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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Canada

Since the late 1960s, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Canada has seen steady gains in rights. While discrimination against LGBT people persists in many places, major strides toward mainstream social acceptance and formal legal equality have nonetheless been made in recent decades. Canada is internationally regarded as a leader in this field. Recent years have seen steady progress on everything from health care to the right to adopt. In 2005, Canada became the fourth country worldwide to legalize same-sex marriage.

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Canadian Parents for French

Canadian Parents for French is a national organization of parents dedicated to the expansion of French second-language learning opportunities for young Canadians. Primarily driven by the volunteer efforts of parents, it has been the leading organization in Canada dedicated to the expansion of French immersion programs and the improvement of French second-language learning programs since the 1970s.

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Lincoln Alexander

Lincoln MacCauley Alexander, CC, OOnt, QC, lieutenant-governor of Ontario 1985–91, member of Parliament 1968–80, lawyer, public servant (born 21 January 1922 in Toronto, ON; died 19 October 2012 in Hamilton, ON). Alexander was the first Black Canadian member of Parliament (1968), Cabinet minister (1979) and lieutenant-governor (Ontario, 1985). In recognition of his many important accomplishments, 21 January has been celebrated as Lincoln Alexander Day across Canada since 2015.

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Isabel Macneill

Isabel Janet Macneill, OC, OBE, naval officer and correctional system supervisor (born 4 June 1908 in Halifax, NS; died 18 August 1990 in Mill Village, NS). Isabel Macneill was a pioneering woman in nontraditional leadership positions. She was the first female commanding officer of a navy ship in the British Commonwealth and the first female prison superintendent in Canada.

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Joy Kogawa

Joy Nozomi Kogawa (née Nakayama), CM, OBC, poet, novelist, activist (born 6 June 1935 in Vancouver, BC). Joy Kogawa is one of the most influential Canadian authors of Japanese descent. She is celebrated both for her moving, fictionalized accounts of the internment of Japanese Canadians and her work in the Redress Movement to obtain compensation and reparation for her community. She is a Member of the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia, as well as Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun.

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Thelma Chalifoux

Thelma Julia Chalifoux, Métis, senator, entrepreneur, activist (born 8 February 1929 in Calgary, AB; died 22 September 2017 in St. Albert, AB). Chalifoux was the first Métis woman appointed to the Senate of Canada. As a senator, she was concerned with a range of issues, including Métis housing, drug company relations with the federal government, and environmental legislation. An ardent advocate for women’s and Indigenous rights, Chalifoux was involved in organizations such as the Aboriginal Women’s Business Development Corporation and the Métis Women’s Council. She was also known for her work in the protection of Métis culture, having served in the Alberta Métis Senate and Michif Cultural and Métis Resource Institute (now Michif Cultural Connections).

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Jordin Tootoo

Jordin John Kudluk (Thunder) Tootoo, hockey player (born 2 February, 1983 in Churchill, MB). Jordin Tootoo is the first Inuk hockey player to play in the National Hockey League (NHL). Jordin got the attention of the NHL as a tough, talented right-winger in his junior hockey days in Manitoba. In 2003, he received national attention when he played for Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship. After playing 13 seasons in the NHL, he retired in 2018. He is known for speaking to youth and maintaining his Inuit culture.

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Jewish Canadians

Unlike most immigrants to Canada, Jews did not come from a place where they were the majority cultural group. Jews were internationally dispersed at the time of the ancient Roman Empire and after unsuccessful revolts against it lost their sovereignty in their ancient homeland. Subsequently, Jews lived, sometimes for many centuries, as minorities in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. In the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS), 329,495 Canadians identified as Jewish when responding to the census question on religion, and 309,650 identified as being of Jewish ethnic origin (115,640 single and 194,010 multiple responses).

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Kardinal Offishall

​Jason D. Harrow, rapper, music producer (born 12 May 1976 in Scarborough, ON). Dubbed “the best-kept secret in Canadian hip hop” by Billboard magazine, Kardinal Offishall played a central role in bringing Canadian hip hop from the underground to the mainstream in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Editorial

Japanese Canadian Internment: Prisoners in their own Country

Beginning in early 1942, the Canadian government detained and dispossessed more than 90 per cent of Japanese Canadians, some 21,000 people, living in British Columbia. They were detained under the War Measures Act and were interned for the rest of the Second World War. Their homes and businesses were sold by the government to pay for their detention. In 1988, Prime Minister  Brian Mulroney apologized on behalf of the Canadian government for the wrongs it committed against Japanese Canadians. The government also made symbolic redress payments and repealed the War Measures Act.

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Laurent Duvernay-Tardif

Laurent “Dr. Kill” Duvernay-Tardif, CQ, football player, doctor (born 11 February 1991 in Saint-Jean-Baptiste, QC). Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is an offensive lineman with the New York Jets of the National Football League (NFL). He was the 10th player ever drafted into the NFL from Canadian college and university football, and is the first Quebec-born football player to win a Super Bowl championship. Duvernay-Tardif is also the first active NFL player to become a doctor. He opted out of the 2020 season to work at a Montreal long-term care facility during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was made a Chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec in 2019. In 2020, he was named a Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated, as well as co-winner (with soccer player Alphonso Davies) of the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year.

