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Patriation of the Constitution

In 1982, Canada fully broke from its colonial past and “patriated” its Constitution. It transferred the country’s highest law, the British North America Act (which was renamed the Constitution Act, 1867), from the authority of the British Parliament to Canada’s federal and provincial legislatures. The Constitution was also updated with a new amending formula and a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These changes occurred after a fierce, 18-month political and legal struggle that dominated headlines and the agendas of every government in the country.

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Residential Schools in Canada (Plain-Language Summary)

In the early 1600s, Catholic nuns and priests established the first residential schools in Canada. In 1883, these schools began to receive funding from the federal government. That year, the Government of Canada officially authorized the creation of the residential school system. The main goal of the system was to assimilate Indigenous children into white, Christian society. (See also Inuit Experiences at Residential School and Métis Experiences at Residential School .)

(This article is a plain-language summary of residential schools in Canada. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry Residential Schools in Canada.)

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Pierre Elliott Trudeau

Pierre Elliott Trudeau, PC, CC, CH, FRSC, prime minister of Canada 1968–79 and 1980–84, politician, writer, constitutional lawyer (born 18 October 1919 in Montreal, QC; died 28 September 2000 in Montreal). A charismatic and controversial figure, Pierre Trudeau was arguably Canada’s best-known politician, both at home and abroad. He introduced legal reforms to make Canada a more “just society” and made Canada officially bilingual with the Official Languages Act of 1969. He negotiated Canada’s constitutional independence from Britain and established a new Canadian Constitution with a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He played an important role in defeating the Quebec separatist movement of the 1970s and 1980s; although his decision to invoke the War Measures Act in response to the 1970 October Crisis drew sharp criticism. His federalist stance as well as his language and economic policies alienated many in Canada, particularly in the West. His eldest son, Justin Trudeau, became leader of the Liberal Party in 2013 and prime minister in 2015.

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Demasduit

Demasduit (also known as Demasduwit, Shendoreth, Waunathoake, and Mary March), creator of a Beothuk dictionary (born 1796; died 8 January 1820 at Bay of Exploits, Newfoundland). Demasduit was a Beothuk woman taken captive by English fishers in 1819. She was subsequently sent to an Anglican missionary where she created a list of Beothuk vocabulary. After her death, her remains and those of her husband were taken to Scotland. After much lobbying, the remains were returned to Newfoundland in 2020. The Government of Canada has recognized Demasduit as a Person of National Historic Significance.

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Adam Dollard des Ormeaux

Adam Dollard des Ormeaux, soldier, French colonist (born 23 July 1635 in France; died in May 1660 near Carillon, in New France). Adam Dollard des Ormeaux was the garrison commander in Ville-Marie­. He led a group of French fighters and their Algonquin and Huron-Wendat allies against the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) at the battle of Long Sault. Adam Dollard des Ormeaux has long been considered both a hero and a martyr who sacrified himself in the defence of Ville-Marie. Recent studies, however, have cast doubt on how heroic his conduct actually was.

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Mistahimaskwa (Big Bear)

Mistahimaskwa (Big Bear), Plains Cree chief (born near Fort Carlton, SK; died 17 January 1888 on the Little Pine Reserve, SK). Mistahimaskwa is best known for his refusal to sign Treaty 6 in 1876 and for his band’s involvement in violent conflicts associated with the 1885 North-West Resistance.

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British Home Children

On 14 April 1826, an obscure police magistrate in London, England, Robert Chambers, told a committee of the British Parliament dealing with emigration: "I conceive that London has got too full of children." Chambers was alarmed at the number of youngsters, victims of east-end London's chronic poverty, who were begging in the streets and sleeping in the gutters. He had a recommendation which may well have been in the minds of others and which was to become reality several decades later in one of the most Draconian movements in the history of emigration. Chambers recommended that Britain's surplus children be sent to Canada as farm labour.

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John Diefenbaker

John George “Dief the Chief” Diefenbaker, PC, CH, KC, FRSC, prime minister 1957–63, politician, lawyer (born 18 September 1895 in Neustadt, ON; died 16 August 1979 in Ottawa, ON). John Diefenbaker was Canada’s 13th prime minister. He was well known as a defence lawyer before his election to Parliament, and was an eloquent spokesman for “non-establishment” Canada. A supporter of civil rights for all, Diefenbaker championed the Canadian Bill of Rights and the extension of the right to vote to First Nations peoples. He also played an important role in the anti-apartheid statement that led to South Africa’s departure from the Commonwealth in 1961. He was a charismatic and popular speaker; but he was also a divisive force within the Progressive Conservative Party. He was criticized for his indecision concerning nuclear missiles on Canadian soil; for his strained relations with US President John F. Kennedy; and for his cancellation of the Avro Arrow project.

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Richard Pierpoint

Richard Pierpoint (also Pawpine, Parepoint; Captain Pierpoint, Captain Dick; Black Dick), loyalist, soldier, community leader, storyteller (born c. 1744 in Bondu [now Senegal]; died c. 1838, near present-day Fergus, ON). Pierpoint was an early leader in Canada’s Black community. Taken from West Africa as a teenager and sold into slavery, Pierpoint regained his freedom during the American Revolution. He settled in Niagara, Upper Canada, and attempted to live communally with other Black Canadians. In the War of 1812, he petitioned for an all-Black unit to fight for the British and fought with the Coloured Corps.

