The Korean War

In the wake of the Second World War, the Korean Peninsula was divided into two zones along the 38th parallel, with the North occupied by the Soviet Union and the South by the United States. Soon after the election of a northern communist government in 1948, open war broke out on June 25, 1950, when North Korean troops invaded the South.

Given the situation, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution to approve sending troops to defend South Korea; a number of countries, including Canada, contributed by supplying armed forces.

The Royal 22e Regiment mortar platoon ready to fire, (left to right) Private Daniel Primeau, Private Raymond Romeo, and Private Julien Blondin, all of Montreal, Quebec.

The Royal 22e Regiment mortar platoon ready to fire, (left to right) Private Daniel Primeau, Private Raymond Romeo, and Private Julien Blondin, all of Montreal, Quebec. Source

More than 26,000 Canadian soldiers fought in the Korean War. They battled communist troops on the ground, while the Royal Canadian Navy—with eight warships—helped control the Korean coasts. The Royal Canadian Air Force did its part transporting troops and equipment. A few pilots saw combat at the controls of American fighter planes.

 Black-and-white photo of two Canadian snipers aiming at an unknown target..

Two snipers. Source

On July 27, 1953, an armistice agreement was signed at Panmunjom, bringing three years of fighting to an end.

In all, 516 Canadians lost their lives during this armed conflict. Their names are entered in The Books of Remembrance… The Korean War, exhibited at the Peace Tower in Ottawa and available online. These registers remind us of the important contribution and tremendous sacrifice of these Canadians.

The Library and Archives Canada collection contains many documents about this war, which marks the 60th anniversary of its armistice in 2013. Here are a few examples:

Part of the war diaries (War Diary, 1951) of the Commonwealth troops, including Canadian troops:

The war diary (1950–1951) of the advance party:

For more photos, visit our Flickr album.

For more information about ordering military service files, please read our blog article on this topic.

Reconnecting families through digitization

As part of Project Naming, a community engagement and photo identification project that aims to reconnect Inuit and their past, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has undertaken the digitization of a series of photographs from the Indian and Northern Affairs Collection. These albums have been the starting point of a great story regarding a family from Nunavut.

In this collection, are a number of images of the Weetaltuk family taken during the summer of 1949 on the Cape Hope Islands in Nunavut. The original captions accompanying the photographs provided basic details. Fortunately, the database records for these images are now more complete after several family members contacted LAC to provide the names of relatives and other relevant information about these pictures. Most importantly, they were able to correct the Weetaltuk surname, as well as community names that had been incorrectly recorded. From the original captions, we knew that George Weetaltuk was a community leader, a skilled hunter and an expert boat builder. His family members explained the detailed process that George followed in creating his boats, as seen in this photograph of him with his son, William, and his adopted son, Simon Aodla, constructing an 11.58 metre (38-foot) boat.

Another record that the Weetaltuk family was able to correct was this group photograph taken in front of a log cabin. The caption states that this picture was taken on Cape Hope Islands. We now know that the picture was probably taken on nearby Charlton Island, James Bay, where for many years, George and his family resided while he was employed seasonally by the Hudson’s Bay Company. In addition to this information, the family was also able to identify five of the people in the photograph, and provide genealogical connections.

Weetaltuk family photograph. Back row: Adla (far left), married to William, George’s oldest son (2nd from left),  George Weetaltuk (centre) and his first wife, Ugugak (4th from left). Front row: George’s sons Alaku (far left) and Tommy (sitting on the ground). (PA-099605)

Weetaltuk family photograph. Back row: Adla (far left), married to William, George’s oldest son (2nd from left), George Weetaltuk (centre) and his first wife, Ugugak (4th from left). Front row: George’s sons Alaku (far left) and Tommy (sitting on the ground). (PA-099605) Source

In addition, another of George’s sons, Edward, was a member of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. He was the first Canadian Inuk to serve in military combat with the Canadian Army during the Korean War. Following his 15 years of service, he began writing his life story. According to a news article, Edward (Eddy) Weetaltuk “wanted to show young Inuit that education was important and that Inuit can become anything they want and even become famous, if that’s what they want.” (Nunatsiaq Online, July 16, 2009)

Although Eddy started writing E9-422: Un Inuit, de la toundra à la guerre de Corée in 1974 (in French only), it was not published until 2009 only a few days before his death.

Through these family connections and dialogue with the community, our photographic collections are constantly improved and enriched for future generations.

