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The Great Depression in Canada

The Great Depression of the early 1930s was a worldwide social and economic shock. Few countries were affected as severely as Canada. Millions of Canadians were left unemployed, hungry and often homeless. The decade became known as the Dirty Thirties due to a crippling drought in the Prairies, as well as Canada’s dependence on raw material and farm exports. Widespread losses of jobs and savings transformed the country. The Depression triggered the birth of social welfare and the rise of populist political movements. It also led the government to take a more activist role in the economy.

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Albert Johnson, “The Mad Trapper of Rat River”

Albert Johnson, also known as the “Mad Trapper,” outlaw (born circa 1890–1900, place of birth unknown; died 7 February 1932 in Yukon). On 31 December 1931, an RCMP constable investigating a complaint about traplines was shot and seriously wounded by a trapper living west of Fort McPherson, NT. The ensuing manhunt — one of the largest in Canadian history — lasted 48 days and covered 240 km in temperatures averaging -40°C. Before it was over, a second policeman was badly wounded and another killed. The killer, tentatively but never positively identified as Albert Johnson, was so skilled at survival that the police had to employ bush pilot Wilfrid “Wop” May to track him. The Trapper’s extraordinary flight from the police across sub-Arctic terrain in the dead of winter captured the attention of the nation and earned him the title “The Mad Trapper of Rat River.” No motive for Johnson’s crimes has ever been established, and his identity remains a mystery.

This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences.

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Peter Mansbridge

Peter Mansbridge, OC, television news anchor, journalist, columnist (born 6 July 1948 in London, England). A widely respected journalist, Peter Mansbridge was the face of CBC News for nearly 30 years. As the chief correspondent and lead anchor of The National from 1988 to 2017, he won 12 Gemini Awards for broadcast excellence, including the Gordon Sinclair Award for best overall broadcast journalist in 1990 and 1998. His other honours include two Canadian Screen Awards as well as numerous honorary degrees and lifetime achievement awards. He has been inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.

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Tom Longboat

Thomas Charles Longboat, distance runner (born 4 July 1886 in Ohsweken, Six Nations Grand River reserve; died 9 January 1949). Tom Longboat (Haudenosaunee name Cogwagee) was an Onondaga distance runner from the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation reserve near Brantford, Ontario. Largely because of his ability to dominate any race and his spectacular finishing sprints, he was one of the most celebrated athletes before the First World War.

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Mr. Dressup

Mr. Dressup was one of Canada’s most beloved and longest-running children’s television series. The program ran for 29 years (1967–96) and more than 4,000 episodes. It starred Ernie Coombs as the jovial Mr. Dressup and was a precursor to the popular American series, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Mr. Dressup was influential in tailoring children’s programming towards developing the child’s emotional and logical intelligence. The series won three Gemini Awards and earned Coombs an appointment to the Order of Canada. A 2017 crowd-sourced online vote unofficially declared Mr. Dressup Canada’s most memorable television program. In 2019, Mr. Dressup was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.  

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James Barry

James Miranda Steuart Barry, FRS (probably born Margaret Anne Bulkley), military surgeon, physician (born c. 1789–99; died 25 July 1865 in London, England). Posted across the British Empire, Barry reformed medical standards in the British army. His final and highest-ranking position was as inspector-general of military hospitals in the Province of Canada in the 1850s. After his death, it was reported that Barry’s assigned sex at birth was female. This has sparked significant debate about his identity.

Note on pronouns: This article refers to James Barry with masculine pronouns, as this was how Barry referred to himself throughout his life.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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Canada and the Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis lasted from 16 to 28 October 1962. The Soviet Union 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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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.

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Avro Arrow

The Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow (the Arrow) was a supersonic interceptor jet aircraft designed and built in the 1950s by A.V. Roe Canada (Avro). The Arrow was one of the most advanced aircraft of its era, helping to establish Canada as a world leader in scientific research and development.

Though the Arrow was widely praised for its power and beauty, the program was cancelled in February 1959 by the government of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. This resulted in the loss of at least 25,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Many believe that the Arrow’s cancellation was a betrayal of Canada’s aerospace industry. Others assert that the jet was extravagant and had little chance of competing with impending innovations. At best, Avro and the Arrow were historic examples of Canadian ingenuity and intriguing case studies of unrealized potential.

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Avro CF-100 Canuck

The CF-100 Canuck, manufactured by A.V. Roe Canada (Avro), was the first jet fighter designed and built entirely in Canada. It flew in front-line air defence from 1953 until the early 1960s.

