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Irene Parlby

Mary Irene Parlby (née Marryat), Alberta MLA (1921–35), women’s rights advocate, activist (born 9 January 1868 in London, UK; died 12 July 1965 in Red Deer, AB). Irene Parlby served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Alberta for 14 years. She was the first woman in Alberta, and the second in the British Empire, to be appointed to a cabinet position. One of the Famous Five appellants in the Persons Case, Parlby was a compelling advocate for women’s rights. Known as the “Women’s Minister,” her career in activism and legislation was dedicated to improving the lives of rural women and children, such as with Alberta’s Dower Act in 1917. She was also a delegate to the League of Nations in 1930. However, she has also been criticized for her views on eugenics and for her support of Alberta’s Sexual Sterilization Act. She was named a Person of National Historic Significance in 1966 and an honorary senator in 2009.

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R.B. Bennett

Richard Bedford Bennett, 1st Viscount Bennett of Mickleham, Calgary and Hopewell, businessman, lawyer, politician, philanthropist, prime minister of Canada 7 August 1930 to 23 October 1935 (born 3 July 1870 in Hopewell Hill, NB; died 26 June 1947 in Mickleham, England). R.B. Bennett is perhaps best remembered for his highly criticized response to the Great Depression, as well as the subsequent unemployment relief camps and the On to Ottawa Trek and Regina Riot. However, he also created the Bank of Canada, the Canadian Wheat Board and the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission, which became the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He also oversaw Canada’s signing of the Statute of Westminster. For his service during the Second World War, he was appointed to Britain’s House of Lords and became Viscount Bennett of Mickleham, Calgary and Hopewell.

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Jean Lapierre

Jean C. Lapierre, lawyer, politician, co-founder of the Bloc Québécois, and media commentator (born 7 May 1956 in the Magdalen Islands, QC; died there 29 March 2016).

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Annamie Paul

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada 2020–21, lawyer, activist (born 3 November 1972 in Toronto, ON). Annamie Paul has worked as an advisor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague and with various international organizations devoted to preserving human rights and fighting climate change. She served as the leader of the Green Party of Canada from October 2020 to November 2021. She was the first Black Canadian and the first Jewish woman to be elected as leader of a major federal political party in Canada.

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Clayton Ruby

Clayton “Clay” Charles Ruby, CM, lawyer, writer, activist (born 6 February 1942 in Toronto, ON; died 2 August 2022 in Toronto). Clayton Ruby was a lawyer, activist and social justice advocate. He specialized in civil rights, criminal law and constitutional law. One of Canada’s best-known defence attorneys, he was an impassioned defender of press freedom and an active member of Canada’s environmental movement. Ruby worked to ensure that all people receive equal access and treatment under Canada’s laws. His more notable clients included the surviving Dionne Quintuplets, Donald Marshall Jr., Guy Paul Morin, Michelle Douglas, Svend Robinson, Dr. Henry Morgentaler and the men charged in the 1981 Toronto Bathhouse Raids.

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Edward Cornwallis

Edward Cornwallis, founder of Halifax in 1749, governor of Nova Scotia from 1749-52, military leader and governor of Gibraltar from 1762-76, (born 22 February 1713 in London, England; died 23 January 1776 in Gibraltar).

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Edward Palmer

Edward Palmer, premier of PE 1859–63, politician, judge, lawyer, land agent (born 1 September 1809 in Charlottetown, PE; died 3 November 1889 in Charlottetown, PE).

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Samuel Simpson Sharpe

This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences.

Samuel Simpson Sharpe, barrister, politician, soldier (born on 13 March 1873 in Zephyr, Ontario; died 25 May 1918 in Montreal, Quebec). Sharpe was a militia officer and sitting Member of Parliament when he raised the 116th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, and took it overseas. After participating in some of Canada’s bloodiest battles of the war, he was hospitalized for “nervous shock” and returned to Canada. While undergoing treatment, he committed suicide by jumping from a Montreal hospital window.


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Albert Grey, 4th Earl Grey

Albert Henry George Grey, 4th Earl Grey, governor general of Canada from 1904 to 1911 (born 28 November 1851 in London, United Kingdom; died 29 August 1917 in Howick, Northumberland, United Kingdom). Earl Grey established awards that honour Canadian arts, drama and sports. The Grey Cup is still presented to the winning team of the Canadian Football League championship.

