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Defining Moments in Canadian history

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All throughout Canada in the 20th Century there have been numerous events actions and decisions that we call defining moments. Canada has been through many battles, very hard chosen decisions, and gone through many changes that have changed the way Canadians live today. Certain people have influenced the country in a positive way and made Canada a stronger nation. Events such as the battle of Vimy Ridge, the formation of NATO, the creation of the Canadian flag and people such as Lester B. Pearson all assisted in defining Canada as a nation.

Vimy Ridge ran almost 12km north-east of Arras. The Germans occupied Vimy Ridge in September 1914 and their engineers immediately began to construct a network of artillery-proof trenches and bunkers. These were protected from attack by Machine Gun Posts. Repeated French attempts to take Vimy Ridge cost about 150,000 casualties between May and November 1915. Although the French were able to take the villages of Carency, Neuville St Vaast and Souchez, Vimy Ridge remained under the control of the Germans. The British took over the Arras sector in March 1916. Immediately, British corps commander, Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Wilson, planned a counter-attack, but it was disapproved by his commanding officer, Sir Douglas Haig. The Canadian Corps, led by Lieutenant Sir Julian Byng, replaced the British at Arras in the winter of 1916.

On April 8th, 1917, 30,000 Canadian soldiers began heading toward the front line. The next morning, over 2800 allied soldiers began attacking the German trenches and soon afterwards the Canadian soldiers went into No-Mans-Land. The 1st division was led by A.W. Currie and they were well known for using an attack strategy called a creeping-barrage which was when soldiers bombard enemy defences with all available heavy artillery. Arthur Currie’s division captured the Zwolfer Graben trench system within 30 minutes. The Canadians were now making good progress and by April 12th, 1917 they were in securely in control of Vimy Ridge. The strong intelligent attacking strategies by the soldier forced the Germans to the bottom of the hill and they were unable to bombard a successful counterattack. It was on that night when the Germans left the area under the cover of darkness.

The battle of Vimy Ridge was a defining moment in Canadian history because it was the first time Canada established its self as a true nation. The Canadian allies had been trying to capture Vimy Ridge for three years but were having no success. Ultimately the Canadians did it in three days. This showed other nations around the world that Canada had a strong military with intelligent combat techniques. Canadians were now seen as professional troops who could be assigned to take any military objective. The victory came at a high price with 10 602 Canadians killed and wounded. Although the victory had a small impact on the course of the war, it provided a great moral boost for French and English troops who had seen years of seemingly ineffective attacks. This was the first total Canadian victory with Canadian troops fighting together under Canadian leadership. This was a significant step in the growth of Canadian pride and nationalism.

NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It was formed on April 4th 1949 when several nations came together including Canada to form it. NATO was created to be a defense pact against further Soviet Agression. It was also formed to discourage any attacks, because of the amount of countries involved. All members are pledged to defend each other from enemy attacks. The 12 founding members included Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United States. In 1955, the Soviet Union Organized the countries behind the iron curtain into a rival military alliance. This alliance was known as the Warsaw Pact. The Warsaw Pact was formed because the Soviet Union feared NATO. The creation of NATO and the Warsaw Pact made the superpowers of both sides start to build bigger stronger weapons incase of war. This is called an arms race. By the early 1950’s, both alliances had the ability to create the hydrogen bomb, which is much more powerful then the bombs dropped on Japan during WW2. When Canadians saw the ability to create weapons of mass destruction they realized that this was insane and so they did not take part in the construction of them.

The build up of weapons of mass destruction was seen by many Canadians as insanity. Canadians pacifists who were opposed to war or violence began to protest. Other Canadians were concerned about safety, and American domination. This resulted in the Canadian government refusing to allow nuclear weapons on Canadian soil in 1962. This was a defining moment in Canadian history because Canada stood up for it’s self and refused to allow nuclear weapons on Canadian soil. Furthermore, when a new Canadian government was elected in 1963, this decision was reversed but by 1971 with the peace and disarmament movements growing stronger, the decision was reversed again and all Canadian missile sites were dismantled.

