Home Front in Focus

Documentary series explores impacts within Canada of the world wars.

Written by Canada’s History

Posted April 30, 2019

Ask someone about a site of Canadian world war heritage, and they will typically refer to Vimy Ridge, Juno Beach, or other significant battlefields overseas. A professor at Royal Roads University in Victoria is helping to change that perspective through the War Heritage Research Initiative, which focuses on Canadian sites.

In 2015, associate professor Geoffrey Bird initiated the project, funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage and Royal Roads University. He has written, directed, and produced twenty-seven vignettes in English, with French subtitles, for the documentary series War Memories across Canada.

Each story relates a different impact the world wars have had on people, communities, and the nation. Many places featured in the documentary series are formally acknowledged as having a heritage directly related to war, but other sites only reveal their stories with the aid of local storytellers, whom Bird describes as “guardians of remembrance.”

This spring, four more documentaries were added to the series. One vignette explores the role of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Canada; another focuses on Fort Lennox National Historic Site and the internment of Jewish refugees during the Second World War; and a third looks at the meaning and politics of war memorials. The fourth — and perhaps most notable — vignette is about Canada’s involvement in making the atomic bomb and the impact on the Dene people of the Northwest Territories.

Bird said that by producing these stories he hopes to inspire Canadians to visit sites of war memories locally as well as overseas. The four new vignettes will be shown in a few locations across Canada before being posted on the War Heritage website.

To learn about hosting a public showing, email Bird at warheritage@royalroads.ca.

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This article originally appeared in the June-July 2019 issue of Canada’s History.

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