Pride and Prejudice: Canada's International Legacy

By Ashley Chen

Canada in its history after becoming an independent nation has made a significant impact on the world. Especially in the 20th century, when two World Wars raged on an international level, Canada maintained its ground and aided the Allied forces to win both - an incredible accomplishment that will always be remembered. However, despite the achievements, Canada also has its share of shaming actions. Today's blog post will state 3 victorious highlights in Canada's 20th century that makes me proud to be Canadian, as well as 3 not-so-defining moments that makes me also a bit humiliated to be Canadian.

Well, with that being said, click play on this wonderful background audio below and let's get started!

Defining Moments

The Battle of Vimy Ridge

The assault on Vimy Ridge began at 5:30am on April 9, 1917. Before this, Canadians spent a freezing winter strengthening defenses and carrying out increasingly numerous raids on the opponent's trenches while accumulating intelligence to prepare for spring. This knowledge would later help the Canadians take their Vimy objectives with lighter losses.

Canadian units repeated the exercises on the battle area replica unremittingly, rehearsing exactly as planned for the day of the attack. Maps were given out to inform troops of their routes down to the smallest units. During the assault, more than 15 000 Canadian infantry overran the Germans along the front, demonstrating incredible bravery and discipline, which allowed the infantry to move forward even under heavy fire and while seeing their officers get killed.

The capture of Vimy Ridge is truly a battle that makes its mark in the history of Canada's military achievements.It was not just an important battlefield victory. For the first time, all four Canadian divisions, made up of men from varying regions in Canada, attacked together. Perhaps it was this teamwork which aided in Canada's success of the capture. What's more, the diligence of the soldiers demonstrated strong loyalty and determination for Canada, allowing them to surpass both Great Britain and the France's efforts, as well as the Allied forces' expectations. This moment was definitely, as Brigadier-General A.E. Ross said after witnessing the war, "the birth of a nation."

D-Day and the Normandy Campaign

By spring 1944, Germany had already taken over France and much of Europe for nearly for years. The Allied forces knew they would have to defeat Germany in order to win the war, hence they planned a major campaign involving many elements. Ground, sea, and air forces rehearsed endlessly to make sure their timing and coordination was perfect.

On June 6, 1944 (D-Day), a massive Allied force reached the heavily-defended coast of Normandy. Canada was given the task of capturing Juno Beach. Many Canadian soldiers in the campaign were new to battle, but their courage and skill meant they helped lead the Allied advance against a powerful, ruthless enemy. The savage fighting continued through dust and heat. In mid-August, the Germans finally retreated in the offensive. on August 25, 1944, Paris was liberated by the Allies.

The victory at Normandy would only be part of the the struggle to win the war against the Axis forces. Canadians played an important role in the offensives just like their endeavors in the Normandy Campaign, that would eventually defeat the Germans and end the war on the continent. Maybe Armstrong's quote can apply to even the World War. “That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”. Every Canadian soldier who fought in the war helped us create the better future we are living today. We sincerely thank you, Canada.

The Suez Canal Crisis

This crisis was a military and political confrontation occurring in Egypt, in 1956. The issue  Lester B. Pearson, who would later become prime minister of Canada, used the world's first large-scale United Nations peacekeeping forces in order to resolve the situation.

The Suez Canal was a company owned by Great Britain and France, but was seized without consent by Egypt. This worried Western governments, because the canal was a vital route for oil transportation to Britain and would negatively impact Britain's economy if Egypt blocked this flow of oil. Thus when diplomacy failed to produce a solution, France, Britain, and Israel secretly plotted to attack.Egypt sure got itself into trouble this time.

Due to this, Pearson worked with United Nations to develop an idea in order to stop the attack. He definitely did not accept the idea of war, especially one that threatened to even break up the Allied forces that had won WWII. The cease-fire was arranged for November 6. United States managed to convince the Allied Forces to stop advancing, while United Nations peacekeepers later entered the canal area. Pearson's solution allowed Britain, France, and Israel to withdraw forces without giving the appearance of having been defeated (to be honest, I have to admit they were being a bit too arrogant). Pearson won the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize for his significant initiative in Egypt. His role in the creation of UN's first modern peacekeeping force lead to Canada's military and diplomatic activities becoming a proud centrepiece around the world for the future.

