Why WW1 Was the Most Important War in Canadian History

February 26, 2018

On Sunday, June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was shot and killed by a Serbian nationalist during a visit to Sarajevo in Bosnia. Convinced that the Serbian government was involved in the plot, Austro-Hungary, supported by Germany, declared war on Serbia. France, Britain, Russia, and Serbia were at war with Austro-Hungary and Germany. Since Great Britain was at war and Canada was part of the British empire, Canada was at war too. From August 1 1914 to November 11 1918, the two sides fought fiercely. There were over 17 million deaths and 20 million wounded, ranking it among the deadliest conflict in human history. The war ended with Germany surrendering and all the countries signing the Treaty of Versailles. Most historians think that this was a European-based war, but Canada played an important role because a lot of Canadians fought in the war, it changed Canada’s economy greatly, and it shaped the Canadian identity in a way which would leave it forever changed.


First of all, a lot of Canadians fought in the war. About 619,000 Canadians had enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force for service overseas. This was an enormous contribution from a population of just under 8 million in 1914. Approximately seven percent of the total population of Canada was in uniform at some point during the war, and hundreds of thousands of additional Canadians worked on the home front in support of the war. So that means that about one-twelfth of all Canadians left Canada to fight in Europe and thousands of others helped from Canada in some way. First Nations supported too; approximately one third of First Nation people in Canada from age 18 to 45 enlisted during the war,which were about 34,600 people. This excludes the 4000 non-status Indians, Métis, and Inuits who also volunteered in the war. Even though Canada had a small population, a lot of people sacrificed their lives or were seriously injured. It indicates a huge contribution from Canadians.


Secondly, Canada's economy changed immensely because of the First World War. There were negative sides and positive sides to the economy during the event. Canada's economy plummeted when the government had to spend on military equipment, food for soldiers, and hiring workers to make up for soldiers who used to work. The Canadian government had to borrow money from it's own citizens and other countries by introducing victory bonds, making debt larger than it was before the war. Canada's debt after the war was almost two billion dollars. Rochert Borden, the Prime Minister at that time, introduced Canada's first income tax in order to pay debts and cover the cost of the war. Though Canada was struggling with it's financial crisis, the increased economy during the war had a balancing effect as most men were at the front fighting the Central Powers so there were few available male employees. This gave the women an opportunity to work and show how worthy women actually were. Profits in large companies also increased because of high demand for food and raw materials such as lumber, coal, and ore. These changes in Canada's economy in the First World War determined Canada's economy today because they established a more complex structure for economic growth.

Last, but certainly not least, the first World War shaped the Canadian identity because of what Canadians did during the War. There were many things that helped develop Canada’s identity, but the most notable event that affected Canadians during the first world war was the battle of Vimy Ridge. Vimy Ridge was the prime moment in Canadian history.Canada’s identity was shown at the battle of Vimy Ridge because Canadians did what Britain and the rest of the allies couldn’t, they took Vimy Ridge. It showed that the people of Canada were resilient at home and overseas and that they were a strong nation. The war also showed how much military power Canada had. The first World War also demonstrated that Canada would help when others needed it and that they were an effective fighting force that would reach objectives and go beyond what they were asked to do. Canadians would do whatever it took to help their mother country, showing how loyal they were to Britain because they didn’t hesitate when Britain called on them. So the First World War shaped Canada’s identity because Canada’s contributions in it helped Canada become an independent nation. In other words, the first world war helped Canada’s identity because it showed that Canada was an independent country, later allowing Canada to go from an underdog to a middle power.


Canada was never the same after the First World War. It gave women an opportunity to show men how worthy they actually were; changed Canada’s economy and gave us a better understanding about how hard it is to manage it, caused a lot of deaths, injuries, and impacted all of Canada for 5 years, and much more. The first world war helped Canada’s identity because it showed that we were an independent nation, later allowing Canada to go become a middle power like everyone else. It also helped built relationships with other countries and gave Canada a better image and help them to become more independent as a nation. Without the first World War, Canada would not be the great, free, independent nation it is today.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Tupetherapeper said...
today at 4:33 pm
I didn’t know kids could write this good. Very proud.
KSca said...
today at 4:29 pm
This article really changed my point of view of what WW1 did for Canadian history.
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