Recently Netflix released a film called “Forgotten Battle,” one of the most expensive Dutch films ever made. The film explores the lives of several characters in and around the difficult battle for the Scheldt Estuary in 1944. What the film barely touches upon, however, is that this battle was fought primarily by Canadians of First Canadian Army and the closing scenes of the movie are a climactic rendering of the brutal fight for the Walcheren Causeway by 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. After both watching this movie myself and acclaimed historian and author Mark Zuehlke sat down to chat about the battle and the movie’s depiction of it. Mark wrote an excellent book on the Scheldt operations titled “Terrible Victory: First Canadian Army and the Scheldt Campaign” which came out in 2014 and was the perfect guest for this fascinating discussion.
Thousands of Canadian merchant mariners lost their lives during the Second World War as part of the valuable supply chain bringing important war material from North America to Great Britain. Despite the high casualty rates, dangerous working conditions, and vital importance of the job, it took years before Canadian merchant mariners were properly recognised for their role in the war and their status as veterans.
Within only a couple of years of the “birth” of American rap music Toronto became the centre for the early Canadian rap and hip hop scene. This episode explores some of the early trends in Canadian rap music as artists struggled to gain mainstream acceptance in a music industry hesitant to accept this new and powerful musical genre.
Africville was a community that for decades stood on the physical, social and racial margins of the city of Halifax. It represented Nova Scotia’s legacy of Black migration into Canada but also spoke to the very real challenges people faced settling in a land that saw itself as a white province within a white nation. The story of Africville is one of struggle and resistance but also one of community and connection and despite its ending it now stands as a celebrated marker for one of the many groups that have contributed to a broader understanding of what it means to be Canadian.
For years, many Canadian immigrants arrived via ocean liner after a long journey across the Atlantic Ocean. While the first stop for some was Quebec or Montreal or St. John’s. for nearly one million people that first stop was the shoreline of Halifax, specifically the immigration facility known as Pier 21. Pier 21 stands as a testament to a dynamic period of immigration to this country and has its own unique history during an incredible period of the nation’s growth and change.
To kick off Season 7 we are going to explore the history of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan from a broad perspective highlighting the four phases of Canada’s war and looking at some of the challenges to Canadian efforts in the tumultuous country.
In this special episode David sits down for a fascinating and important conversation with Dr. Crystal Fraser, an historian at the University of Alberta and an expert in the history of residential schools in Canada. Dr. Fraser’s 150 Acts of Reconciliation can be read at 150acts.weebly.com
In our Season 6 finale we look at one of the biggest blockbuster films of the early 20th century, which presented a twisted racial reimagining of a traumatic period in American history. Even though the film was controversial, almost everywhere it was shown it drew large audiences, and this was true even in Canada, where the film ran in most major cities to widespread public acclaim.
In 1964 a top secret diplomatic mission was carried out by Canadian J. Blair Seaborn on behalf of the United States to find some sort of settlement with the North Vietnamese government in Hanoi.
At the height of the Cold War, Canadian anxiety over Soviet espionage reached reached such a fervour that a top secret Security Panel was formed to remove security threats from within the civil service. A part of this security campaign was the targeting of gay men working in government, who were thought to be particularly vulnerable security threats. Funding was thus directed towards a series of tests and studies to discover a scientific method of detecting ones sexual orientation. The culmination of all of this was the infamous Fruit Machine.
The Georgian Bay Canal was a proposed canal project connecting Georgian Bay to Ottawa to Montreal and then to the Atlantic Ocean and the world. While there were many merits for its construction it was never built. This episode explores the interesting story of the dream of this canal during an unbridled period of infrastructure in a young Canada. Today’s episode was written by author Ray Love.
In 1966 the people of Windsor, Ontario and then the country were shocked when a young man recently released from the Kingston Penitentiary went on what became Canada’s first shooting spree. A horrific crime that was a key part of an unusual and head-scratching story.
