The Dominion of Canada wasn't born out of revolution, or a sweeping outburst of nationalism. Rather, it was created in a series of conferences and orderly negotiations, culminating in the terms of Confederation on 1 July 1867. This Collection brings together content related to the creation of Canada.
France was a colonial power in North America from the early 16th century, the age of European discoveries and fishing expeditions, to the early 19th century, when Napoléon Bonaparte sold Louisiana to the United States. French presence in North America was marked by economic exchanges with Indigenous peoples, but also by conflicts, as the French attempted to control this vast territory. The French colonial enterprise was also spurred by religious motivation as well as the desire to establish an effective colony in the St. Lawrence Valley. From the founding of Québec in 1608 to the ceding of Canada to Britain in 1763, France placed its stamp upon the history of the continent, much of whose lands — including Acadia — lay under its control. Through the use of encyclopedic articles, biographies, exhibits, study guides and searchable timelines, this collection features content related to this history.
Women’s suffrage (or franchise) is the right of women to vote in political elections; campaigns for this right generally included demand for the right to run for public office. The women’s suffrage movement was a decades-long struggle intended to address fundamental issues of equity and justice and to improve the lives of Canadians.
Historic Canadian disasters include those caused by both humans and nature. Some, such as the Halifax Explosion, are rare, tragic accidents now etched in the country’s history. Others, such as forest fires and avalanches, are annual, natural occurrences that sometimes wreak havoc. This collection gathers survey articles on different types of disasters, as well as content on individual, historic events.
Confederation refers to the process of federal union in which the British North American colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada joined together to form the Dominion of Canada — a new country. The term Confederation also commonly stands for 1 July 1967, the date of the creation of the Dominion. Before Confederation, British North America also included Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, and the vast territories of Rupert’s Land (considered the private domain of the Hudson’s Bay Company) and the North-Western Territory. Beginning in 1864, colonial politicians, known as the Fathers of Confederation, met and negotiated the terms of Confederation at conferences in Charlottetown, Quebec City and London, England. Their work resulted in the British North America Act, Canada’s Constitution, which was enacted by British Parliament. At its creation in 1867, the Dominion of Canada included four provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. Between then and 1999, six more provinces and three territories joined Confederation.
During Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914–20, 8,579 men, and some women and children, were interned by the Canadian government acting under the authority of the War Measures Act. While most were recent immigrants from the multinational Austro-Hungarian, German and Ottoman empires, some were Canadian-born or naturalized British subjects — most of the civilian internees came from the western Ukrainian regions of Galicia and Bukovyna. Held in 24 receiving stations and internment camps across the country — from Nanaimo, BC to Halifax, NS — these “second class” prisoners of war (POWs) were generally separated from “first class” German and Austrian POWs. Many were transported into the country’s frontier wildernesses and obliged to work for the profit of their jailers. Personal wealth and property was confiscated, not all of which was returned on parole or following the end of the internment operations.
The Holocaust is defined as the systematic persecution and murder of 6 million Jews and 5 million non-Jews, including Roma and Sinti, Poles, political opponents, LGBTQ people and Soviet prisoners of war (POWs), by Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. Jews were the only group targeted for complete destruction because Nazi racial ideology considered them subhuman.
Amid the widening debate about the removal of the names and statues of controversial, colonial-era figures from public places, The Canadian Encyclopedia asked three writers to offer their opinions on the subject. Here, Anthony Wilson-Smith, the Encyclopedia's publisher, introduces the debate.
The forcible expulsion and confinement of ethnic Japanese during the Second World War represents one of the most tragic sets of events in Canada’s history. Some 22,000 Canadian citizens and residents were taken from their homes on Canada’s West Coast, without any charge or due process, and exiled to remote areas of eastern British Columbia and elsewhere. Ultimately, the Canadian government stripped the Japanese Canadians of their property and pressured them to accept mass deportation after the war ended. These events are popularly known as the Japanese Canadian internment. However, various scholars and activists have challenged this term on the grounds that under international law, internment refers to detention of enemy aliens, whereas most Japanese Canadians were Canadian citizens.
