Think about all you have, all you have accomplished and now think about if WW1 or WW2 was not won by the allies, would you be here today? Now that has been a question many have been asking, would one event small or big drastically change the outcome of one country? The answer to that question is still unknown as we cannot answer something we do not know. Think about this, If Adolf Hitler was accepted to the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, the school that rejected him, would he become an important figure in the history of Art or still become the ruthless dictator he was? Now we can not go back in time to answer this question as such a thing may never be possible, which is why it is important to remember and recognize our past. It is because of our past events that have made us into who we are. Canada is filled with countless number of events that have shaped the nation in the 20th century. Moments like the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the 1920 – 30’s where Canada started becoming more independent and the October Crisis where politicians were held hostage, have all played an important role in shaping our country into who we are today.
Ever since the start of World War 1, Britain has been somewhat dependant on support from their allies due to their island geography. Canada is the most notable. By sending large amounts of supplies, munition, and food, Britain was able to sustain themselves even longer. However, supplies weren’t the only thing Britain depended on Canada for. After previous failed attempts to capture Vimy Ridge, a ridge located at Vimy, France, heavily protected by the Germans. Britain turned to Canada as their last resort. The Commander of the Canadian Corps, Sir Arthur William Currie knew it was going to be a tough fight due to the French failing to capture the ridge in 1915 resulting in 150,000 casualties and the British failing in 1916. Arthur Currie was not going to take any more chances, he trained every single Canadian soldier in the Canadian Corps, practicing better weaponry skills and their battle strategies. A replica of the battlefield was made, and every soldier would practice repeated exercises of exactly what to do on the day of the battle. New maps were given with aerial photography to every single soldier and all soldiers were informed about the new tactic being used called the Creeping Barrage. The Creeping Barrage was a tactic involving heavy artillery and soldiers. During an attack, soldiers would advance behind a line of artillery fire, the soldiers would be hidden due to dust and shrapnel and would advance with the artillery fire. The tactic was so effective that the allies were able to gain 50 metres of ground per minute. With everyone prepared, the battle begun on April 9, 1917. With over 1000 artillery shells, the Canadians were well supported. The battle started strong as the soldiers rushed the ridge overrunning the Germans on their front. The soldiers kept running through heavy machine gun fire despite seeing some soldiers getting shot. It is this great bravery that defined the Canadian soldiers from the British. Three days later on April 12th, the Battle of Vimy Ridge was finally over with the Canadians finally capturing Vimy Ridge from the Germans. The Brigadier-General said after the battle “in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation.” (Arthur Edward Ross, 1917) This battle is significant because this is the first time all divisions from the Canadian Corps fought together and the first battle won only by Canadians. It also proved to the world that Canada is able to compete with other nations. Last year was Vimy Ridge’s 100th anniversary, Tom Cook, an author and historian said that “I knew the 100th anniversary would matter, but I didn’t anticipate 25,000 Canadians going back to Vimy Ridge as they did April 9. That’s really incredible — 12,000 to 14,000 teenagers.” (Tom Cook, 2017) This showed how much appreciation Canadians have for all the soldiers fighting for the battle of Vimy Ridge, as well as all soldiers fighting in World War 1. With the bravest and courageous soldiers and the victory over Vimy Ridge, Canada has proven itself to be a nation not to mess with.
The 1920s was a turning point for Canada, with many battles won in the previous decade, Canada had proven itself as a nation worthy of becoming fully autonomous. During the First World War at the Second Battle of Ypres, the Canadians were outnumbered by the Germans, they were on the Western Front when suddenly a cloud of chlorine gas from the German side came rushing towards them. Some 6000 soldiers died because of this attack. It was the first use of chemical gas as a weapon. Despite the pain and agony, the Canadians were able to stop the Germans from penetrating their lines. On July 1st, 1916, in Beaumont-Hamel, France, the Newfoundland Regiment attacked the Germans after errors and miscalculations were made. They rushed the German lines through no man’s land but were stopped by barbed wire and heavy machine gun fire. Within 30 minutes, 700 out of the 800 Newfoundlanders were killed, missing or wounded. This battle showed the amount of sacrifice Canada is willing to take to win the war. On April the 9th of 1917, the Battle of Vimy Ridge has begun. The Canadian Divisions were ordered to capture Vimy Ridge from the Germans. The ridge was an important asset to have as it held a view overlooking all the allied lines. The fight to capture the ridge would be hard as previous French attempts had failed, but within 3 days into the battle, the Canadians managed to capture the ridge. With this battle won, the Canadians were prouder than ever as the Canadian Corps had achieved what the French and the British had previously failed to do. With Canada playing a key role in allied victories and showing a major contribution to the war, Canada was given the right to sign the Treaty of Versailles as an independent nation. On January 10th, 1920, the League of Nations was created, and Canada joined the League as a separate nation from Britain. In September 1922, Turkey threatened to take over Chanak, Turkey, a British occupied city. When Britain was notified about the threat, Britain’s dominions were given a call for assistance. The Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King told Britain that a vote through Parliament would have to be accepted before troops would be sent. This incident is significant as it is an example of Canada increasing its autonomy from Britain. In 1923, Canada and the United States made an agreement on fishing rights in the Pacific Ocean. Prime Minister Mackenzie King protested to Britain saying a presence of a British official is not needed as it is not their business and protested that Canada is capable of making their own decisions. Britain withdrew from Canadian treaty signings and gave Canada the right to sign treaties on their own. In 1926, An Imperial Conference was held in London. Leaders of Canada and other self-government dominions of the British Empire attended the meeting. The Balfour Report was made after the conference and recognized that all dominions of Britain would become their own nation but stay apart of the new Commonwealth of Nations. Finally, in 1931, the British Parliament passed The Statute of Westminster, a law declaring that all dominions were able to self-govern itself. Canada was finally fully autonomous and equal to Britain in terms of status. Canada becoming fully autonomous has shaped our nation into who we are. If Canada had never become fully autonomous, Canada would never feel equal to Britain. Canada would always feel like a little brother to Britain as Canada would have to depend on Britain in one way or another. Canada would also not have such a close culture with the United States like we do today, with the same television shows, movies, radio shows, and fashion. With all that being said, Canada had a lot to do to prove itself that it was worth becoming fully autonomous. Canada had to fight through a tremendous amount of battles despite the consequences that might occur, as well as go through some important times like The Chanak Affair, Halibut Treaty, and The Balfour Report which later influenced The Statute of Westminster.