Bill Miner’s exploits in early 19th century British Columbia continue in this episode as he attempts to recover from a botched robbery of a CPR train and avoid the authorities who are hot on his trail.
In this two-parter we look at the life of the bandit Bill Miner, an iconic and unique figure of both the American and Canadian Wild West.
A small railroad town in Northern Ontario deals with one of its most traumatic days bringing the community together but leaving a mystery behind.
In this excerpt from the forthcoming book “Civilians at the Sharp End: First Canadian Army Civil Affairs in Northwest Europe, 1944-1945” CCH takes a look at the tumultuous relationship between the Belgian resistance and First Canadian Army in the period after Belgium’s liberation. The book, published by McGill-Queen’s Press and set for release on 18 February, is currently available for pre-order purchase on Amazon, grab yours today!
In 1969 John Lennon and Yoko Ono, recently married and carrying out a ‘peace tour’ shack up in a Montreal hotel suite for a week long ‘bed in’ culminating in one of the most iconic protest songs in history.
NEW BOOK: “Civilians at the Sharp End: First Canadian Army Civil Affairs in Northwest Europe” is now available for pre-sale on Amazon – https://www.amazon.ca/Civilians-Sharp-End-Canadian-Northwest/dp/022800649X/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=civilian+at+the+sharp+end&qid=1611590523&sr=8-1
During the inter-war period, two leaders of the legendary Six Nations Confederacy take their people’s claims of sovereignty to the most public international forum of the day attempting to gain foreign support in their struggle agains the Canadian government.
Five Canadian activists challenge an archaic British law fundamentally changing the legal status of women in Canada
Dr. Tim Cook is interviewed about his newest book The Fight For History discussing the complicated and controversial process by which WW2 was nearly forgotten in the decades following the war only to be reclaimed by the end of the 20th century.
In 1956 the United Nations was in turmoil as an Anglo-French-Israeli alliance attacked and invaded Egypt. Global public opinion was strongly against this bold move and it seemed like there was no solution in sight. Until, Canadian diplomat Lester B. Pearson stepped in with a radical proposal, one that would set a template for UN Peacekeeping operations for the rest of the 20th century.
A risky move to take beer south takes John Labatt Jr. into the maelstrom of American brewing.
In the late 1960s the television phenomenon that was Sesame Street came north of the 49th parallel. While extremely popular amongst Canadian youth significant debate flared up over the fact that it was American television programming in a time when Canada was going through an acute identity crisis. Something had to be done to turn this popular children’s show into a program that showcased unique Canadian values and ideas.
One of the longest serving sailors in the history of the Royal Navy just happened to be born in Nova Scotia. Provo Wallis witnessed the transition from the age of sail to the age of steam while remaining in the navy for almost 100 years.
The history of food in Canada can be a complex subject and is as varied as the people that make up this country. This episode has chosen several “Canadian” foods to explore how food is related to both the history of the nation, its peoples, and how food can connect to ideas of Canadian identity.
A 1965 plane crash in the wilderness of British Columbia leads to an unsolved mystery that puzzles investigators even today.
From the early 1830s to the onset of the American Civil War in 1860 British North America became the primary destination for slaves escaping to freedom. To get there they had to undergo a harrowing journey and for most of those that successfully arrived they did so because of the work of the Underground Railroad.
Prior to America’s official entry into the Vietnam war Canada spearheaded diplomatic efforts to find some sort of peaceful resolution, balancing a need to show support for America in the ongoing Cold War while also seeking to avoid escalation and a potential global nuclear war.
The Ursulines are a Catholic female religious order who played an important role in the early years of the French colony of New France. Despite hunger, war, disease and brutal environmental conditions the Ursulines persevered and became fixtures within Quebec society becoming educators and social activists within the growing colonial community.
In May of 1945 Canadian soldiers carried out a little-known food delivery operation deep into enemy held territory to help relieve the near-starving Dutch living under a brutal Nazi occupation regime.
