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Human Rights

Human rights are rights that we all have by virtue of our shared humanity. Depending on the nature of the right, both individuals and groups can assert human rights. Human rights as we understand them today are a relatively modern concept. All human rights are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent. None has automatic precedence over any other. The realization of human rights is a constant struggle on the part of people who suffer injustices and who seek redress. Human rights are an important part of the social fabric of Canadian society. Canadians have also played a role in the evolution of human rights on the international stage.

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Canada and the Holocaust

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. Nazi racial ideology considered them subhuman. Though Jewish Canadians did not experience the Holocaust directly, the majority endured anti-Semitism in Canada. Jewish Canadians were only one generation removed from lands under German occupation from 1933 to 1945. They maintained close ties to Jewish relatives in those lands. These ties affected the community’s response to the Holocaust. There was, for instance, a disproportionate representation of Jews in the Canadian armed forces. Jewish Canadians were also heavily involved in postwar relief efforts for displaced persons and Holocaust survivors in Europe.

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Anti-Semitism in Canada

Anti-Semitism is an attitude characterized by hostility and discriminatory behaviour towards Jewish people. Anti-Semitism has a long history in Canada in fueling discrimination and unfair treatment against Jewish Canadians. Anti-Semitism in Canada was never restricted to the extremists of society. Rather, it has always been part of the mainstream, shared to varying degrees by all elements of the nation. Until the 1950s it had respectability; no one apologized for being anti-Jewish — no one asked them to. Expressions of anti-Semitism were heard in the halls of Parliament, read in the press, taught in the schools and absorbed in most churches.

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Doukhobors

Doukhobors are a sect of Russian dissenters, many of whom now live in western Canada. They are known for a radical pacifism which brought them notoriety during the 20th century. Today, their descendants in Canada number approximately 20,000, with one third still active in their culture.

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Rebellion in Lower Canada (The Patriots' War)

In 1837 and 1838, French Canadian militants in Lower Canada took up arms against the British Crown in a pair of insurrections. The twin rebellions killed more than 300 people. They followed years of tensions between the colony’s anglophone minority and the growing, nationalistic aspirations of its francophone majority. The rebels failed in their campaign against British rule. However, their revolt led to political reform, including the unified Province of Canada and the introduction of responsible government. The rebellion in Lower Canada, which is also known as the Patriots' War (la Guerre des patriotes), also gave French Canadians one of their first nationalist heroes in Louis-Joseph Papineau.

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First Nations

First Nations is a term used to describe Indigenous peoples in Canada who are not Métis or  Inuit. First Nations people are original inhabitants of the land that is now Canada, and were the first to encounter sustained European contact, settlement and trade. According to the 2016 census by Statistics Canada, 977,230 people in Canada identified as being of First Nations heritage, a growth of 39.3 per cent since 2006. There are 634 First Nations in Canada, speaking more than 50 distinct languages.

For more detailed information on specific First Nations, see Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

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Day Care

The licensed or approved care of young children, for all or part of the day, outside the children's own home. The 2 most common types of day care are centre care and family day care.

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Empire Day

Empire Day, observed annually on the school day preceding the May 24 holiday for Queen Victoria's birthday, was the most important patriotic rite for children in English-speaking Canada during the half century following its first observance 23 May 1899.

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Child Migration to Canada

Migration is a unique experience for a child and Canada receives child migrants from all over the world. Some children come as unaccompanied minors and claim refugee status, some come alone and wait to be reunited with their families, while others are international adoptees by Canadian families.

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Al Rashid Mosque

Al Rashid, a mosque in Edmonton, was dedicated in 1938 and became Canada’s first mosque. It was funded through community initiatives from the Arab community, led by Hilwie Hamdon. The Al Rashid mosque has played a definitive role in the growth of the Muslim community in Alberta and across the country through many important initiatives. (See Islam.)

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Black Enslavement in Canada

In early Canada, the enslavement of African peoples was a legal instrument that helped fuel colonial economic enterprise. The buying, selling and enslavement of Black people was practiced by European traders and colonists in New France in the early 1600s, and lasted until it was abolished throughout British North America in 1834. During that two-century period, settlers in what would eventually become Canada were involved in the transatlantic slave trade. Canada is further linked to the institution of enslavement through its history of international trade. Products such as salted cod and timber were exchanged for slave-produced goods such as rum, molasses, tobacco and sugar from slaveholding colonies in the Caribbean. 

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

(See also Olivier Le Jeune; Sir David KirkeChloe Cooley and the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada; Underground Railroad; Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; Slavery Abolition Act, 1833Slavery of Indigenous People in Canada.)

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Shaking Tent

Shaking Tent rite was widespread among the Ojibwa, Innu (Montagnais-Naskapi), Cree, Penobscot and Abenaki and involved the shamanistic use of a special cylindrical lodge or tent.

