Canada Becoming a Nation


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The first five battles that had taken place during the first world war helped contribute into making Canada a nation. Namely, the battle of Vimy Ridge in which Canadian soldiers had executed from start to finish. By doing so, the First World War helped encourage most Canadians to embark on the route of autonomy, or self-government. Initially, WWI was nothing more than an opportunity for the country to prove its loyalty to their ruling British Empire as Prime Minister of the time, Sir Robert Borden had viewed it. Due to this , Canadian-nationalism agendas were pretty much ignored at the beginning of the war, 1914. In brief, Canada’s roles in the wars helped to change the perceptions the world had of Canada and helped to shape its independence.

Battles That Changed Canada’s Reputation

The map below shows the locations where Canadian troops fought.

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The video compiles actual footage taken from the Battle of Vimy Ridge to give you perspective of the battle conditions and weaponry used the Canadians had to face

Vimy Ridge Footage


Canada donated some of the finest combatants and leaders to the stage on which the Great War played out. Previous to the gruelling years that were spent in a state of war, nobody regarded Canada as a separate entity. However, their victories and brute, unwavered strength are what convinced other nations that Canada was fit enough to govern itself. The following individuals orchestrated the most change that would help Canada gain its own status and finally be distinguished from their overheads, the British Empire.


Robert Borden served as Canada’s Prime Minister while much of Europe was submerged in the war. He emerged as a notable figure in attaining Canada’s independence at the political level. Borden granted Canada higher autonomy and converted the nation from a British-held colony to a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. His legacy took off in 1914, when he passed down the War Measures Act, which gave Canada the authority to manage security and order during the event of war or an uprising. As the Canadian Expeditionary Force grew from a mere division to a full-fledged army and garnered battle victories, Borden could not help but believe that Canada’s fortitude was solid proof of Canada's progression to nationhood. This is what inspired Borden to author the Resolution IX of the Imperial War Conference, which asserted that Canada deserved the right to have a say in foreign matters such as policy and relations and the acknowledgment as an autonomous nation of a Commonwealth. He also encouraged Canada and the other British-ruled countries to envoy representatives to Paris for the 1919 Peace Conference to sign the Treaty of Versailles under their own names.


William Bishop’s illustrious path to becoming one of the best aces of World War I started on March 25th, 1917, when he earned his first kill after immobilizing a German Albatross. He then made name for himself at the global stage, achieving a Victoria Cross, the most prestigious honour that can be awarded to any military personnel. To exemplify Bishop’s skill, take the following event into consideration. In mid-June, 1918, the ace was called to England to serve one last time. He came out of the three-day battle with ten additional victories, adding onto the sixty two kills he previously achieved. It was in that very battle he dropped five German airplanes in just under twelve minutes. These stats terrified the Germans, causing them to realize that the Canadians were the Allied forces’ deadliest weapons. They dubbed him as Hell’s Handmaiden and had a price on his head. This is how Bishop heightened Canada’s reputation as an able country.


Arthur Currie was the man behind all the Canadian victories Europe had witnessed during the Great War. He started off as a commander of the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade and sent his men to fight in the Second Battle of Ypres. When most of the Triple Entente's soldiers were compelled to flee in the wake of the poison gas onslaught, Curries brigade maintained their position, refusing the enemy to claim a victory. Ypres was the first significant assault of the Canadians and truly put the name of Canada on the lips of the entire world, convincing them of its valour and determination. Currie was promoted to be the commander of the Canadian Corps in 1917, leading his troops to several other accomplishments over the course of the war. They include Vimy Ridge, Hill 70, Passchendaele, and Arras. These performances only helped bring Canada under the spotlight, the praise from the Allies gradually birthing the treatment as an independent nation and a sense of nationalism.


In Flanders Fields - read by Tim Lihoreau by Classic_FM

The link above directs to a recitation of world-renowned war poem "In Flanders Fields." It was written by a Canadian, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, and showed that Canadians serving in World War I not only possessed brawn but also poetic talent.