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Terry Fox

Terrance Stanley Fox, CC, Order of the Dogwood, athlete, humanitarian, cancer research activist (born 28 July 1958 in WinnipegMB; died 28 June 1981 in New WestminsterBC). After losing his right leg to cancer at age 18, Terry Fox decided to run across Canada to raise awareness and money for cancer research. With the use of a customized running prosthesis, he set out from St. John’s, Newfoundland, on 12 April 1980 and covered 5,373 km in 143 days — an average of 42 km (26 miles) per day. He was forced to stop his Marathon of Hope in Thunder Bay, Ontario, on 1 September 1980, when cancer had invaded his lungs. He died shortly before his 23rd birthday. The youngest person to be made a Companion of the Order of Canada, he was awarded the 1980 Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year and was named a Person of National Historic Significance by the Government of Canada. He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and has had many schools, institutions and landmarks named in his honour. The annual Terry Fox Run has raised more than $800 million for cancer research. The Marathon of Hope raised $24 million by February 1981.  

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Afghan Canadians

The Afghan community in Canada is relatively new. Until 1978, about 1,000 Afghans lived in Canada. However, since 1978, decades of political instability, invasions and war in Afghanistan pushed many to leave to other countries. Since then, the Afghan population in Canada has grown. (See Refugees to Canada.) According to Statistics Canada’s 2016 census, approximately 84,000 Afghans are living in Canada, the majority of whom are settled in the suburbs of major cities.

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Thomas D'Arcy McGee

Thomas D’Arcy McGee, journalist, politician, poet (born 13 April 1825 in Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland; died 7 April 1868 in Ottawa, ON). Thomas D’Arcy McGee was dedicated to the cause of Irish national liberation. This pushed him towards revolutionary anti-British doctrine in his early years. However, he matured to become a staunch defender of British constitutional monarchy and a Father of Confederation. He was an advocate for minority rights at a time when the politics of ethnic and religious identity were intensely fraught. He was an incredibly eloquent public speaker and a passionate advocate for Canadian interests. However, his political transformation ultimately damaged his popularity with Irish nationalists, particularly the Fenians. He was assassinated in 1868.

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Scottish Canadians

Though often considered Anglo-Canadians, the Scots have always regarded themselves as a separate people. The Scots have immigrated to Canada in steady and substantial numbers for over 200 years, with the connection between Scotland and Canada stretching farther — to the 17th century. Scots have been involved in every aspect of Canada's development as explorers, educators, businessmen, politicians, writers and artists. The Scots are among the first Europeans to establish themselves in Canada and are the third largest ethnic group in the country. In the 2016 Census of Canada, a total of 4,799,005 Canadians, or 14 percent of the population, listed themselves as being of Scottish origin (single and multiple responses).

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History of Acadia

Acadia’s history as a French-speaking colony stretches as far back as the early 17th century. The French settlers who colonized the land and coexisted alongside Indigenous peoples became called Acadians. Acadia was also the target of numerous wars between the French and the English. Ultimately, the colony fell under British rule. Many Acadians were subsequently deported away from Acadia. Over time, as a British colony and then as part of Canada, Acadians increasingly became a linguistic minority. Nonetheless, Acadians have strived to protect their language and identity throughout time.

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African Canadians

Prior to 1960, black Africans comprised a very small, scattered and almost unknown group of newcomers to Canada, although Africans of European and Asian ancestry had a clearer presence. According to the 2016 census, 1,067,925 Canadians reported being of African origin (682,570 single and 385,355 multiple responses). Of that number, 230, 110 people reported Central and West African origins; 355, 040 reported North African origins; 260, 145 reported Southern and East African origins and; 239, 560 reported other African origins.

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Iranian Canadians

Iran, formerly known as Persia, is one of the oldest civilizations of the world. Iranians are a relatively new community in Canada and one that continues to grow. Their immigration to the country began in the 1980s, in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. In 2016, there were 170,755 people of Iranian origin in Canada, and another 39,650 had multiple origins, one of them being Iranian (for a total of 210,405 Canadians). From 2011 to 2016, Canada welcomed 42,070 Iranian immigrants. Iran is one of the top ten birthplaces of recent immigrants to Canada, ranked fourth after the Philippines, India and China.

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Loyalists in Canada

Loyalists were American colonists, of different ethnic backgrounds, who supported the British cause during the American Revolutionary War (1775–83). Tens of thousands of Loyalists migrated to British North America during and after the war. This boosted the population, led to the creation of Upper Canada and New Brunswick, and heavily influenced the politics and culture of what would become Canada.

(This is the full-length entry about Loyalists in Canada. For a plain-language summary, please see Loyalists in Canada (Plain-Language Summary).)