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Canada and Gas Warfare

Poison gas was used throughout the First World War by almost all armies. The various types of gas, delivered by canisters, projectors, or shell, killed, maimed, denied ground and wore down morale. By 1918, soldiers of all armies encountered gas frequently while serving at the front. Canadian soldiers were among the first to face the death clouds, at the Second Battle of Ypres, and they would have a fraught relationship with gas throughout the war. This article will examine the interaction of Canadian armed forces with poison gas, with a focus on its use in attack, the development of a defence doctrine to protect against it, and its impact on individual Canadians. It will also look at how gassed veterans fared in the war’s aftermath and the creation of chemical weapons in Canada during the Second World War.

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Medicine Hat

Medicine Hat, Alberta, incorporated as a city in 1906, population 63,260 (2016 census), 60,005 (2011 census). The city of Medicine Hat is one of Alberta's largest cities. It is located on the Canadian Pacific Railway main line and the Trans-Canada Highway in the southeastern corner of the province, bisected by the South Saskatchewan River. Canada's “sunniest” city, Medicine Hat averages 330 days of sunshine per year. A council of eight councillors and a mayor govern the city.

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Norman Wells

Norman Wells, Northwest Territories, incorporated as a town in 1992, population 778 (2016 census), 727 (2011 census). The town of Norman Wells is located on the north bank of the Mackenzie River, 145 km south of the Arctic Circle and 684 km northwest of Yellowknife by air. It was the first settlement in the Northwest Territories founded entirely as a result of non-renewable-resource development. The name owes to the site’s close proximity to Fort Norman (now Tulita), 85 km upstream on the Mackenzie.

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Encana (Ovintiv)

Encana Corporation produces, transports and markets oil and natural gas. It was formed in 2002 through the merger of the Alberta Energy Company Ltd. and the PanCanadian Energy Corporation. In 2009, the company split in two. Encana remained a corporate entity focused on the exploration, production and marketing of natural gas, and Cenovus Energy was formed to concentrate on oil exploration, production and sales. In 2019, Encana announced plans to move its corporate headquarters from Calgary, Alberta to Denver, Colorado and rebrand as Ovintiv Inc. Encana Corporation earned $5.9 billion in revenue and $1.07 billion in profit in 2018, and it held $15.3 billion in assets. It is a public company that trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ECA.

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Kitimat

Kitimat, British Columbia, incorporated as a district municipality in 1953, population 8,131 (2016 census), 8,335 (2011 census). The district of Kitimat is located at the head of the Douglas Channel, 206 km east of Prince Rupert by road. Its name comes from the Tsimshian term for the Haisla inhabitants of the area, Kitamaat (“people of the snow”). The modern community was founded in the early 1950s.

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Pipelines in Canada

Pipelines are systems of connected pipes used to transport liquids and gases — namely oil and natural gas — across long distances from source to market. More than 840,000 km of pipelines criss-cross the country, part of a larger oil and gas sector that employs between 100,000 and 200,000 Canadians. According to Natural Resources Canada, the sector earns the government an average of $19 billion in royalties, fees and taxes each year. It also contributes nearly 8 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product.

Yet pipelines have also been controversial in Canada over fears that the fossil fuel use they facilitate could be significantly contributing to climate change. In recent years, Indigenous groups, environmentalists, municipalities, mayors and labour unions have opposed numerous pipeline projects they believe could contaminate local waterways through spills and leaks.

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Oil and Gas Policy in Canada, 1947–80

Federal and provincial governments have regulated, taxed and controlled the development of Canada’s oil industry for much of its history. Governments have been particularly active in these capacities since it became clear, in the late 1940s, that Canada could become an exporting nation. From the early 1960s to the early 1970s, the federal government increased its role in an effort to help develop the oil industry. From 1973 until the early 1980s, the federal government also worked to end Canada’s dependence on foreign oil.

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Documenting the First World War

The First World War forever changed Canada. Some 630,000 Canadians enlisted from a nation of not yet eight million. More than 66,000 were killed. As the casualties mounted on the Western Front, an expatriate Canadian, Sir Max Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook), organized a program to document Canada’s war effort through art, photography and film. This collection of war art, made both in an official capacity and by soldiers themselves, was another method of forging a legacy of Canada’s war effort.

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Natural Gas in Canada

Natural gas ranks among the fastest-growing energy sources in Canada and is seen by many in the energy industry as a game-changer, a comparatively clean, low-cost and versatile fuel. It can directly generate power and heat and can be chemically altered to produce a wide range of useful commodity chemicals. It burns cleaner and more efficiently than other fossil fuels, releasing significantly fewer harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. Natural gas is colorless, odourless, shapeless, lighter than air and contains a mixture of several hydrocarbon gases, which are organic compounds consisting of some combination of hydrogen and carbon molecules.

The primary consumers of natural gas are the industrial (54.1 per cent), residential (26.6 per cent) and commercial sectors (19.3 per cent). Canada is the fifth largest natural gas producer after the United States, Russia, Iran and Qatar. Currently, all of Canada’s natural gas exports go to the United States through a network of pipelines, making Canada the largest foreign source of US natural gas imports. At the end of 2016, Canada had 76.7 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves and had produced 152 billion cubic metres of natural gas that year. It is forecasted that global natural gas consumption will double by 2035.

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TC Energy (formerly TransCanada)

TC Energy Corporation (formerly TransCanada Corporation) is a natural gas, oil and power-generation company headquartered in Calgary, Alberta. TC Energy owns more than 92,600 km of natural gas pipeline in North America and transports more than 25 per cent of the gas consumed on the continent. It also operates power plants and gas storage facilities. A public company, it trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol TRP. In 2018, TC Energy registered $13.7 billion in revenue and $3.5 billion in profit and held $98.9 billion in assets. The company employs about 7,300 people, more than half of them in Canada.

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National Energy Program

The National Energy Program (NEP) was an energy policy of the government of Canada from 1980 through 1985. Its goal was to ensure that Canada could supply its own oil and gas needs by 1990. The NEP was initially popular with consumers and as a symbol of Canadian economic nationalism. However, private industry and some provincial governments opposed it.

A federal-provincial deal resolved controversial parts of the NEP in 1981. Starting the next year, however, the program was dismantled in phases. Global economic conditions had changed such that the NEP was no longer considered necessary or useful. The development of the oil sands and offshore drilling, as well as the rise in Western alienation and the development of the modern Conservative Party of Canada, are all aspects of the NEP’s complicated legacy.

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Canada and the Second Battle of Ypres

The Second Battle of Ypres was fought during the First World War from 22 April to 25 May 1915. It was the first major battle fought by Canadian troops in the Great War. The battle took place on the Ypres salient on the Western Front, in Belgium, outside the city of Ypres (now known by its Flemish name, Ieper). The untested Canadians distinguished themselves as a determined fighting force, resisting the horror of the first large-scale poison gas attack in modern history. Canadian troops held a strategically critical section of the frontline until reinforcements could be brought in. More than 6,500 Canadians were killed, wounded or captured in the Second Battle of Ypres.