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Tommy Douglas and Eugenics

Tommy Douglas — the father of socialized medicine in Canada and one of the country’s most beloved figures — once supported eugenic policies. In 1933, he received a Master of Arts in sociology from McMaster University for his thesis, “The Problems of the Subnormal Family.” In the thesis, Douglas recommended several eugenic policies, including the sterilization of “mental defectives and those incurably diseased.” His ideas were not unique, as two Canadian provinces (and 32 American states) passed sexual-sterilization legislation in the 1920s and 1930s. However, by the time Douglas became premier of Saskatchewan in 1944, he had abandoned his support for eugenic policies. When Douglas received two reports that recommended legalizing sexual sterilization in the province, he rejected the idea.

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Frank McKenna

Frank Joseph McKenna, PC, OC, ONB, lawyer, politician, businessman, diplomat, premier of New Brunswick 1987–97 (born 19 January 1948 in Apohaqui, NB). McKenna became premier in only the second complete election sweep in Canadian history. Once called the "tiny, perfect premier," his decade in office was marked by a heavy focus on job creation. Despite his popularity in Liberal Party circles, he rejected an opportunity to run for the leadership of the federal party, in favour of corporate directorship.

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Jean Lesage

Jean Lesage, PC, CC, premier of Québec 1960–1966, politician, reformer, lawyer (born 10 June 1912 in Montréal, QC; died 12 December 1980 in Québec City, QC).

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Helen Gregory MacGill

Helen Gregory MacGill, judge, journalist, musician (born 7 January 1864 in Hamilton, Canada West; died 27 February 1947 in Chicago, Illinois). Helen Gregory MacGill was a pioneering journalist, feminist and judge. She was the first woman to graduate from Trinity College (now the University of Toronto), as well as the first woman judge in British Columbia, where she served on the juvenile court for 23 years. Her daughter, Elsie MacGill, became the world’s first female aeronautical engineer and aircraft designer.

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George Brown

George Brown, journalist, politician, senator, cattle breeder (born 29 November 1818 in Alloa, Scotland; died 9 May 1880 in Toronto, ON). George Brown played an instrumental role in Confederation. A Reformer who helped bring responsible government to Upper Canada, he orchestrated the great coalition of 1864, which pushed British North America toward Confederation. He participated in the Charlottetown Conference and the Quebec Conference in 1864 and is considered a Father of Confederation. Brown’s journalistic legacy is also significant. His Globe newspaper ushered in the beginning of Canada’s big newspaper business. The widely read Globe was a vigorous force in Upper Canada politics in the 1850s. Today, it is Canada’s major daily newspaper, the Globe and Mail.

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Queen Mother (HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother)

Her Majesty (HM) Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, consort of King George VI and mother of Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, the United Kingdom and 13 other Commonwealth realms (born 4 August 1900 in London, United Kingdom; died 30 March 2002 in Windsor, United Kingdom). In 1939, Queen Elizabeth became the first queen consort to visit Canada with her reigning husband. Her determination to remain in London during the Blitz made her an inspirational figure during the Second World War. Her tours of Canada spanned a 50-year period from 1939 to 1989. She was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2000.

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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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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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Hector Fabre

Louis-Roch-Hector Fabre, journalist, newspaper publisher, senator and diplomat (born 9 August 1834 in Montreal, Lower Canada; died 2 September 1910 in Paris, France). Hector Fabre’s appointment to serve as the Agent General of Quebec in Paris in winter 1882 marked one of the first milestones in the history of Quebec representation abroad. Fabre, who also represented the government of Canada starting in July 1882, helped to establish diplomatic and economic relations with France and other European countries and also marked the beginning of permanent Canadian representation abroad.

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Barbara Hanley

Barbara McCallum Hanley (née Smith), teacher, politician, Canada’s first female mayor (born 2 March 1882 in Magnetawan, ON; died 26 January 1959 in Sudbury, ON). Hanley was elected mayor of Webbwood on 6 January 1936, becoming the country’s first female mayor. Trained as a teacher, she decided to enter municipal politics in an attempt to improve conditions for the town, which had been hard hit by the Great Depression. Hanley won annual re-election campaigns from 1936 to 1943, and retired as mayor in 1944. A true servant of the public, she sat on many boards and committees throughout her life, including the town ration board during the Second World War.