World War I - Treaty of Versailles
The video above outlines the content of Treaty of Versailles and the reaction it triggered from the other empires. Canada was an active participant in the Paris Peace Conference, thanks to Prime Minister Borden. The country itself played a small role in creating the treaty but, after much struggle, got an individual commissioner to attend the Conference, an act to establish the perception of Canada as a nation. Sir Borden thought it to only be fair that Canada be regarded as a sovereign state after making such a heavy sacrifice, 60,000 lives, to the war effort the nation had no say in participating. However, things did not go entirely as planned. The British Prime Minister signed the treaty on behalf of the entire empire, downplaying the value of the signature to Canadian nationalists. On the bright side, the treaty led Canada to become a member of the League of Nations, where they would continue to declare itself as a separate entity to the rest of the world.

The Damages of the War

WWI, although aided greatly into establishing Canada's independnce, also had negative impacts on the country. Canada didn’t become a nation without hardship - the Great War was said to have “torn the country” apart with the massive death toll and the mental and physical damage done to Canadian soldiers after they arrived home.Canada joining the war came with heavy consequences that the population never expected or was ready to endure - the damage of the war wasn’t only limited to the soldiers’ lives being affected. In fact, the after math of the great war caused massive deportation among "enemy aliens". Germen immigrants among others were deported from their homes and families, while more than 8400 were sent to internment camp. Secondly, British and French Canadians were at a divide, where it had seemed to the French speaking population, they were second class citizens. This caused massive disagreements among the nation. However, the most deadly after math of the war was the spread of disease from returning soldiers, which killed millions of people across the country. Lastly, the war had caused Canada to be in more than 2.5 million dollars debt. Every Canadian had been affected due to this.

Interesting Facts

  • Along with providing the government more control over the land, the War Measures Act permitted new and improved powers to bring action against the war. These powers included being able to arrest Canadians, censorship, and having the right to take control over any property.
  • Canada fought mostly in Belgium and France, and it was there when they didn't have to rely on the British. Instead, the British relied on Canada for support, supplies, and weaponry. Canada had one of the largest military makers by the end of the war. The supplies were made by the women and the wounded. Their fighting was a key to gaining nationhood.
  • The war officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, and came precisely 5 years after Franz Ferdinand's assassination.
  • The Canadian war record was what won Canada a separate signature of the Peace Treaty, indicating that the national status had been received.
  • 70 Canadians were bestowed with the Victoria cross for showing "most conspicuous bravery in the presence of the enemy" by the end of the Great War.
  • There were over 650,000 Canadian recruitments in the First World War. Of this, 66,000 died serving their country while another 172,000 were injured.
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In conclusion, Canada's contribution and sacrifices to the war helped it become more independent and changed its history. Due to this, Canada also earned respect and recognition from other parts of the world. Canadian soldiers came home proud from the First World War with a new sense of belonging, despite the horrific costs waging war came with. From the very beginning of the war to the official ending marked by the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, every aspect of the war helped Canada move closer to become a nation.

The video below will help put you in the shoes of Canadian soldiers so you can see the war from their perspective, such as the horrendous battle conditions and advanced weaponry they had to cope with.

World War One (WWI) from a Canadian Perspective

The following links lead to websites where Canada's role in the First World War can be read in depth, complete with interesting videos and graphics.

Below are various tweets that talk about Canada in World War I.

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  1. Who were three heroes that changed the face of this nation?
  2. What event(s) led Canada to become a member of the League of Nations, and continue to declare itself as a separate entity to the rest of the world?
  3. The war had caused a lot of damage to Canada and toppled Canada in massive debt. How much was the debt that Canada owed?
  4. How many Canadian recruitments were there in the First World War?
  5. How many Canadians were bestowed with the Victoria cross?
  6. What was the overall impact the First World War had on Canada?
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