According to the Government of Canada Web site, “Flags are symbols that identify people belonging to a group.” In 1964, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson advised the House of Commons that the government wanted a distinctive national flag adopted by the time of the 1967 centennial celebrations. A joint Senate and House of Commons Committee was formed and issued a call for submissions for the design of a new Canadian flag design. More than 2000 proposals were submitted. The committee narrowed the choices down to three options; Red Ensign combined with a fleur-de-lis and Union Jack; three red maple leaves on a single stem with a white background and blue borders; and a red flag with a single maple leaf in a white square. The Prime Minister preferred the three-maple-leaf design, but the debate continued. The colors decided upon were red and white, having been proclaimed Canada’s national colors in 1921. The red flag with a single maple leaf in a white square was the flag chosen. On December 15, 1964, the House of Commons passed a bill appointing the current flag. The Senate passed the bill two days later, and the official declaration of the new Canadian flag by Queen Elizabeth II, occurred on February 15, 1965.

The formation of the maple leaf in the new Canadian flag in 1965 was official identification of its distinguished usage on badges for the Canadian Forces, other emblems, and it’s contribution to the Canadian economy through the maple sugar industry, wood products and enhancing of the Canadian landscape. The creation of the new Canadian flag was a defining moment in Canadian history because it exhibited Canada as its own nation. It no longer had the union jack of Great Britain on it which represented Canada’s early years as a colony of Britain. During the election of 1963, Lester B Pearson promised Canadians a flag of their own and they acquired it.

On April 23, 1897 Lester Bowles Pearson was born, in a small town named Newtonbrook, Ontario. Pearson’s childhood was happy and fulfilling. His family always lived in southern Ontario. They had moved from several places and were living in Guelph when World War One broke out. Lester was attending the University of Toronto when he went off to be in the war. When he returned from the war he attended Oxford University where he received his degree in history, he got both a B.A and a M.A. In 1925 he married Mayron Moody. He was a lecturer in history in Toronto until 1928, when he joined the Canadian Department of External Affairs as First Secretary. In 1945 Pearson became Canada’s first ambassador to Washington.

The next year he returned to Canada and became under-secretary of State for External Affairs. In 1948 he was elected to a seat in Parliament for Algoma East as a Liberal. Pearson took an active part in the UN Organization and was president of The Seventh UN General Assembly. In 1957 Pearson was awarded Nobel Peace Prize for his greatest diplomatic achievement, proposal of sending UN peacekeeping force to the Suez Canal area. He became fourteenth prime minister of Canada in 1963, when the Liberal party, whose leader he was, won the elections. During his term, the Canadian flag was adopted; the Canada Assistance Plan and Medicare were introduced, as well as the Canada Pension Plan. He is also responsible for the introduction of bilingualism and biculturalism in Canada. Lester Pearson died on December 27,1972.

Lester Pearson did many things to help improve Canada. He made the pension plan, Medicare and the flag what they are today. He is also well known for being the fourteenth Prime Minister of Canada, for introducing Canada as a peace keeping nation and for being the only Canadian to receive a Nobel Peace Prize. In 1957 Lester received the Nobel Peace Prize for his involvements in NATO and peace keeping. He is responsible for Canadian peace keeping being what it is today. He was the person who suggested and followed through with sending in an emergency peace keeping force to Gaza by the Suez Canal. It is often said that by doing this he helped to avoid another possible world war from happening. All of Lester B Pearson’s contributions to Canada had a positive effect and helped define Canada as a country.

A defining moment in Canadian history is someone or some event which shaped and helped form Canada as a country, in one way or another. Certain people can influence the country as a whole. Certain events can also develop a country, on an international scale, such as a world war, or a depression. People like Lester B Pearson, and events such as the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the formation of NATO, and the creation of the Canadian flag have all helped define Canada as a country throughout the past century.

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