the history of modern warfare. At the village of Beaumont-Hamel, the Newfoundland Regiment suffered catastrophic losses. More than 80 percent of the soldiers who advanced that day were either killed or wounded. In one morning, the regiment suffered approximately 700 casualties, including more than 300 dead.