For more information about Project Naming, read our Blog article, published on May 9, 2013, and listen to our Project Naming and Canada’s North podcast.

The Canadian Arctic Expedition—100th anniversary

At the beginning of the 20th century the Canadian government, led by Sir Robert Borden, wanted to strengthen Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic, in response to the presence of the United States and Russia in the North. The Canadian Arctic Expedition was established by Order-in-Council 406, dated February 22, 1913, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Naval Services and other government bodies.

The expedition was comprised of two groups, each with its own objective: the Northern Party, led by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, was responsible for geographic exploration of the Arctic to ensure Canadian sovereignty in the western part, while the Southern Party, led by Dr. Rudolph M. Anderson, focused on scientific discovery.

V. Stefansson on board the Karluk.

V. Stefansson on board the Karluk. Source

Rudolph Martin Anderson.

Rudolph Martin Anderson. Source

An expedition fraught with challenge

On June 17, 1913, the expedition set sail from Esquimalt Harbour in British Columbia aboard the Karluk headed for Herschel Island in the Beaufort Sea. In August, the ship became trapped in ice and drifted for over four months, eventually sinking in Siberia. The ship’s captain, Robert Bartlett, describes the final days of the voyage in his book Northward ho! The last voyage of the Karluk. Stefansson’s decision to leave the ship on September 19, 1913, to continue his exploration occurred in a climate of crisis. Stefansson’s departure remains a source of controversy and debate among historians.

The Karluk sails near Esquimalt Harbour.

The Karluk sails near Esquimalt Harbour. Source

To find out more

The following are some of the archival documents and government reports that constitute the information resources related to this expedition.

For consultation on-site at Library and Archives Canada:

Available online from Library and Archives Canada:

Other sources:

Please note that the majority of the documents are available in English only.

For more information, be sure to visit the virtual exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Civilization: Northern People, Northern Knowledge: The story of the Canadian Arctic Expedition 1913-1918.

Visit our Flickr album for more photographs.

Home Children (Part VI)—Mary Scott Pearson, ancestor of former Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament Jim Brownell

Today’s article features Mary Scott Pearson who was born in Scotland. Mary’s name appears in the Scottish Census of 1881. The entry indicates that she lived in Glasgow with her sister Maggie and their widowed mother, also named Mary. The two sisters became orphans when their mother died in 1888. The next census (1891) indicates that the sisters lived at the Girls Industrial School in Maryhill, in the County of Lanarkshire.

The Pearson sisters were separated in September 1891 when Mary boarded the SS Hibernian en route to Canada as part of a group of 20 young women recruited to work as domestic servants. The young Scottish women’s transportation and accommodations were arranged by Ms. E. Cameron, an Industrial School official.

As in previous articles, you must first consult our main home children online resource. Enter the surname Pearson and the given name Mary into this database and it will generate only one result for Mary Pearson, age 14, whose destination was Saint John, New Brunswick. The Fairknowe foster home, administered by a charitable organization known as Quarriers, was Mary Pearson’s first place of residence in Canada.

Ten years after her arrival, according to the Census of 1901, Mary was living in Prescott, Ontario, with the family of Patrick MacMillen. She married Curtis Brownell five years later, on March 21, 1906, in Cornwall, County of Stormont. The couple’s first son, Earl Kenneth, was born in September of the following year.

Mary Scott Pearson and Curtis Brownell raised their family in Cornwall, where they lived until the time of their deaths; Curtis died in 1931 and Mary died in 1945.

Jim Brownell, son of Earl Kenneth Brownell, honours his grandmother’s arrival in Canada

Her grandson, Jim, elected Member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in 2003, travelled to Scotland in 2009 when he visited the city of Glasgow, officially representing the Government of Ontario. The articles that appeared in the Cornwall daily newspaper, the Standard Freeholder, on September 23, 2009 and May 25, 2011, describe the journey of Mary S. Pearson and her sister Maggie, and Mr. Brownell’s work to foster a better understanding of the often little-known home children movement.

In 2011, as Member of Provincial Parliament for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, Jim Brownell tabled Bill 185 in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to have September 28 proclaimed “British Home Child Day.” The purpose of the bill, which received royal assent on June 1 of that year, was to honour his grandmother and his great-aunt Maggie, as well as the more than 100,000 British home children.

Don’t forget to read the previous articles in this series on home children and listen to our podcast!

Happy hunting and enjoy your discoveries!