Canadians in the Spanish Civil War

Speaker: Dr. James Kempling

The first Canadian volunteers arrived in Spain in early 1937 to fight Fascism, and by the time the Spanish Civil war ended, 1600+ Canadians had served. They were assigned initially to the American, Abraham Lincoln Battalion. But, by the end of July 1937, the Mackenzie-Papineau, or Mac-Paps, Battalion, a largely Canadian unit, was formed and named after the leaders of Canada’s 1837 Rebellions. The International Brigades were ordered withdrawn in late 1938, with the last Canadians returning to Canada in early May, 1939. Upon their return, the Mac-Paps’ veterans received no recognition from the Canadian government or veteran’s support. However, what they received were interrogations by the RCMP about their political motivations for volunteering to fight. Since then, five private memorials have been raised to the Mac-Paps across Canada, including one in Victoria, BC.

Dr. Jim Kempling is a retired Colonel having served in the PPCLI for over 25 years, commanding 2nd Airborne Commando in Petawawa and later 1 PPCLI. After retirement, he filled a variety of positions including Assistant Deputy Minister- Superintendent of Motor Vehicles in BC, General Manager of the PNE and VP of the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board. Later he ran a successful management consulting business providing project management and strategic planning for public and private agencies in Canada, the US and abroad. He has taught courses at UVic and his research centres on the Great War 1914-1918 in Canada. He received his PhD from UVic.

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