National historic significance of the service and sacrifice of Canadians during the Great War recognised
Plaques unveiled to commemorate Aboriginal Military Service in the First World War, Voluntary Aid Detachments, and the Canadian War Memorials Fund
March 2, 2017 Ottawa, Ontario Parks Canada Agency
Today, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna, recognised the national historic significance of Aboriginal Military Service in the First World War, the Canadian War Memorials Fund, and Voluntary Aid Detachments. A special ceremony was held at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa with members of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.
The Government of Canada is committed to connecting Canadians to the significant events that contributed to our country’s rich and varied history. It is often said that Canada came of age during the First World War, transforming from a colony into an independent nation. Canadians of all backgrounds sacrificed and served during the Great War, including many Indigenous Canadians. Many Indigenous men and women were among the first to enlist during the First World War, serving throughout the army and with the Royal Flying Corps. As veterans, they were the active force behind the League of Indians of Canada that was established in 1919. The first organization to give a national voice to aboriginal communities.
Women, although unable to enlist, volunteered to serve their country. Voluntary Aid Detachments were organised by the Red Cross and St. John Ambulance. They provided opportunities for women to volunteer and serve as nurses’ aides, ambulance drivers, and clerical staff in convalescent homes.
Today’s visitors to the Canadian War Museum have access to hundreds of paintings, drawings, photographs, and films that were produced by Canadian artists during the First World War. This voluminous collection of art is the result of the Canadian War Memorials Fund, which supported documentation of the First World War from a Canadian perspective in film, photography, and print. It is a collection that commemorates and illustrates a pivotal period in our country’s history and today, helps ensure that current and future generations of Canadians remember how the conflict shaped our nation.
Canada’s national parks and national historic sites enable Canadians to experience their rich history and heritage in a special way and will play a big part in the celebration of Canada 150. As part of the centennial of national historic sites, Parks Canada invites Canadians to be inspired and captivated by the stories of the people and events that shaped the Canada of today.
“The service of so many helped define who we are as a people today. An entire generation of Canadians’ lives were shaped by the First World War. Aboriginal Military Service in the First World War, the Canadian War Memorials Fund, and Voluntary Aid Detachments clearly deserve to be recognized for their national historic significance. This year Canadians are celebrating the 150th anniversary of confederations of our great nation, and it is important for all of us – especially today’s generation, to learn more about the people, places, and events that have shaped our rich cultural and natural history.”
The Honourable Catherine McKenna
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada
- About one third of the Indigenous male population in Canada between the age of 18 and 45 enlisted during the war. Métis and Inuit soldiers also enlisted; however, only status Indians were officially recorded by the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
- Voluntary Aid Detachment members also put their skills to work supporting Canadians after the Halifax Explosion in 1917 and during the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918.
- Over 100 artists received funding from the Canadian War Memorials Fund, creating nearly 1000 individual works of art.
- Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding the national historic significance of places, people and events that have marked Canada’s history.
Public Relations and Communications Officer
Georgian Bay and Ontario East Field Unit
613-923-5261, extension 122
Parks Canada Agency