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Founders, Blake Heathcote and history teacher, Neil Orford, started Defining Moments Canada with one goal in mind: to improve the way Canadian history is taught and commemorated by using digital tools to share these “defining moments.” Partnering with Canadian Heritage in 2017, Defining Moments launched an accessible digital platform that shares thousands of stories about Canadian history in the hopes of inspiring students, museums and local heritage groups to delve into our past and hear forgotten stories.

Mapping forgotten stories

In 2019, Defining Moments Canada received funding from Veterans Affairs Canada’s Commemorative Partnership Program to support their new initiative entitled V-E Day 75 – Normandy to the Netherlands in honour of the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands. This project launched on 1 May 2020 and is the second phase of Defining Moment’s Juno 75 – Above and Beyond, an initiative Veterans Affairs also provided funding for in 2018.

The V-E Day 75 – Normandy to the Netherlands program tells the stories of Veterans in Northwest Europe up to the end of the Normandy Campaign, specifically the Liberation of the Netherlands and the Battle of the Scheldt. Defining Moments Canada hopes this project “provides students with opportunities to deepen their understanding of events and operations of this period of time while connecting to contextual information, developing critical thinking and building their digital skill sets.”

As part of this project, the organization partnered with Project 44 to develop an interactive digital story map called “The Road to Liberation.” It includes aerial imagery and amazing stories from war diaries of featured individuals. Students can follow the inspiring story of Charles Byce, a Cree First Nation and a residential school survivor, who decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the Lake Superior Regiment. Using the interactive map, students can follow Charles’ journey from Normandy, France to the Netherlands, where he participated in the famous advance “Operation Churchill.”

By bringing Canadian history to 21st century technologies, this initiative allows students to travel back in time and follow the routes that Canadian Veterans took 75 years ago. This unique and interactive online learning experience will hopefully inspire Canadian students to “learn the stories and engage with the heroism of many Canadians whose bravery and remarkable efforts stand as models for the kinds of resilience we need in the 21st century,” explained Neil Orford.

Looking onward

“The world of digital commemorations still has lots of opportunities for enhancement, so this funding from Veterans Affairs Canada allowed us to build and enhance the infrastructure of digital commemoration for Victory in Europe and the Liberation of the Netherlands,” Neil Orford shared. Check out Defining Moments Canada and Juno 75- Above and Beyond to learn about the accomplishments of these remarkable Canadian heroes. Juno 75 – Above and Beyond features 21 short videos clips of Second World War Veterans, as well as educational tools and lesson plans in the hopes of reflecting the sacrifices and service of Canadians during D-Day and the Battle of Normandy to students across Canada.

Veterans Affairs Canada honours those who served Canada in times of war, military conflict and peace, and keeps the memory of their achievements and sacrifices alive for all Canadians. Funding is available to organizations undertaking remembrance initiatives through the Commemorative Partnership Program.

Date published: 2020-10-27

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