Not So Great Moments

Treatment of the Japanese Canadians

When the news of the attack on the American naval base at Hawaii occurred on December 7, 1941, the citizens of British Columbia were frightened and did not want to imagine a similar situation happening in Canada. In fear of treason, Canada sent Japanese Canadians to internment camps even though there was no evidence that these innocent residents would do such a thing.

At the time, there were about 22 000 Japanese Canadians in British Columbia who were shipped to internment camps and lived in dreadful conditions. Families were separated, with the ment to work on road gangs and the women sent to B.C. wilderness. Some of the Japanese Canadians at that time were descendants of the first immigrants who immigrated to Canada. From the earliest beginnings, they had to deal with discrimination by the largely white Canadian society. This intensified when the war offered an excuse for British Columbians to act on entrenched anti-Asian sentiments, even though top RCMP and military officials in Ottawa said disloyalty by Japanese Canadians was highly unlikely. In addition, these citizens were mainly born in Canada, and had little to no relation with Japan whatsoever.

"You, who deal in lifeless figures, files and statistics, could never measure the depth of hurt and outrage dealt out to those of us who love this land. It is because we are Canadians, that we protest the violation of our birthright," Wrote Kitigawa. Canada had gone against the Japanese Canadians merely because of discrimination and public opinion. Politicians even knew that they posed little threat, but never stood up for them. The bitter experiences that the Japanese Canadians endured finally dawned to Canada as one of the wartime wrongs.

Refusal of Jewish Refugees

The St. Louis was within two days of Halifax Harbour when Ottawa, under pressure from politicians, refused to grant Jewish families permission to enter the country. Canada was in fact, one of the most merciless countries in the Second World War who allowed very few Jewish immigrants.

“Nobody wanted us,” Dr. Messinger, now 78 and a retired physician in Buffalo, N.Y., said in an interview with the National Post. “We were Jews, we were expendable … It was terrible — terrible, terrible — of Canada and the United States, of all countries, to not let us in.” Turned away thrice by Cuba, United States and Canada, the ship had no choice but to return to an unpredictable future in Belgium (where a few days later, would be invaded by Germany). The ones who did survive, remembered that Canada only accepted 5 000 Jewish immigrants compared to 200 000 by the United States during the early to mid 1900s.

It is notable that Canada should look back and remember its mistakes, especially the fact that it should have shown more mercy and empathy towards the Jewish who faced dangers back in Europe. An inexcusable point in time like the refusal of the Jewish refugees raises the question for us all about what it is to be human, and to show compassion.

Refugees on board the SS. St. Louis

Quebec Separatism

French Canadian nationalists favoured enhanced status for Quebec -that is, a new form of association on the basis of equality with English Canada, or complete independence as a sovereign country. The movement of the separatists was one of the largest movements in Canadian history - and one of the darkest. Between 1963 and 1970, the Front de libération du Québec became responsible for over 160 crimes.

The FLQ began to practice terrorism when they believed diplomatic action could not have helped "free Quebec". Bombings began and continued sporadically. Most French and English Canadians considered these actions "un-Canadian", but they illustrated the social ills of Quebec, a shameful fact at the time for Canada. This group of terrorists caused several deaths and countless injuries of government officials or just innocent citizens.

The movement of Quebec was completely uncalled for. The Quebecois should have thought the situation more clearly and took matters in a judicious way, possibly by simply communicating or voting, instead of harming those who were not even involved. Because of these acts of terrorism and strong beliefs, Quebec separatism was deeply rooted in Canadian history as a very shameful moment.

Aside from all these historical moments, both defining and dreadful, we Canadians still always have our share of other cool things. Not convinced? Check this link out.

As always, thanks for reading today's blog post. Hope this gave you some information and a bit more (or less?) Canadian pride. Until next time!


"The Battle of Vimy Ridge - Fast Facts." Veterans Affairs Canada. The Government of Canada. Last modified January 17, 2014.

Cook, Tim. "The Battle of Vimy Ridge, 9-12 April 1917." Canadian War Museum.

Tattrie, Jon. "Suez Crisis." In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada, 1985—. Published February 8, 2006.

"Japanese Internment." Le Canada. CBC Learning.

Bercuson, David J. "Quebec Separatism." Encyclopedia Britannica. Last updated March 7, 2014.

Bureau, Aaron. "Canada turned away Jewish refugees." Herald News. Published December 15, 2013.

Carlson, Kathryn B. "‘None is too many': Memorial for Jews turned away from Canada in 1939." National Post. Published January 17, 2011.

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