Canada and the First World War

The world braced for change at the turn of the twentieth century. Centuries of European imperialism and rivalries would clash like never before and the death toll would be devastating. Canada emerged from the shadows of its colonial past as a powerful ally and player in the 20th century. Canada’s equal part triumphs and tragedies in WWI gave it a seat at the table alongside the world’s emerging superpowers in the League of Nations, later becoming the United Nations, and then signing the Treaty of Versailles.

The aim of these 5 units (LES) is to allow secondary cycle two students to have a greater understanding and appreciation for Canada’s role in World War I and the contributions of individual Canadians. Using material primarily from The Royal Montreal Regiment, a bilingual fighting unit formed for the First World War, students will research, analyze, create and present their findings to their peers in the form of timelines, posters, soldier profiles, letters, poems, videos and personal reflections in both print and digital formats.

Students will be able to situate and analyze points in history that transformed Canada leading to economic, cultural and political transformations at both the local, national and international levels.

Students will be able to have a greater understanding and appreciation for Montreal’s, Quebec’s and Canada’s role in WWI as well as the individual contributions of Canadian civilians.

Students will develop and reflect upon the importance of their citizenship skills, as specified in the Quebec Education Program (QEP) while honing the following cross curricular competencies:

  • Uses information
  • Exercises critical judgement
  • Uses creativity
  • Adopts effective work methods
  • Uses information and communications technologies
  • Achieves his or her potential
  • Cooperates with others
  • Communicates appropriately

Students will develop their knowledge of the 2017 History and Citizenship Education program through the competencies prescribed by the program (QEP):

  • Characterizes a period in the history of Quebec and Canada
  • Interprets a social phenomenon

Teacher guide & student guide include detailed lesson plans, evaluation situations and rubrics.

Who is The Royal Montreal Regiment?


The Royal Montreal Regiment (RMR) is in a unique position to properly tell the story of Canada fighting the First World War, as its members were drawn from all corners of the country, with the nucleus being formed from Canada’s economic, cultural, and social capital in 1914: Montreal.

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Created in 1914 to serve in the First World War by bringing together soldiers predominantly from three leading Montreal Militia units: two English and one French. As unremarkable as it seems now, it was a radical idea in 1914 and one that proved exceptionally successful: The RMR won more than 20 battle honours between 1914-18, participating in every major engagement that the Canadians undertook, from standing firm during the first poison gas attacks in Ypres, to enduring the slaughters of the Somme and Passchendaele, to the tremendous victories of Vimy, Amiens, etc. From the beginning, by its union of French and English, the RMR helped to promote Canadian esprit de corps; the “two solitudes” united: fighting and dying side-by-side continuously for 42 months.

Tremendous sacrifice was endured to earn the WWI victories: the RMR left 1,192 dead in the fields of France & Flanders by the time it crossed into Germany as the lead of the entire Canadian Corps in 1918, and proudly became the first regiment of the British Empire to ever be awarded its Colours on conquered soil (a feat it would repeat at the end of WW2). French and English Canadians fought shoulder to shoulder in the RMR, the only such unit of its kind at the time. The RMR was the first unit in the Canadian Forces, Regular or Reserve, to be deemed officially bilingual and today more than 20 mother tongues are spoken in the ranks of the Regiment, reflecting the very Canadian diversity that makes us stronger.

The story of the RMR in the First World War is that of humble everyday people who rise to the challenges in foreign lands and at home – turning ordinary citizens into our Country’s extraordinary heroes.

Royal Montreal Regiment Website

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UNIT 1:  Life in Canada, preparing for War

What did the world look like at the beginning of the 20th century? What caused WWI? How did Montreal and Canada prepare for the War? What was the involvement of The Royal Montreal Regiment? These questions will be addressed in this first unit through historical timelines, archival and print documents  and also to discover the logistics of recruitment and deployment of over 30,000 men. A visit to The Royal Montreal Regiment (RMR) Museum will enable students to view primary documents and museum artifacts in order to enhance their understanding of the onset of the War and Canada’s role.

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UNIT 2: Follow Canada Last 100 Days

Canada’s role in WWI became strategic and pivotal in winning the War. Canada’s and the RMR’s role as shock troops (the name comes from the literal translation of the German word Stoßtrupp and is used to describe highly mobile troops sent as reinforcement to critical battle points to provide a quick and strong attack) in the “Last 100 Days”, the evolution of warfare and acts of valance by “ordinary” Canadians led to Armistice on November 11, 1918, albeit at the devastating cost of thousands of lives.

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UNIT 3: Cost of Victory

In the previous unit, students learned about Canadians’ great sacrifices and cost of victories. Canadians proved their valour and earned a reputation towards the end of WWI for their contributions to the Allies’ fight in achieving victory. Most notable were their warfare tactics, innovation, victories and leadership qualities on the battlefields. The Canadian Corps, 1st Division and The Royal Montreal Regiment (RMR) played pivotal roles albeit the cost of war came with great human sacrifice. Men wrote of their personal experiences through letters and their journals, detailing their joy and sorrow caused by the War.

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UNIT 4: The Road Home

When the War ended in the fall of 1918, Canada emerged from the shadows of Britain as a world-class fighting unit whose military tactics were critical in the defeat of the Germans. For a brief period Canadians occupied Germany then were eager to return to Canada and resume their civilian lives. The return of thousands of Canadians was a challenge met with considerable delays and even tragedy. How did Canada prepare for the return of its army? What did it lack? What was the return to modern life like for soldiers? What role did the RMR play in the lives of its men and community? These questions will be addressed in this unit.

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UNIT 5: Reintegration: Home, Work and Society- Life in Canada

Canada emerged from WWI with the scars of battle embedded on the surface of society creating profound social and political changes, effectively defining Canadian values and its role on the world stage. Although the physical wounds of battle heal with time, the profound psychological and emotional ones scarred many of those who gave their lives for King and country, with consequences for generations to come.

We also have complementary activities on the First World war.

Our hands-on workshops are sure to make a memorable impression on your students!