October is the month never to forget in Quebec, not only is it the time of Halloween and Thanksgiving, but it was also the time of the infamous October Crisis. In the 1960’s, Quebec was on the verge of separation. Quebec with its own culture and own language is distinct from Ontario and every other Canadian province in lots of ways. Many francophones were becoming mad and wanted Quebec to be a separate country from Canada, and in 1963, a group named the Front de Liberation du Quebec or FLQ was formed. The FLQ was a paramilitary group who believed in nationalism and socialism. Their goal was to overthrow the current Quebec government and separate Quebec from Canada creating an independent nation and a French-speaking society with only francophones. The group was known for their violent acts as much of society outside of Quebec saw them as terrorists, but the Quebecois saw them as heroes. On October 5th, 1970, James Cross a British diplomat was kidnapped from his household at gunpoint. Five days later, a French-Canadian lawyer named Pierre Laporte was kidnapped as he was playing football with his nephew. The FLQ then later demanded the release of 23 FLQ prisoners for the life of James Cross. With the Federal government in fear, they sent the military soldiers to protect important buildings. On October 16, the federal government announced that the War Measures Act would be in effect and all civil rights would be revoked. This would be the first time the War Measure Act would be used during a peaceful time. This sparked much controversy as many saw the use of the War Measures Act as unnecessary. NDP leader Tommy Douglas described Trudeau’s action as “using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut.” (Tommy Douglas, 1970) One day later, Pierre Laporte was found dead in the trunk of a car believed to be strangled to death. With one hostage gone, the FLQ was starting to become weak but PM Pierre Trudeau had enough. Over 450 people were detained in Quebec, but most were eventually released without charge according to the Canadian Encyclopedia. In early December, the Canadian government negotiated with the FLQ and saw to the conclusion that seven members would be given safe passage to Cuba in exchange for James Cross. Weeks later FLQ members were found and convicted of the kidnapping and murder of James Cross. This event is significant because the Quebecois finally realized that violence is not the way to debate political differences. It is also important because Canada had finally acknowledged Quebec as the French nation and given respect to its language rights. As a result of the 2-month crisis, the Quebecois views against the Canadian government changed for the greater good. After having their civil rights taken away, they realized that violence is not the solution to their problems. Canada also learned to pay more attention to provinces with political differences as organizations such as the FLQ may be a potential future danger.
Canada has many defining moments in the 19th century, which is why it is hard to only pick the 3 most defining. These defining moments have helped form Canada into the country we know today. Some events like the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the Second battle of Ypres has shown how much Canada has contributed to the war. These events have changed Canada from being a dominion of Britain to now an autonomous country. Events like the October Crisis has also shown how political differences can split a country into 2. It also shows how violence is never the solution to any problem. Additionally, these defining moments have shown how much Canada has changed to become the nation we know and love today. Without these defining moments, life would have definitely been different for every Canadian.
Canada’s Growing Autonomy, historyclass.tripod.com/id28.html.
CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, www.cbc.ca/history/EPISCONTENTSE1EP16CH1PA4LE.html.
DeKay, William. “Canadians mark importance of Battle of Vimy Ridge.” The Western Producer, 19 May 2017, www.producer.com/2017/05/canadians-mark-importance-of-battle-of-vimy-ridge/
Puzic, Sonja. “Why the Battle of Vimy Ridge was a defining moment for Canada.” CTVNews, 3 Apr. 2017, www.ctvnews.ca/canada/why-the-battle-of-vimy-ridge-was-a-defining-moment-for-canada-1.3345828.
Significant Events in Canadian History – The Canadian Encyclopedia, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/timelines/100-great-events-in-canadian-history/#
“The Battle of Vimy Ridge.” The Battle of Vimy Ridge | Canadian War Museum, www.warmuseum.ca/the-battle-of-vimy-ridge/.