Private firms are investing $50 million (pound;20m) to set up a national institute intended to promote a better understanding of Canada's history.
A survey last summer showed two-thirds of high-school students did not know what happened on D-Day or what was being remembered on Remembrance Day.
The chief executive of Bell Canada Enterprises, a telecommunications giant, was so appalled that he donated $500,000 of his own money as well as cash from his company.
The Charles Bronfman Foundation, philanthropic arm of the Bronfman family who are the heirs to the Seagram distillery fortune, has also put up money.
Both the foundation and Bell Canada expect the government to match their donations.
Red Wilson, chief executive of Bell Canada, said studying history was vital to the formation of executive skills in business.
"An understanding of historical context is the only way to make sense of the motivations that drive behaviour, including the behaviour of business," he said.
Even high-school pupils keen on history can only take at most two half-year semesters in four years. And history teachers do not need a degree in the subject.