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Frank Narcisse Jérome

Frank Narcisse Jérome, Mi'kmaq, war hero (born 1886 in Maria, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine Region, QC; died 1934 in Gesgapegiag, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine Region, QC). Frank Narcisse Jérome was a First World War veteran from the Gesgapegiag First Nation in the Gaspé peninsula region who was recognized multiple times during the First World War for his bravery. Jérome was one of only 39 Canadian soldiers to win the Military Medal three times during the First World War, and is now recognized as one of the most honoured Indigenous veterans of the war (see Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars and Indigenous Peoples and the First World War). Jérome’s name appears on the war memorial in Gesgapegiag, Quebec

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Huron Brant

Huron Eldon Brant, Mohawk soldier, war hero, automobile mechanic (born 30 December 1909 in Deseronto, ON; died 14 October 1944 near Bulgaria, Italy). Brant was awarded the Military Medal (MM) for attacking a superior enemy force during the battle for Grammichele in Sicily (seeSecond World War) but was killed later during a battle on the Italian mainland (see The Italian Campaign).

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Constitutional Act 1791

The Constitutional Act of 1791 was an Act of the British Parliament creating Upper Canada and Lower Canada. Although it was a first step towards Canadian Confederation, its rigid colonial structures also set the stage for rebellion in the two Canadas.

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Graeme Gibson

Graeme Gibson, CM, writer, cultural activist, teacher (born 9 August 1934 in London, ON; died 18 September 2019 in London, England). Graeme Gibson was a noted Canadian author and conservationist. His novels Five Legs (1969), Communion (1971), Perpetual Motion (1982) and Gentleman Death (1993) were widely acclaimed. He also published the environmentally conscious The Bedside Book of Birds (2005) and The Bedside Book of Beasts (2009). A committed bird watcher, he helped found the Pelee Island Bird Observatory. He was also instrumental in forming the Writers’ Union of Canada, the Book and Periodical Development Council and the Writers’ Trust of Canada. He was a former president of PEN Canada and the longtime partner of Margaret Atwood.

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Andy Kim

Andy Kim (born Andrew Youakim; also known as Baron Longfellow), songwriter, singer (born 5 December 1952 in Montreal, QC). Andy Kim is one of Canada’s most successful singer-songwriters. He started out as a teenager writing songs for a television show and thus drew comparisons to Paul Anka and Neil Diamond. His hugely successful pop hits — such as “Sugar, Sugar,” “Rock Me Gently,” “Baby I love You” and “How’d We Ever Get This Way” — have sold more than 30 million copies. He was the inaugural winner of the Juno Award for Top Male Vocalist in 1970. He enjoyed moderate success as the adult-contemporary singer Baron Longfellow in the 1980s and 1990s. He has also collaborated with the Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson, Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew, and Ron Sexsmith. Kim has been inducted into the Billboard Hit Parade Hall of Fame, the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (for “Sugar, Sugar”), Canada’s Walk of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

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Cindy Klassen

Cindy Klassen, OM, speed skater, hockey player (born 12 August 1979 in WinnipegMB). Cindy Klassen is the first Canadian to win five medals in one Olympic Games (Torino 2006). With a total of six Olympic medals, she is tied with fellow speed skater and cyclist Clara Hughes as the most decorated Canadian Olympians. Klassen was also overall world champion in speed skating in 2003 and 2006. In her career, she set six world records and won 115 international medals (46 gold, 41 silver and 28 bronze). She was awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year in 2006 and received the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as Canada's female athlete of the year in 2005 and 2006. She has been inducted into the Order of Manitoba, the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame.  

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Battle of Vimy Ridge

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was fought during the First World War from 9 to 12 April 1917. It is Canada’s most celebrated military victory — an often mythologized symbol of the birth of Canadian national pride and awareness. The battle took place on the Western Front, in northern France. The four divisions of the Canadian Corps, fighting together for the first time, attacked the ridge from 9 to 12 April 1917 and captured it from the German army. It was the largest territorial advance of any Allied force to that point in the war — but it would mean little to the outcome of the conflict. More than 10,600 Canadians were killed and wounded in the assault. Today an iconic memorial atop the ridge honours the 11,285 Canadians killed in France throughout the war who have no known graves.

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Dieppe Raid

During the Second World War, on 19 August 1942, the Allies launched a major raid on the French coastal port of Dieppe. Operation Jubilee was the first Canadian Army engagement in the European theatre of the war, designed to test the Allies' ability to launch amphibious assaults against Adolf Hitler's "Fortress Europe." The raid was a disaster: More than 900 Canadian soldiers were killed, and thousands more were wounded and taken prisoner. Despite the bloodshed, the raid provided valuable lessons for subsequent Allied amphibious assaults on Africa, Italy and Normandy.