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Indigenous Peoples and the Second World War

In 1939, Canada found itself at war for the second time in a generation. As in the First World War (1914-18), thousands of Indigenous soldiers and nurses volunteered for the war effort at home and abroad, serving with distinction in the Canadian army, navy, and air force. At least 3090 First Nations soldiers enlisted in the Canadian military in the Second World War, with thousands more Métis, Inuit, and non-Status Indian soldiers serving without official recognition of their Indigenous identity.

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Indigenous Peoples and the First World War

Indigenous soldiers, nurses, and ordinary civilians made a major contribution to Canada’s First World War effort. More than 4000 First Nations soldiers fought for Canada during the war, officially recorded by the Department of Indian Affairs (see Federal Departments of Indigenous and Northern Affairs). In addition, thousands more non-Status Indians, Inuit, and Métis soldiers enlisted without official recognition of their Indigenous identity. More than 50 Indigenous soldiers were decorated for bravery in action, including the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) soldier Francis Pegahmagabow, Inuit soldier John Shiwak, and Cree soldier Henry Norwest.

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Brock Chisholm

George Brock Chisholm, CC, CBE, psychiatrist, medical administrator, soldier (born 18 May 1896 in Oakville, ON; died 4 February 1971 in Victoria, BC). After earning honours for courageous service in the First World War, Brock Chisholm became an influential psychiatrist. He introduced mental health as a component of the recruitment and management of the Canadian Army during the Second World War. He directed the army’s medical services, served in the federal government as deputy minister of health, and became the founding director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO). His vocal attacks on methods of indoctrinating children with societal myths made him a controversial public figure. He was an often provocative advocate of world peace and mental health. 

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Igor Gouzenko

Igor Sergeievitch Gouzenko, Soviet intelligence officer, author (born 26 January 1919 in Rogachev, Russia; died 25 June 1982 in Mississauga, ON). Gouzenko was a Soviet cipher clerk stationed at the Soviet Union’s Ottawa embassy during the Second World War. Just weeks after the end of the war, Gouzenko left the Soviet embassy with documents that proved his country had been spying on its wartime allies Canada, Britain and the United States, prompting what is known as the Gouzenko Affair. Gouzenko sought asylum for himself and his family in Canada. His defection caused a potentially dangerous international crisis that many historians consider the beginning of the Cold War.

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Tecumseh

Tecumseh, Shawnee chief, leader of a First Nations confederacy, military leader in the War of 1812 (born circa 1768 in south-central Ohio; died 5 October 1813 near Moraviantown [Thamesville, ON]).

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Laura Secord

Laura Secord, née Ingersoll, Loyalist, mythologized historic figure (born 13 September 1775 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts; died 17 October 1868 in Chippawa [Niagara Falls], ON).

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Wasaga Beach

Wasaga Beach, ON, incorporated as a town in 1974, population 20,675 (2016 census), 17,537 (2011 census). The Town of Wasaga Beach is located on the shores of Georgian Bay at the mouth of the Nottawasaga River, about 40 km northwest of Barrie. Wasaga Beach is the world's longest freshwater beach. The name was derived from the Nottawasaga River.

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Baby Boomers in Canada

Canada's birthrate ballooned from the end of the Second World War until about 1965, thanks to improving economic conditions and a related trend over the same period toward larger families. The result was a 20-year bulge in the population known as the baby boom, a generation whose demographic influence has shaped Canada's economy and society and continues to do so as its members age and move into retirement.

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John Watkins

John Benjamin Clark Watkins, diplomat, scholar (born 3 December 1902 in Norval (now Halton Hills), ON; died 12 October 1964 in Montreal, QC). John Watkins was Canadian ambassador to the USSR from 1954 to 1956. In 1955, Watkins organized a historic meeting between Canadian External Affairs Minister Lester B. Pearson and Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union.

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Barrie

Barrie, ON, incorporated as a city in 1959, population 141,434 (2016 census), 135,711 (2011 census). The City of Barrie is located at the head of Kempenfelt Bay on Lake Simcoe, 90 km north of Toronto. First Nations people used the site as the eastern end of a portage route to the Nottawasaga River, which flows into Georgian Bay. During the War of 1812, the portage became an important supply route linking York (Toronto) on Lake Ontario to British military posts on the upper Great Lakes. The name refers to Commodore Robert Barrie, a British naval officer on Lake Ontario.

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Argentia

Argentia, NL, Unincorporated Place. Argentia is located on the west coast of the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland.

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1972 Canada-Soviet Hockey Series (Summit Series)

For many Canadians, the eight-game series between Team Canada and the national team of the Soviet Union in 1972 provided the greatest moment in the country’s sporting history. Most expected that Canada would handily defeat the Soviet Union, but this confidence quickly disappeared when Canada lost the first game. The series was tied heading into the final game in Moscow, which ended in a dramatic fashion, with Paul Henderson scoring in the final seconds to give Canada the victory. The series would have a lasting impact on hockey in Canada and abroad.

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Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain (10 July to 31 October 1940) stopped the German air force from dominating the skies over England early in the Second World War, preventing a planned invasion by Germany. Hundreds of Canadian air and ground crew participated in the battle.

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Chinese Canadians of Force 136

Force 136 was a branch of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War. Its covert missions were based in Japanese-occupied Southeast Asia, where orders were to support and train local resistance movements to sabotage Japanese supply lines and equipment. While Force 136 recruited mostly Southeast Asians, it also recruited about 150 Chinese Canadians . It was thought that Chinese Canadians would blend in with local populations and speak local languages. Earlier in the war, many of these men had volunteered their services to Canada but were either turned away or recruited and sidelined. Force 136 became an opportunity for Chinese Canadian men to demonstrate their courage and skills and especially their loyalty to Canada.

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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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Victor Cavendish, 9th Duke of Devonshire

Victor Christian William Cavendish, 9th Duke of Devonshire, Governor General of Canada (1916–21) and politician (born 31 May 1868 in London, United Kingdom; died 6 May 1938 in Derbyshire, United Kingdom). Devonshire took a strong interest in the development of Canadian agriculture and established the Duke of Devonshire Trophy for the Ottawa Horticultural Society.

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American Civil War and Canada

The American Civil War (1861–65) was fought between the northern (Union) states and the southern (Confederate) states, which withdrew from the United States in 1860–61. The war left cities in ruins, shattered families and took the lives of an estimated 750,000 Americans. The war also involved those living in what is now Canada, including roughly 40,000 who joined the fight. The war played a significant role in how and when Canada became an independent country.