Reformers & Activists | The Canadian Encyclopedia

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  • List

    30 Political Leaders

    To celebrate its 30th anniversary, The Canadian Encyclopedia created 30 lists of 30 things that have helped define our identity, from famous people and historic events, to iconic foods and influential artists.

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  • Article

    Indigenous Peoples and the Fight for the Franchise

    Imagine that your family has lived on the same land for generations. Over time, others arrive, take residence and establish a government whose rules now apply to you. But they do not include you in consultations — in fact, they specifically exclude you.

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    Abraham Albert Heaps

    Abraham Albert Heaps, labour politician (b at Leeds, England 24 Dec 1885; d at Bournemouth, England 4 Apr 1954). An impoverished English Jew who immigrated to Canada in 1911, Heaps, an upholsterer, became a distinguished parliamentarian as member for Winnipeg North from 1925-40.

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    Alexander Kennedy Isbister

    Alexander Kennedy Isbister, Métis schoolmaster, explorer, lawyer (born June 1822 in Cumberland House, Rupert's Land, [now in SK]; died 28 May 1883 in London, England). Isbister explored the Mackenzie River basin in northwestern Canada (from 1838 to 1842) while employed by the Hudson's Bay Company. However, he is best known as a champion of Métis rights and as a distinguished educator and author.

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    Andrew Paull

    Andrew Paull, Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) leader, organizer, lobbyist (born 6 February 1892 in Squamish, BC; died 28 July 1959 in Vancouver, BC). Andrew Paull was born into a prominent family in the Durieu system at Mission Reserve No 1, Burrard Inlet, British Columbia (see Reserves in British Columbia). Paull was educated at the reserve school and became a longshoreman.

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    Annie Buller

    Annie Buller (married name Guralnick), political activist, union organizer (born 9 December 1895 in Ukraine; died 19 January 1973 in Toronto, ON).

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    Augustin-Norbert Morin

    Augustin-Norbert Morin, editor, lawyer, judge, politician, Patriote (born 13 October 1803 in Saint-Michel, Lower Canada; died 27 July 1865, Sainte-Adèle-de-Terrebonne, Canada East). Augustin-Norbert Morin studied law before he became one of the most important members of the Patriote movement; he founded La Minerve, drafted the 92 Resolutions, and acted as Louis-Joseph Papineau’s lieutenant in Québec City. After the rebellion, he was one of La Fontaine’s Reformers and on two occasions, first with Francis Hincks and then Allan Napier MacNab, led the government of the Province of Canada. Between 1859 and his death in 1865, he worked on the creation of the 1866 Civil Code of Lower Canada.

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    Balarama Holness

    Balarama Holness, professional football player, jurist, political activist, social entrepreneur (born 20 July 1983 in Montreal, QC). Balarama Holness put a wayward youth behind him to become a Grey Cup-winning professional football player with his hometown Montreal Alouettes. He then pursued a career as a jurist and political organizer and ran for mayor of the borough of Montréal-Nord in 2017. His community organizing efforts led to two separate reports (in 2019 and 2020) that acknowledged the existence and extent of systemic racism in the province, while also recommending solutions. In 2021, Holness ran to become mayor of Montreal but was defeated.

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    Becky Buhay

    Rebecca (Becky) Buhay, political activist, educator (born 11 February 1896 in London, England; died 16 December 1953 in Toronto, ON).

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    Bella Hall Gauld

    Bella Hall Gauld, labour educator, political activist, pianist (born 31 December 1878 in Lindsay, ON; died 21 August 1961 in Montreal, QC).

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    Bill Blaikie

    William Alexander Blaikie, PC, OC, politician, United Church minister, professor (born 19 June 1951 in Winnipeg, MB; died 24 September 2022 in Winnipeg). Bill Blaikie was an ordained United Church minister and a proponent of social gospel politics. A major figure in the New Democratic Party (NDP), he served as a Member of Parliament (MP) for 29 years. He sought the leadership of the federal NDP in 2003, placing second behind Jack Layton. After retiring from federal politics, he was elected to one term as a Manitoba MLA and served as minister of conservation. He was also an adjunct professor of theology and politics at the University of Winnipeg.

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    Bromley Armstrong

    Bromley Lloyd Armstrong, CM, OOnt, Black trade unionist, community organizer and activist (born 9 February 1926 in Kingston, Jamaica; died 17 August 2018 in Toronto, ON). Bromley Armstrong was a pivotal figure in the early anti-discrimination campaigns in Ontario that led to Canada’s first anti-discrimination laws. A self-described “blood and guts” ally of the working poor, Armstrong demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the trade union movement and the battle against disadvantage and discrimination. For more than six decades, Armstrong worked for human rights, helping to generate civic and government support for racial equality and advocating for human rights reforms in public policy.

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    Catherine Sutton (Nahneebahwequa)

    Catherine Sutton (née Sonego or Sunegoo) (sometimes spelled Catharine, also known as Nahnee, Nahneebahwequa and Upright Woman), Anishinaabe (Mississauga) writer, Methodist missionary and political advocate (born 1824 in the Credit River flats, Upper Canada; died 26 September 1865 in Sarawak Township, Grey County, Canada West). Catherine Sutton was as an advocate for her people during a time when the cultural, political and economic rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada were formally eroded by assimilationist policies.

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    Claire Morissette

    Claire Morissette, cycling advocate, environmentalist, feminist (born 6 April 1950 in Montreal, QC; died 20 July 2007 in Montreal). Morissette committed most of her life to promoting the use of bicycles as a primary means of transportation in the city of Montreal (see Bicycling). She was a long-time member of the Montreal-based cycling advocacy group Le Monde à bicyclette and a long-time collaborator with the city’s other principal cycling advocate, Robert “Bicycle Bob” Silverman. Morissette began her cycling advocacy in 1976 and continued contributing to the cause until she died from breast cancer at the age of 57. Thanks in part to Morissette’s tireless efforts, Montreal is recognized as one of the most bike-friendly cities in North America.

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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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