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Domestic Service (Caregiving) in Canada

Domestic work refers to all tasks performed within a household, specifically those related to housekeeping, childcare and personal services for adults. These traditionally unpaid household tasks can be assigned to a paid housekeeper (the term caregiver is preferred today). From the early days of New France, domestic work was considered a means for men and women to immigrate to the colony (see History of Labour Migration to Canada). In the 19th century, however, domestic service became a distinctly female occupation (see Women in the Labour Force). From the second half of the 19th century until the Second World War, in response to the growing need for labour in Canadian households, British emigration societies helped thousands of girls and women immigrate to Canada (see Immigration to Canada). In 1955, the Canadian government launched a domestic-worker recruitment program aimed at West Indian women (see West Indian Domestic Scheme). In 2014 the government lifted the requirement for immigrant caregivers to live with their employer to qualify for permanent residence — a requirement that put domestic workers in a vulnerable position. (See also Canadian Citizenship; Immigration Policy in Canada).

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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History of Settlement in the Canadian Prairies

The Canadian Prairies were peopled in six great waves of migration, spanning from prehistory to the present. The migration from Asia, about 13,300 years ago, produced an Indigenous population of 20,000 to 50,000 by about 1640. Between 1640 and 1840, several thousand European and Canadian fur traders arrived, followed by several hundred British immigrants. They created dozens of small outposts and a settlement in the Red River Colony, where the Métis became the largest part of the population. The third wave, from the 1840s to the 1890s, consisted mainly but not solely of Canadians of British heritage. The fourth and by far the largest wave was drawn from many nations, mostly European. It occurred from 1897 to 1929, with a pause (1914–22) during and after the First World War. The fifth wave, drawn from other Canadian provinces and from Europe and elsewhere, commenced in the late 1940s. It lasted through the 1960s. The sixth wave, beginning in the 1970s, drew especially upon peoples of the southern hemisphere. It has continued, with fluctuations, to the present. Throughout the last century, the region has also steadily lost residents, as a result of migration to other parts of Canada, to the United States, and elsewhere.

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Gavazzi Riots

The Gavazzi Riots were two major disturbances that occurred in Canada East in 1853. Alessandro Gavazzi, a former Catholic priest and Italian patriot, had embarked on a speaking tour of North America. He scheduled stops in Québec City and Montreal for June. Both of these events were violently disturbed by angry mobs. In each case, soldiers intervened to restore order. In Montreal, on 9 June 1853, soldiers opened fire on the mob that tried to stop Gavazzi’s speech. Ten were killed and many more were wounded. The riots were a major confrontation between the city’s Catholic and Protestant communities. The events highlighted a period of increased religious tension in Canada.

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Winnipeg General Strike of 1919

The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 was the largest strike in Canadian history (see Strikes and Lockouts). Between 15 May and 25 June 1919, more than 30,000 workers left their jobs (see Work). Factories, shops, transit and city services shut down. The strike resulted in arrests, injuries and the deaths of two protestors. It did not immediately succeed in empowering workers and improving job conditions. But the strike did help unite the working class in Canada (see Labour Organization). Some of its participants helped establish what is now the New Democratic Party.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

This is the full-length entry about the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. For a plain-language summary, please see Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 (Plain-language Summary).

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Wartime Elections Act

The Wartime Elections Act of 1917 gave the vote to female relatives of Canadian soldiers serving overseas in the First World War. It also took the vote away from many Canadians who had immigrated from “enemy” countries. The Act was passed by Prime Minister Robert Borden’s Conservative government in an attempt to gain votes in the 1917 election. It ended up costing the Conservatives support among certain groups for years to come. The Act has a contentious legacy. It granted many women the right to vote, but it also legitimized in law many anti-immigrant sentiments.

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Charlottetown Accord

The Charlottetown Accord of 1992 was a failed attempt by Prime Minister  Brian Mulroney and all 10 provincial premiers to amend the Canadian Constitution. The goal was to obtain Quebec’s consent to the Constitution Act, 1982. The Accord would have recognized Quebec as a distinct society; decentralized many federal powers to the provinces; addressed the issue of Indigenous self-government; and reformed the Senate and the House of Commons. The Accord had the approval of the federal government and all 10 provincial governments. But it was rejected by Canadian voters in a referendum on 26 October 1992.

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Singh Case

In the 1985 Singh case (Singh v. Minister of Employment and Immigration), the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the legal guarantees of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms apply to “everyone” physically present in Canada, including foreign asylum seekers. The court also found that refugees have the right to a full oral hearing of their claims before being either admitted into the country or deported. The decision drastically changed the way refugees are dealt with in Canada. (See also Canadian Refugee Policy.)