Browse "Military"

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Bren Gun Scandal

Before the Second World War, the British government was anxious to acquire new, secure sources for weapons production. The Canadian government was reluctant to co-operate, fearing isolationist opinion, especially in Québec.

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British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

In 1939, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia signed an agreement creating the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). Located in Canada, the plan's mandate was to train Allied aircrews for the Second World War, including pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, wireless operators, air gunners, and flight engineers. More than 130,000 crewmen and women were trained between 1939 and 1945, making this one of Canada's great contributions to Allied victory in the war. It led United States President Franklin Roosevelt to call Canada the "aerodrome of democracy."

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Brock's Monument, Queenston Heights

The monument to Sir Isaac Brock stands atop Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment at Queenston Heights, overlooking the lower Niagara River. The current monument is the second erected in Canada to honour Brock, a military commander who died during the Battle of Queenston Heights in the War of 1812.

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Camp X

Camp X — a popular name that reflects the secrecy surrounding its activities — was a training school for covert agents and a radio communications centre that operated close to Whitby, Ontario, during the Second World War. It was the first such purpose-built facility constructed in North America. Known officially as STS (Special Training School) 103, Camp X was one of several dozen around the world that served the needs of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), the British agency created in 1940 to “set Europe ablaze” by promoting sabotage and subversion behind enemy lines. The radio communications centre, with its high-speed transmitter known as Hydra, was closely linked with British Security Co-Ordination (BSC), the New York-based agency directed by the Winnipeg-born businessman William Stephenson. Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko was hidden there after his defection in September 1945.

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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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Canada and Peacekeeping

Peacekeeping is the term usually applied to United Nations (UN) operations in countries affected by conflict. Peacekeepers work to maintain peace and security, protect human rights and help restore the rule of law. Peacekeepers can be members of the armed forces, police officers or civilian experts. As a result of Lester Pearson's leadership in the 1956 Suez Crisis and Canada's role in the UN Emergency Force he helped create, many Canadians consider peacekeeping part of the country's identity. However, since the 1990s Canada's reputation as a peacekeeping nation has been affected by scandal and by the failure of some overseas missions. Although Canada’s contribution to peace operations has declined since then, Canadian peacekeepers continue to serve overseas in such places as Haiti (2004 to present). In total, more than 125,000 Canadians have served in UN peace operations. Canadians have also participated in UN-sanctioned peace operations led by NATO and in missions sponsored by the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO). Approximately 130 Canadians have died in peace operations.

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Canada and the Battle of Hong Kong

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 Quebec 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.

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Canada and the Battle of Passchendaele

The Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, was fought during the First World War from 31 July to 10 November 1917. The battle took place on the Ypres salient on the Western Front, in Belgium, where German and Allied armies had been deadlocked for three years. On 31 July, the British began a new offensive, attempting to break through German lines by capturing a ridge near the ruined village of Passchendaele. After British, Australian and New Zealand troops launched failed assaults, the Canadian Corps joined the battle on 26 October. The Canadians captured the ridge on 6 November, despite heavy rain and shelling that turned the battlefield into a quagmire. Nearly 16,000 Canadians were killed or wounded. The Battle of Passchendaele did nothing to help the Allied effort and became a symbol of the senseless slaughter of the First World War.

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Canada and the Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive, was fought during the First World War from 1 July to 18 November 1916. In the summer of 1916 the British launched the largest battle of the war on the Western Front, against German lines. The offensive was one of the bloodiest in human history. Over the course of five months, approximately 1.2 million men were killed or wounded at the Somme. The Canadian Corps (see Canadian Expeditionary Force) was involved in the final three months of fighting. On the first day of the offensive, the First Newfoundland Regiment, which was not part of the Canadian forces, was nearly annihilated at Beaumont-Hamel. The Battle of the Somme produced little gains and has long been an example of senseless slaughter and the futility of trench warfare (see also The Somme).

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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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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 Dutch Hunger Winter

The Dutch Hunger Winter was a severe food crisis that took place in the Netherlands in 1944–45, during the Second World War. By the time the country was liberated by Canadian and Allied forces in May 1945, around 20,000 Dutch people had died from the famine. With liberation came an influx of food and other provisions for the starving population. The Canadian role in liberating the Netherlands resulted in a lasting relationship between the two countries.

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Canada and the League of Nations

The League of Nations was an organization of 63 countries established in 1919, after the First World War. Canada was a founding member. The League ultimately failed in its aim of collective security. It was replaced by the United Nations at the end of the Second World War. However, the League of Nations did establish a new model for international organizations. League membership brought Canada its first official contact with foreign governments and helped to establish its position as a sovereign state. It also introduced Canada to the opportunities and challenges of international co-operation and peacekeeping.

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Canada and the Manhattan Project

Canada helped develop the world’s first nuclear reactors and nuclear arms. During the Second World War, Canada participated in British research to create an atomic weapon. In 1943, the British nuclear weapons program merged with its American equivalent, the Manhattan Project. Canada’s main contribution was the Montreal Laboratory, which later became the Chalk River Laboratory. (See Nuclear Research Establishments). This Allied war effort produced the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. It also led to the development of Canada’s nuclear energy industry.

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

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Canada and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a non-binding political commitment made by United Nations Member States to protect populations from genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and war crimes. Canadian leadership was instrumental in the establishment of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in 2000, which led to the development and eventual adoption of R2P at the 2005 UN World Summit (see also Canada and Peacekeeping).

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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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Canada and the South African War (Boer War)

The South African War (1899–1902) was Canada's first foreign war. Also known as the Boer War, it was fought between Britain (with help from its colonies and Dominions such as Canada) and the Afrikaner republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Canada sent three contingents to South Africa, while some Canadians also served in British units. In total, more than 7,000 Canadians, including 12 nurses, served in the war. Of these, approximately 270 died. The war was significant because it marked the first time Canadian troops distinguished themselves in battle overseas. At home, it fuelled a sense that Canada could stand apart from the British Empire, and it highlighted the French-English divide over Canada's role in world affairs — two factors that would soon appear again in the First World War.