During the 17th and 18th centuries the British had to deal with one of the most powerful Indigenous alliances in all of North America, the Wabanaki Confederacy. Forged in defending their territory against incursions from the Five Nations Iroquois, the Wabanaki maintained their influence over their traditional territory for decades in the face of a massive and expanding British Empire.
When the War of 1812 erupted in June 1812 the status of Black Canadians in Upper Canada was a confusing and complex blend of abolitionist dreams, slave holding intentions, and racial prejudice. In spite of this, a unit was raised to help in the defence of the colony and was one of the most reliable militia units in the entire Upper Canadian defence force, though struggled to get its proper recognition in the aftermath.
In 1991 controversy erupted over the epic Bryan Adams album “Waking up the Neighbours.” The controversy surrounded the issue of whether the album qualified as ‘Canadian,’ despite the fact that Bryan Adams was and is Canadian. The controversy shook the Canadian music scene to its core and challenged ideas of Canadian content and the Canadian music industry as a whole.
Leo Major was a scrappy French Canadian kid who served in both northwest Europe and Korea. His story is nothing short of extraordinary.
Starting in February 1945 First Canadian Army took part in a series of operations that would bust open the door to Nazi Germany and signal the beginning of the end for Hitler’s regime. This episode is written by friend-of-the-podcast Alex Fitzgerald-Black of the Juno Beach Centre and host of the popular Canadian WW2 podcast, Juno Beach and Beyond.
In the early 1930s the Arctic became the scene of a desperate manhunt for a violent trapper willing to go to any lengths to avoid the law. A trapper whom nobody knew…and whom nobody still knows.
Women have been a part of hockey for as long as this country has embraced it as a national identifier, yet only recently has their contribution to the game been recognized in the hockey hall of fame. This week’s episode talks about the history of women in the game and the Canadian women that have made it into the esteemed hall.
Friends of Cool Canadian History have just released their own Canadian history podcast focusing on the political and diplomatic history of this country. Check out the preview for this awesome podcast here!
Ada Annie Jordan was a young mother with a successful business, a growing family and a popular place within early 20th century Vancouver’s emerging elite society. Yet, she threw almost all of it away when she moved her family to a remote bay on Vancouver Island and instead of living a life of relative luxury she became a legend.
In December of 1943 Canadian soldiers became bogged down in a vicious street battle for the small town of Ortona on Italy’s east coast. A battle so ferocious and in such close quarters that it earned the nickname ‘Little Stalingrad.’
In 1917 Canadian soldiers were engaged heavily on the western front yet volunteer numbers had fallen below that of the monthly casualty rates. Prime Minister Robert Borden thus carried out one of the most controversial political campaigns in Canadian history in order to win the 1917 federal election and ensure that conscription was passed.
Two almost totally uninhabited American islands off the coast of Alaska are occupied by the Japanese in 1942. In response, an unprecedented joint American-Canadian operation is launched to liberate those islands. This ‘Zombie’ liberation will focus specifically on the island of Kiska.
A deeply troubled regiment with deeply troubled soldiers leads to a deeply disturbing murder of a teenage boy in Somalia.
While Leon Trotsky is largely known as a central figure in the Russian Revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union, a brief chapter in his life took him to Amherst, Nova Scotia as part of a British attempt to prevent the radical from returning to war-time Russia. Thus, Trotsky found himself a VIP guest of the British Empire, the Canadian state and the province of Nova Scotia.
Two of the 19th century’s most prominent leaders of the plains First Nations evolve from enemies into friends while faced with grave threats to their people and their way of life, both are thus forced to make hard choices in the tumultuous violent period of the late 19th century.
In the early 18th century Maria Lindsay Cobham, her husband, and her crew of misfits prowled the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Cabot Strait, preying on unsuspecting merchant vessels. One of the few pirates to operate in the North Atlantic, Maria not only became captain of her crew but cemented herself in maritime legend as the Pirate Queen of Canada.
