Magazine article Teach

Who Are We? (Part 4) [1939-1945]

Magazine article Teach

Who Are We? (Part 4) [1939-1945]

Article excerpt

Never before and never since has Canada worked so well together, like separate components of a well-oiled machine assembled for the task at hand. Society was transformed. Industrial output was almost miraculous. There was a sense of working toward a higher purpose, and the efforts of those at home and abroad were enacted selflessly.

There is a tendency, however, to romanticize the war years. To think dreamily of men in uniform, the dangers faced, the heroism, the moodiness of the music and style of the clothes, to think of ourselves as having a kind of purity and nobility of purpose. Where everyone seemed so young.

Wars and war time should never be taken lightly. Never be interpreted as having no consequence because the essence of war is brutal and ugly. No matter the purpose or the reason for calling, killing on a mass scale is never glorious. Only tragic for the pain and torment it inflicts on the warriors and their families for generations to come. It is incumbent upon us, as succeeding generations, to honour all those who made a sacrifice to ensure our safety. They deserve our greatest respect and admiration. But the underlying reasons for waging war are never honourable, only bloody in their ultimate consequence. It is for all these reasons that we reinforce the phrase, "Lest We Forget".

The Second World War was a global conflict affecting millions of people. It was executed on a grand scale across continents and spanning oceans. Viewing it as such can diffuse the relevance, make it distant. And for students, most of whom are furthest removed, this difficulty may be amplified. To help students understand and reinforce the relevance of the War years, this teaching unit explores how a single family might be affected. The family itself can be of your or your students' choosing and/or make-up. But that perspective must be brought to bear to look at a time some 59 years ago when the Second World War began. To make it personal. To examine individual feelings and situations and further, explore the history of one's own family and how that family was affected.

In 1994-5, TEACH Magazine participated in the Canada Remembers Program that was initiated by Veterans Affairs Canada. During that period, 4 poster/inserts exploring the war years were produced in English and French and a ninth bilingual poster was also produced. The four poster/inserts were: Canada 1939: A snapshot of Canada on the brink of war; Canada's Contribution Overseas; The Home Front; and, A Nation Coming of Age. We will be drawing on some of that material for this project. Here, the focus will be more tightly defined than in the posters. Overall, some 220,000 posters were distributed to classrooms across the country and inquiries still come in on a regular basis. Please see the Resources section for other materials produced under the Canada Remembers program.


Students will:

1 Understand how individual families were affected by the war.

2 Recognize the contribution of Canadians at home and abroad.

3 Explore the changes that took place in Canadian society and why those changes occurred.

4 Appreciate the legacy left to us by those who participated in the war effort.

5 Recognize the values and beliefs that saw Canadians through the war and how those values and beliefs are still put into practice today.

6 Think critically and work in teams.

7 Appreciate who they are and what they have as a result of the efforts of those during the war years.


Begin with a discussion about family and family history. Some members of the class may have a family history which only goes back to the Second World War. Families that were victims of the Holocaust, for example. Others may have a history that goes back many generations in Canada. Still others are likely to be very recent immigrants with a short history here but a longer history elsewhere. …

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