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Sikhism in Canada

Sikhism, a major world religion, arose through the teachings of Guru Nanak (circa 1469–1539) in the Punjab region of India. There are about 27 million Sikhs worldwide, making Sikhism the fifth largest religion. Sikhs (disciple or "learner of truth"), like Jews, are distinguished both as a religion and as an ethnic group. Though in principle universalistic and open to converts regardless of background, Sikhism has been identified primarily with Punjabi people, events and culture.

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Celebrating Asian Heritage in Canada

Many Canadians today see our diverse population as a source of pride and strength — for good reason. More than one in five Canadians were born elsewhere. That is the highest percentage of immigrants in the G7 group of large industrialized nations. Asia (including people born in the Middle East) has provided the greatest number of newcomers in recent years. Since the 1990s, Canadians — who once thought primarily of Europe when they considered events abroad — now define themselves, and the world, differently. As former prime minister Jean Chrétien said: “The Pacific is getting smaller and the Atlantic is becoming wider.”

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South Asian Canadians

South Asians trace their origins to South Asia, which encompasses India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Most South Asian Canadians are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from these countries, but immigrants from South Asian communities established during British colonial times also include those from East and South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji and Mauritius. Others come from Britain, the US and Europe. In the 2016 census, 1, 963,330 Canadians reported South Asian origins (1,603,000 single and 360,330 multiple responses).

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English Canadians

The English were among the first Europeans to reach Canadian shores. Alongside the French, they were one of two groups who negotiated Confederation. The expression "English Canadians" refers to both immigrants from England and the Loyalists in exile after the American Revolution and their descendants. According to the 2016 Census of Canada, about 18 per cent of the Canadians consider themselves to be of English origin.

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Marriage in Canada

Marriage remains one of the most important social institutions in Canada. It has undergone profound changes since the 1960s. The marriage rate is in decline and the traditional idea of a family is being transformed. After the turn of the millennium, the marriage rate fell to 4.7 marriages per 1,000 people (compared to 10.9 in the 1940s). Married couples are still the predominant family structure. But between 2001 and 2016, the number of common-law couples rose 51.4 per cent; more than five times the increase for married couples over the same period. The definition of what constitutes a married couple also changed in 2005 with the legalization of same-sex marriage. In 2016, 65.8 per cent of Canadian families were headed by married couples; down from 70.5 per cent in 2001. Marriage falls under federal jurisdiction, but the provinces regulate marriage ceremonies and grant marriage licences.

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Manitoba Act

The Manitoba Act provided for the admission of Manitoba as Canada’s fifth province. It received royal assent and became law on 12 May 1870. It marked the legal resolution of the struggle for self-determination between people of the Red River Colony and the federal government, which began with Canada’s purchase of Rupert’s Land in 1870. The Act contained protections for the region’s Métis. However, these protections were not fully realized. As a result, many Métis left the province for the North-West Territories.

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Canadian Census

A census is a count of a population in a specific region. In Canada, there are two types of censuses: the Census of Population and the Census of Agriculture. Both are conducted every five years by Statistics Canada, a department of the federal government. The larger of the two censuses, the Census of Population, gathers demographic information. This information includes where people live, as well as their age, sex, marital status and ethnic origin. The government uses this information to establish electoral boundaries, to make federal transfer payments (money given to the provinces) and to monitor various social programs and policies (e.g. Canada Pension Plan, health care and education). In addition, the data is available to non-governmental organizations and to the general public. Some older data is available to individuals interested in genealogical research.

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Rights Revolution in Canada

The time between the end of the Second World War and the signing of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 is often referred to as the Rights Revolution in Canada. During this period, awareness of and support for human rights increased. At the grassroots level, women, queer communities, Indigenous peoples, and disability activists pushed for greater inclusion and made significant rights gains. At the same time, both federal and provincial governments passed laws that prohibited discrimination and protected human rights for more people across Canada.

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Irish Famine Orphans in Canada

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.

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The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is Mordecai Richler’s fourth and best-known novel. Published in 1959, it tells the story of a young Jewish man from Montreal who is obsessed with acquiring status, money and land. Bitingly satirical, it is a landmark Canadian novel. It established Richler as an international literary figure and sparked an interest in Canadian literature both at home and abroad. It also drew criticism from those who felt the main character embodied anti-Semitic stereotypes. Richler also received several awards and an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for the 1974 feature film adaptation, co-written with Lionel Chetwynd and directed by Ted Kotcheff.

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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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Anishinaabemowin: Ojibwe Language

Anishinaabemowin (also called Ojibwemowin, the Ojibwe/Ojibwa language, or Chippewa) is an Indigenous language, generally spanning from Manitoba to Québec, with a strong concentration around the Great Lakes. Elders share that the term Anishinaabemowin acknowledges the creation story of the Ojibwe people: “Anishinaabe” means “the spirit that is lowered down from above,” “-mo” refers to expression through speech and “-win” refers to the life energy within, used to do so. Linguists also explain that “-win” is a nominalizer that turns the verb Anishinaabemo (“he/she is speaking the Anishinaabe language”) into a noun. According to the 2016 Census, 28,130 people are listed as speaking Anishinaabemowin.

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Heritage Minutes

The Heritage Minutes collection is a bilingual series of history-focused public service announcements. Each 60-second short film depicts a significant person, event or story in Canadian history. They are produced by Historica Canada, the not-for-profit organization that also publishes this encyclopedia. First released in 1991, the Heritage Minutes have been shown on television, in cinemas and online. They have become a recognizable part of Canadian culture. The collection currently includes 96 episodes.

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Fenian Raids

The Fenians were a secret society of Irish patriots who had emigrated from Ireland to the United States. Some members of this movement tried to take Canadian territory by force, so they could exchange it with Britain for Irish independence. From 1866 to 1871, the Fenians launched several small, armed attacks. Each raid was put down by government forces. Dozens were killed and wounded on both sides. The raids revealed shortfalls in the leadership, structure and training of the Canadian militia, and led to improvements in these areas. The raids also took place at a time of growing concern over the threat posed by American military and economic might. This led to increased support for Confederation.

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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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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.)