Pride and Prejudice: Canada's international legacy

The Best and Worst Moments of Canada

By: Oscar O.

Canada, the land of the freedom and prosperity, the land of endless opportunity and acceptance. This enormous country is home to many beautiful things. It may be a new country, but within its 147 years of independence Canada has seen many ups and downs such as its involvement in the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the establishment of Japanese internment camps, its joining of NATO and involvement in the the Suez Crisis, the exportation f the toxic material asbestos, and the mistreatment of Native Americans.

Canada’s military involvement in World War 1 at Vimy Ridge was the most important battle in Canada’s history. Vimy Ridge was a strongly defended area under German control, the French and English armies had attempted to take it several times but had always failed. However on April 9th, 1917, The Canadian forces led by General Arthur Currie, made an attempt at capturing Vimy Ridge, which unlike the previous campaigns was successful. Canada managed to capture the first line almost instantly, their losses were also low. It was the battle that showed that Canada can operate on a global stage. This battle also gave the Canadian army much earned respect from many countries. The outcome of this battle, and many more to come, proved that Canada was able to do well on its own, and portrayed it as a strong independent country. The battle allowed Canada to unify its people and have a sense of national unity as all four divisions of the Canadian army, which represented all the regions across Canada, were in that battle. As Brigadier General Alexander Ross said “In those few minutes, I saw the witnessed the birth of a nation”.

Bellow is a monument dedicated to the memory of Canadian Expeditionary Force members killed during the First World War. It also serves as the place of commemoration for First World War Canadian soldiers killed or presumed dead in France who have no known grave.

Another significant and proud moment in Canada’s history was its decision in 1949 to join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). In 1949 after the end of WWII, Canada decided to join the coalition of nations which included the UK, the U.S., and several other European countries. The Treaty was made to protect its members, if one nation was attacked the other countries armies would defend it. Canada’s participation in NATO helped Canada become allies with many countries, including the U.S.A., This facilitated the commerce between the counties. By creating new alliances with the NATO members Canada was recognized globally as a global power, a leader, and as a friendly democratic nation seeking to strengthen ties with others.

Bellow is an image of NATO HQ in Brussels and the flag of NATO

Another proud moment in Canada's history, was the help it provided in the Suez crisis which lead to a peaceful solution to an, almost seeming inevitable war to an escalating crisis. In 1956, a dispute happened in the Middle East between a socialist Egypt and the European countries: England and France. The Crisis was over who would control the Suez Canal, which was the main trade route for the European countries. As the crisis escalated Israel, USA and Russia became involved in the conflict. The only solution seemed for the countries to fight for it, but Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Person came up with an alternative, his idea was to send soldiers form neutral countries to find a peaceful solution. This led to a peaceful ending to the escalating conflict. This tactic of using soldiers from neutral countries is still used and it can be credited to Lester B. Pearson and Canada. This innovative and peaceful solution action created a new role for Canadians in worldwide politics, from being in the United Nations embassies and other peace keeping operations.

Bellow is an image of The Suez Canal

The Dark Moments

Another defining, however darker moment in Canada’s history was the use of internment camps for Japanese Canadians. During World War 2, starting right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Canadians of Japanese background were put into internment camps. The government stated it was for military safety, in case they were possible Japanese spies, though the real reason was prejudice of the Canadian people. Around 23,000 people with Japanese heritage were out in internment camps, between 1942 and 1949. These camps were crammed, with poor hygiene, and little food, because of this there was a lot of malnutrition and disease. The Japanese Canadians had not committed any crimes. Over time the Canadian government realized the injustice that was committed during that time, and in 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney formally apologized on behalf of Canada for the harsh treatment. The government paid for compensation packages for everyone directly wronged. Even to this day no matter how many apologies the government does, the scar in our nation’s history will never fully heal, these actions act as a reminder that even the best countries, have dark chapters in their history.

Bellow is an image of an Internment Camp and the map of where they were

As the 20th century began Canada committed a terrible deed. A new material with fire retardant properties was discovered, its name was asbestos. It seemed like the solution to fires. They were soon put in houses and schools, basically every building had asbestos. At the time it seems like a harmless material, so while the industry for asbestos was expanding, it turned out the miners of asbestos were getting sick coughing up blood, suffering from breathing difficulties and dying. Canadian mortality rates among miners were studied as early as the 1920s, the executives knew of this however chose to withhold the information from reports to both their employees and the public. The material was now being exported globally, from Canada. When info about the downsides of asbestos was discovered, the asbestos was removed from all Canadian buildings. However it continued to export the toxic material to third world countries. This greatly affected Canada’s reputation of being an honest selfless country, it made us seem like greedy uncaring people.

Bellow is an image of Asbestos and the major global Asbestos exporters.

The final shameful thing Canada has done in the 20th century was the mistreatment of its aboriginal people. Until 1996 there were residential schools in Canada. The goal of these Residential schools was to educate, assimilate and integrate the new generation of Native Americans with western society. It was a system designed to remove any aboriginal heritage and culture from the students. The conditions in these schools were terrible, there were cases of sexual and physical abuse, punishments for speaking Aboriginal languages, the living conditions were bad too, there was malnutrition and dehydration, confinement to small rooms for sleeping, small classrooms, and forced labor. As a result there was always tension between the government and the Native Americans. This was not good for our image either, it made us seem like unaccepting, violent, people. However in June 11, 2008 a public apology was offered, by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on behalf of the Government of Canada, and also the leaders of all the other parties in the Canadian House of Commons.

Bellow is an image of the Residential Schools and a map of the the major one in Canada

The decisions and actions taken by Canada in the 20th century have been important to history of Canada and the world. Canada had its share on both sides of the spectrum. The good side represented by Canada’s victory at Vimy Ridge, its participation in NATO, and its involvement in the solution of the Suez Crisis; whereas the bad side is represented by the internment of Japanese descendants, its blinding greed with the exportation of Asbestos, and its mistreatment of the Aboriginal peoples. Canada has had its successes and its mistakes however if it weren’t for these six events in Canadian history, Canada would not be the nation it is today. We should learn from our past, so going forward we, as a nation, can replicate successes and avoid mistakes.

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