Archive for the ‘Canadian History’ Category

I Now Remember

May 13, 2009

Yesterday I caught an enlightening documentary on the Canadian/British/American/Polish invasion of Italy, focusing specifically on the Canadian effort. I knew some bits and pieces about that part of World War II but was foggy on the details.  It made me realize that most of what I know about that war, or at least what I remember, relates to the events after D-Day in Normandy.  Thanks to the National Film Board I am able to bring you this wonderful documentary on Canada’s part in the war prior to June 6, 1944.  Some of the events are more well known, such as Dieppe, the Battle of Britain, and the North Atlantic convoys.  Yet I still think many of us forget that a lot of fighting took place before the final push from the beaches of France to the gates of Berlin. Long before the boats came ashore at Juno Beach, brave Canadian soldiers were fighting and dying among the remnants of the Roman Empire. Be warned, the following video is close to 1 hour long, but if you have the time, it’s well worth watching.  You can also see Part II and Part III of the big documentary on the NFB site.

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The Whole Wide World

May 2, 2009

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Yet another delicious National Film Board archive piece for you.  I have exactly 1 Expo ’67 story, and it isn’t exactly mine since I wasn’t alive.  My mother attended the Expo with her grade 8 class, and I’m sure she was very excited to check out this amazing event. Unfortunately, she collapsed at the front gates and spent the entire trip in a Montreal Hospital.  Her doctors and nurses only spoke French, so they could not explain to her what was wrong (I’m not sure if they even knew).  So you and I have now seen more of Expo ’67 than my mom, who was there.

The World’s Fair movement continues to this day, but many argue that Expo ’67 was the Zenith.  This remarkable effort in Canada’s centennial year exceeded all expectations. Over 50 million people visited Montreal that summer including a record 590 000 in one day.  It is even more remarkable that many observers at the time believed the Expo was unfeasible.  Instead people from around the world were treated to a marvelous experience.

This film captures much of the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of the Expo.  It is a cultural milestone for Canada that may never be matched. The film itself lacks narration, which is fine for this kind of documentary/commercial.  The images speak for themselves.

If You’ve Got A Dream Like Mine

February 21, 2009

In this great land is one of the best rivers in the world. The beauty of the countryside cannot be overpraised, for the fertility of the soil, the extent of the forests, and the opportunities for hunting and fishing in abundance. All these things hold out their arms to you.

Samuel de Champlain

quoted in Dreams of a Land

Directed by Robert Doucet
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I have once again chosen to embed a short video for your enjoyment. This National Film Board documentary about Samuel de Champlain is both informative and creative. The story is told quickly, with an emphasis on Champlain’s dreams, ambitions, and struggles. The animation, which resembles crayon sketches, stirs the imagination and refuses to fill in all of the blanks. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the story is Champlain’s willingness first to travel back and forth to France for supplies each year to support his search for the Pacific Ocean, and second his desire to stay in Canada even after many of his men had died, and the “Great Sea” turned out to just be another freshwater lake. Here was a man who fell in love with this land, as the quote above demonstrates. As someone who has always loved history, particularly from the period of exploration, I find stories like Champlain’s to be both exciting and nightmarish. I can’t fathom watching my colleagues die from scurvy in the dead of a seemingly endless winter because our food has run out or frozen. I can’t imagine the punishing portages over difficult terrain, and the immense disappointment at failing to find a passage to India. But I can fall in love with the spirit of adventure, perserverance, courage, and self sacrafice that drew men like Champlain to cross the Atlantic in the first place, and to set up settlements in unforgiving climates, when life in France might have been more comfortable. No doubt the native peoples played an important part in ensuring the survival of colonists, and I certainly wish they had been treated better. As winter refuses to leave on a cold February day, I think it’s important to remember all those Native, French, British, or Dutch who endured the winters for centuries both out of necessity, and a love for this land.