The game is six degrees of Canadian history. Take two seemingly unrelated pieces of Canadian culture and connect the dots through various people, places and events to discover how they’re distantly — or maybe not so distantly — related. Along the way we visit the quizzical and curious, the tragic and comic, and everything in between.
The game is six degrees of Canadian history. Take two seemingly unrelated pieces of Canadian culture and connect the dots through various people, places and events to discover how they’re distantly — or maybe not-so-distantly — related. Along the way, we visit the quizzical and curious, the tragic and comic, and everything in between.
The Fenians were a secret society of Irish patriots who had emigrated from Ireland to the United States. Some North American members of this movement were intent on taking Canada by force and exchanging it with Britain for Irish independence. From 1866 to 1871 the Fenians launched a series of small, armed incursions of Canada, each of which was put down by government forces — at the cost of dozens killed and wounded on both sides.
The First World War of 1914–1918 was the bloodiest conflict in Canadian history, taking the lives of more than 60,000 Canadians. This collection brings together a number of our resources on the First World War. Image above: Canadians soldiers advancing through German wire entanglements at Vimy Ridge. April, 1917. Canadian Department of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-001087.
The Second World War transformed Canada from 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, the air war over Germany, and other important theatres of the conflict. The war took the lives of 43,000 Canadians.
The final 100 days of the First World War — from 8 August to 11 November 1918 — came to be known as the Hundred Days Offensive. But the Canadian Corps' significant contributions along the Western Front generated the name "Canada's Hundred Days." During this time, Canadian and allied forces pushed the German Army from Amiens, France, west to Mons, Belgium, in a series of battles — a drive that ended in German surrender and the end of the war.
Among Canada’s defining events, the Battle of Vimy Ridge in the First World War ranks high. It was a triumph — a major victory for the Allied side after a long, bloody stalemate — and a tragedy. In the four-day battle, 3,598 Canadians died and another 7,004 were wounded. In the near-century since it ended, on 12 April 1917, it has become something else: an event bordering on myth. “In those few minutes,” said Canadian Brigadier-General A.E. Ross of the victory, “I witnessed the birth of a nation.”
The Battle of Passchendaele is a vivid symbol of the mud, madness and the senseless slaughter of the First World War. In the late summer of 1917, the British launched a series of failed assaults against German forces holding the plateau overlooking the city of Ypres, Belgium.
Few words conjure the futility and the staggering losses of the First World War like the Somme. In the summer of 1916 the British launched a major offensive against German lines. The battle lasted five months, killed or wounded approximately 1.2 million men, and produced little gains.
Buckam Singh, labourer, soldier (born 5 December 1893 in Mahilpur, Punjab, India; died 27 August 1919 in Kitchener, ON). There is little information published about the role of Sikhs in Canadian military service during the First World War. The discovery of Buckam Singh’s Victory Medal led to his reclamation by his community, which commemorates him with an annual Remembrance Day service
In the 18th century, Louisbourg was a fortified town and an important strategic capital in the French colony of Île Royale (Cape Breton Island). It was the scene of two major military sieges in the Anglo-French wars for supremacy in North America. The fall of Louisbourg to the British in 1758 paved the way for the capture of Québec and the end of French rule in North America. Today, Louisbourg is a national historic site and a popular tourist destination in Cape Breton.
Prisoners of War (POWs) are members of the military captured in wartime by the enemy. Since the late 19th century, international rules have governed the treatment of POWs, although these are not always followed. Thousands of Canadians have endured time as POWs in conflicts ranging from the First World War to the Korean War.
In 1993, during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, Canadian peacekeepers with the United Nations (UN) advanced into disputed territory in Croatia with orders to implement the Medak Pocket ceasefire agreement between the Croatian Army and Serbian irregular forces. Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (2 PPCLI), came under Croatian attack for more than 15 hours. In the firefight that ensued – the most significant combat experienced by Canadians since the Korean War – 2 PPCLI held its ground and preserved the UN protected zone. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said the Canadian soldiers brought credit to their profession, saved lives, and enhanced the credibility of UN peacekeeping forces.
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. Early in the war, the French (aided by Canadian militia and Aboriginal allies) defeated several British attacks and captured a number of British forts.
Hong Kong was the first place Canadians fought a land battle in the Second World War. From 8 to 25 December 1941, almost 2,000 troops from Winnipeg and Québec City — sent to Hong Kong expecting little more than guard duty — fought bravely against the overwhelming power of an invading Japanese force. When the British colony surrendered on Christmas Day, 290 Canadians had been killed in the fighting. Another 264 would die over the next four years, amid the inhumane conditions of Japanese prisoner-of-war camps.