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Conscription in Canada

Conscription is the compulsory enlistment or “call up” of citizens for military service. It is sometimes known as “the draft.” The federal government enacted conscription in both the First World War and the Second World War. Both instances created sharp divisions between English Canadians, who tended to support the practice, and French Canadians, who generally did not. Canada does not currently have mandatory military service. The Canadian Armed Forces are voluntary services.

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Military Service Act

The Military Service Act became law on 29 August 1917. It was a politically explosive and controversial law that bitterly divided the country along French-English lines. It made all male citizens aged 20 to 45 subject to conscription for military service, through the end of the First World War. The Act’s military value was questionable, but its political consequences were clear. It led to the creation of Prime Minister Borden’s Union Government and drove most of his French-Canadian supporters into opposition.

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Orange Order in Canada

The Orange Order was a political and religious fraternal society in Canada. From the early 19th century, members proudly defended Protestantism and the British connection while providing mutual aid. The Order had a strong influence in politics, particularly through patronage at the municipal level, and developed a reputation for sectarianism and rioting.

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Blackfoot Confederacy

The Blackfoot Confederacy, sometimes referred to as the Blackfoot Nation or Siksikaitsitapi, is comprised of three Indigenous nations, the Kainai, Piikani and Siksika. People of the Blackfoot Nation refer to themselves as Niitsitapi, meaning “the real people,” a generic term for all Indigenous people, or Siksikaitsitapi, meaning “Blackfoot-speaking real people.” The Confederacy’s traditional territory spans parts of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as northern Montana. In the 2016 census, 22,490 people identified as having Blackfoot ancestry.

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Montreal Metro

The Montreal metro opened on 14 October 1966. The second Canadian subway system after Toronto’s, which opened in 1954, the Montreal metro was the first subway in North America to run on rubber tires instead of metal wheels. Extensions to the Montreal metro were built on Montreal Island over the two decades after it opened, and then to the city of Laval, on the island of Île Jésus, during the 2000s. The system runs entirely underground, and each station has a distinct architecture and design. The Montreal metro consists of four lines running a total of 71 km and serving 68 stations. In 2018, its passengers made more than 383 million trips.

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Canadian Foreign Relations

Throughout its history, Canada has taken a series of steps to develop from a British colony into an independent nation. Both the First and Second World War were turning points; Canada’s military sacrifices gave it the strength and confidence to demand its own voice on the world stage. In the postwar era, Canada maintained its role in both Western and global alliances. (See NATO; NORAD; GATT.) However, economics have shaped Canadian diplomacy to a remarkable extent. Because of the United States’ singular importance to Canadian security and trade, relations with the US have dominated Canada’s foreign policy since Confederation.

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Shelburne Race Riots

On 26 July 1784, a mob of Loyalist settlers stormed the home of a Black preacher in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. They were armed with hooks and chains seized from ships in the harbour. The confrontation ignited a wave of violence in Shelburne County that lasted approximately 10 days. The majority of the attacks targeted the county’s free Black population. The Shelburne Riot has been described as the first race riot in North America. (See also British North America.)

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Orange Shirt Day

At an event in Williams Lake, British Columbia, in May 2013, the orange shirt was presented as a symbol of Indigenous peoples’ suffering caused by Indian Residential Schools, which operated from the 1830s to the 1990s. The event led to the annual 30 September Orange Shirt Day as a means of remembrance, teaching and healing. In June 2021, the federal government declared 30 September a national statutory holiday to coincide with Orange Shirt Day.


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SARS in Canada

Canada experienced an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003. Most of the infections originated in Toronto hospitals. The outbreak led to the quarantine of thousands, killed 44 people and took an economic toll on Toronto. It also exposed the country’s ill-prepared health-care system. Confusion around SARS fuelled an uptick in anti-Asian and anti-immigrant sentiment.

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

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Languages in use in Canada

Although French and English are Canada’s only two official languages, the country’s linguistic diversity is very rich. According to the 2016 census, an increased number of Canadians are reporting a mother tongue or language spoken at home other than English or French compared to in previous years. This is in addition to a large diversity of Indigenous languages.

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Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame

The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) is a non-profit organization that honours Canadian songs and songwriters. Music publisher Frank Davies founded the bilingual organization in 1998; its inaugural induction ceremony took place in 2003. Winners are inducted in one of three categories: songwriters; songs; and special achievement, for those who have made a significant contribution to the development and recognition of Canadian songs and songwriters. The CSHF has inducted over 60 songwriters and more than 170 songs since its inception.

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Cannabis Legalization in Canada

Cannabis, also known as marijuana (among countless other names), is a psychoactive intoxicant that was banned in Canada from 1923 until medical cannabis became legal in 2001. The consumption and sale of recreational cannabis was legalized and regulated on 17 October 2018, after Parliament passed Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act. Legalization was supported by a majority of Canadians, despite concerns about the drug’s addictiveness and health effects, especially among young people.

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Racial Segregation of Black People in Canada

Racial segregation is the separation of people, or groups of people, based on race in everyday life. Throughout Canada’s history, there have been many examples of Black people being segregated, excluded from, or denied equal access to opportunities and services such as education, employment, housing, transportation, immigration, health care and commercial establishments. The racial segregation of Black people in Canada was historically enforced through laws, court decisions and social norms.

See also Prejudice and Discrimination in Canada and Racism.

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Tsilhqot'in (Chilcotin)

The Tsilhqot'in (Chilcotin) are an Indigenous people who live between the Fraser River and the Coast Mountains in west-central British Columbia. Traditionally Dene (Athabascan) speaking, their name means "people of the red river" and also refers to the Chilcotin Plateau region in British Columbia. The Tsilhqot’in National Government is a tribal council established in 1989 that represents the six member First Nations of the Chilcotin Plateau. In 2014, the Tsilhqot’in people won a Supreme Court of Canada case that focused on the issue of Aboriginal title. In 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized to the Tsilhqot’in people for the wrongful conviction and hanging of Tsilhqot’in chiefs during the Chilcotin War of 1864.

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Canada's Opioid Crisis

Overdoses from a class of painkiller drugs called opioids are claiming the lives of thousands of Canadians from all walks of life. The death count is the result of an escalating public health crisis: an epidemic of opioid addiction. The crisis is made deadlier by an influx of illicit fentanyl and chemically similar drugs, but it can be traced to the medical over-prescribing of opioids, including oxycodone, fentanyl and morphine.