CM April 5, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 25

Canada Remembers:


Vol. 1
Turning the Tide:
1939 to D-Day.


Vol. 2
The Liberators:
D-Day to the Rhine.


Vol. 3
Endings and Beginnings:

National Film Board of Canada, 1995.
3 hours (two 1/2 hour segments per volume), VHS, $49.95.
ISBN: 0-7722-064-2.

Subject Headings:
World War, 1939-1945-Canada.
World War, 1939-1945-Personal narratives, Canadian.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Ian Stewart.


Canada Remembers is not a controversial documentary work. It stays well away from the morally questionable or otherwise flawed strategy of allied military planners. The devious political policy makers of Ottawa, Washington, London, and Moscow do not rate a mention. This film is about something more important than battles, politics, and economic policies. Canada Remembers concerns itself with the will, the worth, the adaptability, and the humanity of a nation's people.

With Canada Remembers, the National Film Board of Canada, in association with Veterans Affairs Canada, has produced a magnificent and moving tribute to the ordinary Canadian's contribution to the defeat of Nazi evil and to the building of a nation.

"We believed," said Farley Mowat, a young lieutenant in 1939, "that beyond all the propaganda there was a virulent evil to be stopped and we devoted ourselves to that cause." Canada's armed forces and those who "kept the home fires burning" recreated the nation through their incredible national effort.


Through the use of archival films and photographs, and first-person recollections of Canada's male and female veterans, merchant seamen, nurses, factory workers, farmers, and those who were children, the film's creators aim to connect young Canadians with the meaning World War II had, and continues to have, to a generation that will soon pass into history.


The volumes run chronologically through the six war years. Volume 1, Turning the Tide: 1939 to D-Day begins the story of Canada's transformation from a depressed rural nation to a modern, urban society with an industrial economy. It portrays those Canadians who fought and died in the Battle of Britain, and in battles in the North Atlantic, in Sicily, in Asia, and at Dieppe, and on convoy duty. Volume 2, The Liberators: D-Day to the Rhine continues the story of Canada's soldiers battling their way through France, Holland, and Belgium, and of the war effort at home that supported them. Volume 3, Endings and Beginnings tells the story of the war's end, and the social and economic effect the war had on the generation of men and women that lived through it. It provides a basis for further discussion on the "new" Canada of the post-war era.

Many men, whether they were farmers, small-town boys, or city-dwellers, joined the armed forces. Women's roles were transformed as they joined the auxiliary military services, learned to run the family farm, or entered the swelling industrial work force. But the films also show that Canada was not a perfect place.

The institutionalized racism of the 1940s is not ignored, nor is the overt sexual stereotyping Canadian women faced in the factory and the armed forces -- and at home, when the men returned from active duty. "Life," said a farm wife whose husband was in Europe, "ran on the radio news schedule; the safety of those overseas was always on our mind." Canada faced the grim reality of war, and war is an ugly thing. Its horrors are not glossed over in Canada Remembers. But the images of death and the veteran's emotional stories are honest and told with deserving dignity and nobility.

Canada Remembers ought to be used in schools. It is a valuable supplement to any Canadian or modern history program, and to Remembrance Day observations. The presentation of the dramatic material will hold students' interest and should produce a great deal of discussion. Each segment begins with a short review of the previous one's conclusion to aid classroom continuity. A teacher's resource guide, which includes background material, questions, and a short bibliography, is included with the collection. The bibliography is particularly well suited to high school and public library collections. The technical quality of the production is excellent.

Any social studies department or high school library that does not spend $49.95 to include Canada Remembers in its video collection does a disservice to its students and to the war-time generation.

Highly recommended.

Ian Stewart has an M.A. In history from the University of Manitoba, and has been variously employed as a bookstore manager, substitute teacher, teaching assistant, librarian, and bartender. He is currently working at a Winnipeg elementary school and the University of Winnipeg library.

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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364