World War I

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Identify three significant World War I events for Canada and Canadians.

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Three historically significant events for Canada during World War I include the creation of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and the Treaty of Versaille. The creation of the No. 2 Construction Battalion was significant as it was the first established black military unit in Canada, while the Battle of Vimy Ridge showed the country's true military strength. The Treaty of Versaille gave the country more recognition as an independent nation.

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The First World War had a profound impact on Canada. Choosing only three events to focus on necessarily leaves some out. That being said, you can consider the three below.

The formation of the No. 2 Construction Battalion (July 5, 1916): this was the first sizable black military unit in Canadian history. Prior to this, black Canadians were discouraged from enlisting, despite the fact that many were eager to do so. This marks one of the more significant events in inclusion in the Canadian military. Although there was also resistance towards it, several thousand indigenous Canadians also served in the military. Most minorities served in segregated units and did not participate in combat. However, this marks the beginning of a more inclusive nation. By sending uniformed Canadians of different races abroad to serve king and country, others could see aspects of the racial makeup and state of discrimination as it was in Canada.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge (April 9, 1917): after many failed attempts by British and French forces to take this strategic hill, Canadian forces successfully overcame enemy barriers to win the day. This battle was a huge Canadian effort. It was the first time that all four Canadian divisions fought together. Soldiers from all parts of Canada took part. By succeeding where the armies of empires had failed, Canadian forces made a name for themselves. They were no longer seen as mere colonials, but as true allies on par with the mother country. Some Canadians even refer to this as the moment their nation was born.

Treaty of Versaille (1919): although Canada was not one of the major players in this treaty, it did mark new recognition in the country's status as an independent nation. Canadians were not after any major concessions from Germany. However, the country used this international convention as a way to represent itself as a separate entity from Great Britain. Sir Robert Borden advocated that Canada be given the same status at the treaty as other small nations, such as Belgium. In the end, Canada was given two seats at the treaty as a member of the British Empire. In a play to strengthen the image of Canadian sovereignty, Borden insisted that Canada be permitted to sign the treaty separately from Great Britain. A compromise was made in which Canadian representatives signed underneath those of the British along with other members of the British dominion. However, this status as a semi-independent signatory led to further international recognition of Canada, which was able to become a member of the newly formed League of Nations.

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