In the autumn of 1993 Canadian soldiers, attempting to stop ethnic cleansing in the Medak Pocket, found themselves in an over-night firefight against a surprising enemy while attempting to keep the peace in the middle of a chaotic war zone.
On this day, 6 June 2019, the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we at CCH give you a special bonus episode narrated by Alex Fitzgerald-Black of the Juno Beach Centre that includes testimonies and eye-witness accounts from the young soldiers that participated in the Canadian action at D-Day. We want to thank Alex and the podcast team from ‘Juno Beach and Beyond’ for sharing this incredible eye-witness account with us. Enjoy!
Alex-Fitzgerald Black of the Juno Beach Centre joins us today to talk about everything D-Day. 75 years ago today the western Allies were preparing to launch the largest combined-arms operation in the history of the world. An operation that would seek to liberate Western Europe from the grip of Nazi tyranny and help bring about an end to the Second World War. Canada was strongly represented at this momentous occasion and Alex will go into detail about our understanding of this watershed moment in modern history.
The First World War led to dramatic changes within the Canadian state, perhaps none more so than Canada’s changing role within the British Empire. This change occurred during the 1920s and 1930s where Canada went from colony-nation of the British Empire to equal nation within the British Commonwealth.
The Chatham Coloured All-Stars were an all-black baseball team from southern Ontario who broke the colour barrier for baseball in Canada.
This episode explores the various roles women played in New France in support of the fur trade and in turn helping the very colony of New France survive. Roles that were in stark contrast to gender expectations in the old world.
Sitting Bull was a legendary Native American chief who spent much of his life leading a resistance against American expansion into Indigenous territory. After the famous battle of the Little Big Horn Sitting Bull wound up in Canada fleeing the wrath of the American government setting off a politically complicated and ultimately short-lived attempt at asylum.
Intense fear of what Asian immigration might do to a predominately white British Columbia sparked off a violent riot in the streets of Vancouver in 1907. A riot that had reverberations around the globe.
Thérèse Casgrain was one of Canada’s most prolific and powerful activists. A woman born into means, she spent her life advocating for the rights of women and challenging the patriarchal status quo.
In the mid 20th century concerns over immigration and the changing ethnic make-up of Canadian society sparked a decades-long program of eugenics in Alberta, supported by many of Alberta’s academic, intellectual and progressive elites.
The residential school system was designed to eradicate Indigenous culture and replace it with an Anglo-European Christian one. In this attempt at cultural destruction the residential schools became a system for shocking abuse. The reverberations of which are felt strongly to the present day.
Montreal-born Leonard Cohen’s prolific career included iconic music, poetry and literature creating an enduring global legacy. This episode is dedicated to Gail from Montreal, RIP.
An Irish Nationalist turned Canadian patriot turned Father of Confederation. Thomas D’Arcy McGee was all of that when he was assassinated in 1868.
James Doohan played one of the most iconic engineers in the history of science fiction and helped shape Star Trek into the cultural mega-force it is today.
The First World War was a complex and dramatic period in Canadian history which saw the Canadian military perform in such a way that earned it an almost unpredictable reputation while the war on the domestic front saw Canada mobilize the nation in a way that created incredible growth and incredible challenges.
Montreal native William Shatner became one of the most iconic science fiction actors in history, this two part series opens with an examination of Shatner’s early life and his time in Star Trek while part two will look at fellow Canadian James Doohan who played the iconic engineer Scotty. Both episodes were written by Star Trek aficionado and host of the popular Star Trek podcast Subspace Transmissions, Cameron Smith.
Charlotte Edith Anderson was a combat nurse and pioneer for women and First Nations during a time when both groups struggled for equality.
The death of a pig on an obscure island in the Pacific Northwest caused an international crisis in 1859 that nearly led to war between the most powerful empire on earth and the rising industrial North American power.