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Lester B. Pearson

Lester Bowles (“Mike”) Pearson, PC, OM, CC, OBE, prime minister 1963–68, statesman, politician, public servant, professor (born 23 April 1897 in Newtonbrook, ON; died 27 December 1972 in Ottawa, ON). Lester Pearson was Canada’s foremost diplomat of the 1950s and 1960s. He formulated the basics of the country’s postwar foreign policy; particularly its involvement in NATO and the United Nations, where he served as president of the General Assembly. In 1957, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his diplomatic efforts in facilitating Britain and France’s departure from Egypt during the Suez Crisis. A skilled politician, he rebuilt the Liberal Party and as prime minister strove to maintain Canada’s national unity. Under his leadership, the government implemented a Canada Pension Plan; a universal medicare system; a unified Armed Forces; and a new national flag.

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Quebec Film History: 1970 to 1989

This entry presents an overview of Québec cinema, from the burgeoning of a distinctly Québec cinema in the 1970s, to the production explosion that followed Denys Arcand’s Le déclin de l’empire américain (1986). It highlights the most important films, whether in terms of box office success or international acclaim, and covers both narrative features and documentaries. It also draws attention to an aspect of filmmaking that still has difficulty finding its place: women's cinema.

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Irving Abella

Irving Martin Abella, CM, O Ont, FRSC, historian, professor, administrator (born 2 July 1940 in Toronto, ON; died 3 July 2022). Irving Abella was a professor of history at York University from 1968 to 2013. He was a pioneer in the field of Canadian labour history and also specialized in the history of Jewish people in Canada. Abella was co-author of the book None Is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe 1933–1948, which documented antisemitism in the Canadian government’s immigration policies. Abella served as president of the Canadian Jewish Congress from 1992 to 1995 and helped establish the Centre for Jewish Studies at York University. He was a Member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

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Canadian Film History: 1939 to 1973

Filmmaking is a powerful form of cultural and artistic expression, as well as a highly profitable commercial enterprise. From a practical standpoint, filmmaking is a business involving large sums of money and a complex division of labour. This labour is involved, roughly speaking, in three sectors: production, distributionand exhibition. The history of the Canadian film industry has been one of sporadic achievement accomplished in isolation against great odds. Canadian cinema has existed within an environment where access to capital for production, to the marketplace for distribution and to theatres for exhibition has been extremely difficult. The Canadian film industry, particularly in English Canada, has struggled against the Hollywood entertainment monopoly for the attention of an audience that remains largely indifferent toward the domestic industry. The major distribution and exhibition outlets in Canada have been owned and controlled by foreign interests. The lack of domestic production throughout much of the industry’s history can only be understood against this economic backdrop.

This article is one of four that surveys the history of the film industry in Canada. The entire series includes: Canadian Film History: 1896 to 1938; Canadian Film History: 1939 to 1973; Canadian Film History: 1974 to Present; Canadian Film History: Regional Cinema and Auteurs, 1980 to Present.

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Mary Simon

Mary Jeannie May Simon (Ningiukudluk); diplomat, civil servant, (born 21 August 1947 in Kangirsualujjuaq, Nunavik, QC). Simon is an advocate for international cooperation in the Arctic and Indigenous education and rights. She has held multiple roles in the civil service, including secretary and co-director of policy of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, secretary to the board of directors of the Northern Quebec Inuit Association, and member of the Nunavut Implementation Commission. She was also the first vice president of the Makivik Corporation and the first Inuk in Canada to hold the rank of ambassador. Simon has served as the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and of what is now the Inuit Circumpolar Council. On 26 July 2021, Simon became Canada’s 30th Governor General and the first Indigenous person to serve in that role.

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Prime Minister of Canada

The prime minister (PM) is the head of the federal government. It is the most powerful position in Canadian politics. Prime ministers are not specifically elected to the position; instead, the PM is typically the leader of the party that has the most seats in the House of Commons. The prime minister controls the governing party and speaks for it; names senators and senior judges for appointment; and appoints and dismisses all members of Cabinet. As chair of Cabinet, the PM controls its agenda and greatly influences the activities and priorities of Parliament. In recent years, a debate has emerged about the growing power of prime ministers, and whether this threatens other democratic institutions.

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David Thompson

David Thompson, explorer, cartographer (born 30 April 1770 in London, England; died 10 February 1857 in Longueuil, Canada East). David Thomson was called “the greatest land geographer who ever lived.” He walked or paddled 80,000 km or more in his life, mapping most of western Canada, parts of the east and the northwestern United States. And like so many geniuses, his achievements were only recognized after his death.

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Joseph Bloor

Joseph Bloor, innkeeper, brewer (also spelled Bloore; born in 1789 near Staffordshire, England; died 31 August 1862 in Toronto, ON). Bloor is the namesake of Toronto’s Bloor Street and was a prominent innkeeper and brewer in the early half of the 19th century. He was the founder of the village of Yorkville, which is now part of the city of Toronto.

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Michel Cadotte

Michel Cadotte, pioneer fur trader, interpreter, mediator (born 22 July 1764 in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; died 8 July 1837 in La Pointe, Wisconsin). Cadotte established a large, successful fur trade along the south shore of Lake Superior, which covered present-day northern Wisconsin and extended into parts of northern Minnesota. Half French Canadian and half Ojibwe, he endeared himself to the Indigenous people of the area by marrying Ikwesewe, the daughter of an Ojibwe chief, and by his compassionate understanding of Indigenous ways. These factors allowed Cadotte to gain a monopoly on the fur trade with the Indigenous peoples of the area.

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Tommy Prince

Thomas George Prince, war hero, Indigenous advocate (born 25 October 1915 in Petersfield, MB; died 25 November 1977 in Winnipeg, MB). Tommy Prince of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation is one of the most-decorated Indigenous war veterans in Canada, having been awarded a total of 11 medals for his service in the Second World War and the Korean War. When he died, he was honoured at his funeral by his First Nation, the province of Manitoba, Canada and the governments of France, Italy and the United States. ( See also Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars.)