History students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) have created some fascinating biographical videos about Canadian veterans, for a website designed for public viewing.
Launched ahead of Remembrance Day, the “KPU Remembers” project focuses on Canadian soldiers’ experience in the First World War.
The website originally began as a class assignment, explained history instructor Dr. Chris Hyland, who is very impressed with what his students were able to create.
“The students of History 4496 were asked to locate, analyze and assess multiple original documents, such as war diaries, in order to reconstruct a Canadian soldier’s First World War experience,” Hyland told the Now-Leader. “This was not an easy assignment, as the documents were lengthy, complex, and highly contextual.”
Information was often missing or incomplete, he said, so the students faced similar challenges that professional historians have when constructing a biography.
Despite these obstacles, the students performed “extremely well and exceeded my expectations,” Hyland added. “They produced high-quality written reports and the excellent videos which have been posted to this website.”
The website is wordpress.kpu.ca/kpuremembers.
Those who view the website and videos “will be exposed to some important lessons about race, religion, and recruiting in Canada during the First World War, and the battle experiences of the Canadian Corps on the Western Front,” Hyland explained. “Personal and sometimes very raw, the videos on this website provide an up-close and intimate view of the Canadian soldier’s experience.”
The History 4496 class students are Gagan Bajwa, Callen Cheng, Cameron Cunningham, Noor Dhillon, Jordan Fenske-White, Thomas Gorelik, Jeffrey Lai, Avneet Mangat, Lindsay Martin, Nate Mercer, Connor Mitchell, Austin Raponi, Quinn Raponi and Jasmine Sidhu.
“Other students focused their work on minorities (Japanese and Indigenous). Did you know that because of the virulent racism in Vancouver in 1914, Japanese men who wanted to fight had to enlist in Alberta? It is interesting ideas like this that people will learn from these videos.”
Hyland thinks it’s important to know that students are interested in the military history and heritage.
“They do think these ideas are important,” the instructor said. “One of the key themes we stress, and I quote from Desmond Morton in ‘A Military History of Canada,’ ‘You cannot understand Canada without understanding Canada at war.’ “So much of what we know and understand about Canada got started during the First World War: income taxes, suffrage for women, and the acceptance of a larger and more intrusive government.”