Project Overview

In January 1920, Stan McVittie was a fit and robust electrical engineer working at a hydro-electric generating plant on the Wahnapitae River in Northern Ontario. Just six years out of university, he loved his work and the outdoor life he’d known all his life. The future was brilliant. While his young wife and daughter were visiting her parents in St. Marys, Stan developed a mild cough and a fever, but nothing to worry about for a healthy 6’ 2” outdoorsman in his prime. A few days later while visiting his father and sister in Sudbury, his symptoms worsened slightly, so he paid a call on the family doctor ‘just to be safe.’ Nine days later Stan was dead from the Spanish Flu, like 50,000 other Canadians who’d died since the Pandemic first appeared eighteen months earlier.

McVittie Collection

Stan McVittie in November 1919 with his three-year-old daughter, Maggie

In a stunningly short span of time, the Spanish Flu took almost as many Canadian lives as had been killed during the four years of the Great War. Indiscriminate and horrific in its proportions and the speed with which it spread and killed, the Pandemic profoundly impacted the history of Canada. Consider the following:

  • One third of the world’s population was infected by the Spanish Flu;
  • 50% of those infected were healthy young men and women under 40;
  • 3% of the world’s population died;
  • The Spanish Flu killed more people in 18 months than AIDS has killed in 35 years or the Black Plague killed in 100;
  • Stories that such statistics tell are seemingly endless.
  • But Canadians responded with purpose and determination;
  • The Pandemic brought about the creation of the Federal Department of Health;
  • The Pandemic also persuaded Canadians to recognize disease as being a community problem, not an individual one.

Isn’t this a story more Canadians should know?

A Family Story

How It Works

Each participant chooses a person or an event that has some personal meaning for them (a family connection, something from their community), and then explores the Spanish Flu Pandemic from the perspective of that person or event. Specifically, they construct or ‘tell’ a story from that singular personal perspective as a means of coming to better understand the Pandemic, and to bring a large subject into focus through a more intimate, human lens.

A major feature of the DMC is our 7 Sentence Story Structure, which uses the principles of structured narrative to guide users in constructing a non-fiction story with ease. We will provide online assets, templates, tutorials, and digital research techniques to guide users every step of the way. Commemorative projects stories can be created in any digital medium (e.g. eBooks, websites, videos, interactive displays, exhibits), and showcased on DMC’s Digital Commons.

The Project: A Video Introduction

For Teachers

Teachers who register for the DMC project can explore the history, math, science, and public health stories of 1918–1920 with their classes. For teachers, the core concept of using the DMC platform is to provide students with digital storytelling skills and tools, and to empower them in their explorations researching history, math, language arts, and social studies.

Commemoration for the 21st Century

The commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Spanish Flu Pandemic in your program will engage your students in rich historical inquiry and establish connections for them that extend far beyond the classroom. You can share your students’ work for an audience across the country, and ‘crowd-share’ the Canadian stories that have impacted and shaped our history. This commemorative project will make you and your students a significant part of our national heritage.

Defining Moments Canada wants teachers to:

  • Register your class for this Commemorative Project;
  • Help conduct research for your community;
  • Design and share rich engaging lesson plans;
  • Curate content on our digital platform;
  • Tell 12,000+ Canadian Spanish Flu stories over the next 24 months.

Register and make your stories a part of our Canadian heritage for the 21st Century.


Working in coordination with the Ministry of Canadian Heritage, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Archives of Ontario, Canada’s History magazine, Huron College UWO, Nova Scotia Museums, St. John’s College – University of Manitoba, the Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR), and dozens of Canadian school boards, heritage organizations, and institutions across the country, Defining Moments Canada’s Digital Commons will provide a nationwide forum for participants to create and share commemorative projects and content, featuring local and regional stories about the Pandemic.

Most significantly will be the opportunity to feature ‘voices’ from diverse Canadian communities that have never been heard. Indeed, this is the greatest Canadian story never told – a story that has been truly forgotten.

Click here to download a complete list of our partnerships.