The 100 Days Campaign brought about the collapse of the German army on the Western Front and was a key contributor the end of the First World War. This campaign saw the Canadian Corps spearhead a number of brutal battles as the trench deadlock of the western front was finally broken and open warfare began to return to the fields of France and Belgium. However, the Canadian Corps would pay a staggering price for their success.
On August 8, 1918 the Entente forces, spearheaded by the Canadian and Australian Corps, inflicted a crushing defeat on the German army: a defeat that broke the back of the German army along the western front and signalled the beginning of the end to First World War.
In 1972 the first ever “Team Canada” met the Soviet Union’s “Red Army” hockey team in an 8 game series that was played out against the backdrop of Cold War tensions as well as challenges to Canada’s position as the hockey superpower. These challenges to Canada’s domination of a single sport in turn threatened many aspects of Canadian identity during this tumultuous period in both the nation’s and the world’s history and proved to be one of the most important sporting moments in the history of Canada.
In the summer of 1812 Britain and the United States of America went to war…British North America became the battleground. This week we try to sort out who might of won…if anyone did…
Whale hunters, shipwrecks, ghost stories: this is the history of a stretch of ocean on the west coast of Vancouver Island known infamously as the ‘graveyard of the pacific’
During the Second World War Camp X in southern Ontario played a crucial role in the global shadow war that was being fought, saw some of the world’s most famous spies walk through its doors, and would be the inspiration for the training and establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Chloe Cooley was a slave in Upper Canada who sought to resist her owner’s attempts to sell her. This resistance triggered serious efforts to curb and eliminate slavery in Canada.
James Howlett is a Canadian born mutant who has evolved into one of the most famous superhero’s in the world, while participating in some of Canada’s most important events of the 20th century. This is his story.
In 1701 a collection of some of the most powerful Iroquois nations met in Montreal to agree to peace with the French after decades of continual warfare. One of the most important peace treaties in North American history.
In 1838 Finnish born Nils Gustav Von Schoultz found himself leading an invasion of Upper Canada that culminated in the final battle at Windmill Point. The battle would mark the end of the rebellion and the end of Schoultz’s life.
In the mid 19th century several efforts were made to bring middle class, working class, and poor white British women to the two British colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia in order to increase the numbers of marriageable women within the colonies. These became known as the bride ships of B.C.
Francis ‘Peggy’ Pegahmagabow was a Nishnaabe soldier serving in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was a deadly sniper, excellent scout, and brave soldier, recipient of the Military Medal plus two bars. After the war he became a leading Nishnaabe activist challenging the Canadian governments continued marginalization of Canada’s First Nations.
When Canada went to war against the Central Powers in 1914 many First Nations men sought to enlist. While unofficially excluded at first, the high casualty rates suffered by the CEF forced the government to change its position. Thousands would serve with distinction for a country that had spent decades pushing them to the margins of Canadian society.
When Canada went to war with the Central Powers in 1914 all of a sudden tens of thousands of Ukrainians who had come to Canada from the Austro-Hungarian Empire were deemed enemy aliens. Of these, several thousand were interned under the War Measures Act and forced to live in detention camps while performing manual labour.
In 1919 a contingent of Canadian soldiers was sent to the frozen lands of Siberia as part of a coalition of nations seeking to topple the Bolsheviks from power.
During the Second World War every aspect of Canadian society became geared towards the war effort. This even included one of the newest cultural mediums, comic books.
In the second decade of the 19th century the Hudsons Bay Company and the Northwest Company squared off for control of the lucrative fur trade. Things got very violent.
Mona Parsons was a small town Nova Scotia girl, turned New York actress, turned member of the Dutch resistance, turned prisoner of the Nazi’s. This is her story.
In late October of 1917 the Canadian Corps was tasked with capturing a ridge line which contained the destroyed remnants of the village of Passchendaele. Though part of the larger offensive known as the Third Battle of Ypres, it is the name Passchendaele which now evokes all the horrors of the First World War.
In the wake of the sad news of the passing of Gord Downie, frontman for legendary Canadian band The Tragically Hip, I thought I would re-release an episode from Season 2 with a bit of a foreword. RIP Gord.