The ancestors of the Maroons of Jamaica were enslaved Africans who had been brought there by the Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries, and later by the British (who captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655), to work its lucrative sugar plantations. The word maroon was widely used to describe a runaway, and maroonage to denote the act and action of escaping enslavement, whether temporarily or permanently. After a series of wars with the colonial government in Jamaica, one group of Maroons was deported to Nova Scotia in 1796. While Maroon communities existed in Nova Scotia for only four years before they were sent to Sierra Leone, their legacy in Canada endures.1
Old Montreal is the historic district of the city of Montreal, located in the south-central part of Montreal Island and bounded by the St. Lawrence River to the south, Saint-Antoine Street to the north, McGill Street to the west and Saint-Hubert Street to the east. In the second half of the 20th century, this area came under pressure from urban change, as business and port activity shifted elsewhere, depriving Old Montreal of its historic roles. But in the 1960s, a long process began that completely transformed it into a heritage district (it was at this time that the name Old Montreal came into common use). The designation of the Arrondissement historique de Montréal by the Quebec government in 1964 marked an important step in this transformation. With massive investments from the three levels of government, as well as from businesses and individuals, a lengthy rehabilitation effort began. Nearly 60 years later, visitors can now follow the traces of Montreal’s history back to pre-colonial times, and the changes that the city has undergone since the first European settlers arrived in 1642.
On 2 December 1919, within hours of completing a million-dollar business transaction in Toronto, entertainment tycoon Ambrose Small mysteriously disappeared. Despite an international search, no trace of him was ever found. Police suspected foul play and investigated Small’s wife and personal secretary. However, neither the police nor a private investigator uncovered any evidence connecting them to his disappearance. The Small case remains one of Canada’s most perplexing and legendary unsolved mysteries.
Soldiers rounding up terrified civilians, expelling them from their land, burning their homes and crops ‒ it sounds like a 20th century nightmare in one of the world's trouble spots, but it describes a scene from Canada's early history, the Deportation of the Acadians.8
Amid the widening and complex debate about the removal of the names and statues of controversial, colonial-era figures from public places, The Canadian Encyclopedia sought the opinions of three writers on the subject. Here, political writer John Geddes argues that historical figures should not be judged narrowly, or by the standards of the present.
Thousands of children became orphans during the 1847 Irish famine migration to British North America. Public authorities, private charities and religious officials all played a part in addressing this crisis. Many orphans were placed with relatives or with Irish families. A considerable number were also taken in by Francophone Catholics in Canada East, and by English-speaking Protestants in New Brunswick. Although many families took in orphans for charitable reasons, most people were motivated by the pragmatic value of an extra pair of hands on the farm or in the household.
After the failed Rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada, its leader, William Lyon Mackenzie, retreated to Navy Island, in the Niagara River, accompanied by some 200 followers. The Caroline, an American ship based at Fort Schlosser in New York State, was chartered to bring supplies to the rebels. On 29 December 1837, a force of the Upper Canada militia led by Commander Andrew Drew of the Royal Navy found the Caroline moored at Schlosser. In the quick skirmish that followed, an American was killed. The Caroline, set on fire and adrift, capsized before reaching the falls and sank. The incident aggravated the already tense relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States.
Radiant sunshine bathed the Island of Montreal on the morning of May 18th, 1642. The hawthorns and wild cherry trees were in blossom and the meadow, where a group of French colonists had set up an altar, was dotted with trilliums and violets. Father Vimont celebrated mass, and declared that the new settlement, which they called Ville-Marie, was "only a grain of mustard seed... I have no doubt that this small seed will produce a tall tree that will bring forth wonders some day."
On 5 February 1981, patrons of four bathhouses in downtown Toronto (The Barracks, The Club, Richmond Street Health Emporium, and Roman II Health and Recreation Spa) were surprised by 200 police officers in a series of coordinated raids, called “Operation Soap.” Law enforcement officials claimed the raids resulted from six months of undercover work into alleged sex work and other “indecent acts” at each establishment. Bathhouse patrons were subjected to excessive behaviour by police, including verbal taunts about their sexuality. When the night was over, 286 men were charged for being found in a common bawdy house (a brothel), while 20 were charged for operating a bawdy house. It was, up to that time, the largest single arrest in Toronto’s history. Most of those arrested were found innocent of the charges. The raids marked a turning point for Toronto’s gay community, as the protests that followed indicated they would no longer endure derogatory treatment from the police, media and the public.
The Last Spike was the final and ceremonial railway spike driven into the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) track by company director Donald Smith on the morning of 7 November 1885. The ceremony marked the completion of the transcontinental CPR and was a muted affair at which a group of company officials and labourers gathered at Craigellachie near Eagle Pass in the interior of British Columbia. One of about 30 million iron spikes used in the construction of the line, the Last Spike came to symbolize more than the completion of a railway. Contemporaries and historians have viewed the Last Spike — as well as the iconic photographs of the event — as a moment when national unity was realized.