In 1926 the new Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King faced off against Canadian Governor General Lord Byng of Vimy in a political clash that would have significant ramifications for the British Empire.
The Fenian Brotherhood was a paramilitary Irish nationalist group that attempted several invasions of British North American/Canadian territory during the 1860s and early 1870s. These invasions would play a key part in motivating the various British colonies of BNA to form the Canadian confederation.
The Last of the Mohicans is a 1992 film that tells the story of the last of a proud Indigenous people as they struggle to survive in the chaos of the Seven Years War. The film’s plot takes place against the backdrop of events that were significant to Canadian pre-confederation history and to the political shaping of the North American continent.
100 years ago today, August 15 1917, the Canadian Corps commanded by their newly appointed corps commander Arthur Currie were ordered to capture the city of Lens in support of the larger British offensive known as the Third Battle of Ypres. Currie changed the plans to focus on the slopes of Hill 70 and what ensued was a textbook ‘bite and hold’ operation.
The story of 150 Canadian years in less than 30 minutes. Buckle up!
In July of 1943 First Canadian Division faced one of their toughest challenges in all of Sicily when they were ordered to capture the heights of Assoro.
The Verendrye family was one of New France’s most famous explorer families of the 18th century, carving out a European presence in vast territories that were previously untouched by European feet. They were crucial in helping to open up modern day Manitoba and Saskatchewan to European exploration and settlement.
In December of 1917 two ships collided in the Halifax harbour setting off the largest man-made non-nuclear explosion the world had ever seen.
Though Vimy Ridge was one of the more spectacular tactical successes of the First World War, strategically it did very little. Why then has it become such a well-known event in the Canadian historical consciousness? We look at some of those reasons.
On April 9 1917 the Canadian Corps launched its attack on what was thought to be one of the most difficult objectives to capture along the entire Western Front. The ensuing victory would cement the battle of Vimy Ridge as one of the most well known events in the history of this country. Part 1 examines the battle. Part 2 later this month will examine the battle as part of Canadian myth and identity.
In the summer of 1914 a ship packed full of immigrants from India was denied the right to dock in Vancouver setting off an international incident and one of Canada’s most infamous displays of anti-immigration.
In October of 1924, Peter “Lordly” Verigin, the leader of the Doukhobor community of British Columbia, was killed in a mysterious train explosion. The case remains unsolved to this day.
William K. Lore was not just a wartime hero but he broke down racial barriers in the Royal Canadian Navy
Canada’s first official participation in the land war of WW2 began ominously with the disaster at Hong Kong.
In October of 1970 the Canadian government faces off against the FLQ, Canada’s most notorious terrorist organization
A musical history of one of Canada’s greatest rock bands
In 1970 the Vancouver Women’s Caucus planned a trip to Ottawa to protest the state’s abortion legislation, little did they know they would become key targets for the RCMP’s Security Service
During the War of 1812 a significant part of Canada’s defence plans rested on the militia. Yet, could this militia be trusted to show up?
Several centuries before Christopher Columbus supposedly discovered the New World, the Norse had already carved out a space for themselves in what would become Newfoundland.
In 1885 an alliance of Metis and First Nations rebel against the Canadian government seeking to incorporate what would become the province of Saskatchewan. The rebels (or heroes to some) are forced into a final last stand at Batoche in May.
Joseph Brant is one of the most influential First Nations leaders in North American history. A staunch advocate for First Nations rights and a committed British ally, he was a warrior, a diplomat, a politician and a social activist.
The same war correspondent that observed the relief of Castle Itter (S2E1) is also the first leader of Quebec’s movement for sovereignty and a man who helped reshape the relationship between the Canadian federal government and the provinces.
In the closing days of the Second World War, American, German, Austrian and a smattering of multi-national prisoners of war (plus a special Canadian thrown in there for good measure) defend Castle Itter against SS soldiers bent on destruction