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Article

Dionne Quintuplets

Annette, Emilie, Yvonne, Cecile and Marie aroused worldwide attention after their birth at Corbeil, Ontario, to Oliva and Elzire Dionne on 28 May 1934. With only two previous cases on record, they were the only quintuplets to survive for more than a few days. This miracle, plus their baby cuteness, the poverty of their French Canadian parents, and the controversy over their guardianship, made them the sensation of the 1930s.

Article

Cowboys and Cowgirls in Canada

Cowboys and cowgirls are people employed to tend cattle or horses. The first cowboys to work on the Canadian prairies arrived in the 1870s. The traditional cowboy lifestyle has since given way to a more contained, corporate model of ranching. But the romanticized image of the cowboy on the “open range” lives on as a symbol of the prairies. Today, the terms cowboy and cowgirl can refer to ranch workers or rodeo competitors.

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

Article

Queen Mother (HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother)

Her Majesty (HM) Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, consort of King George VI and mother of Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, the United Kingdom and 13 other Commonwealth realms (born 4 August 1900 in London, United Kingdom; died 30 March 2002 in Windsor, United Kingdom). In 1939, Queen Elizabeth became the first queen consort to visit Canada with her reigning husband. Her determination to remain in London during the Blitz made her an inspirational figure during the Second World War. Her tours of Canada spanned a 50-year period from 1939 to 1989. She was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2000.

Article

Elijah McCoy

Elijah McCoy, engineer, inventor (born 2 May 1843 or 1844 in Colchester, Canada West; died 10 October 1929 in Wayne County, Michigan.) McCoy was an African-Canadian mechanical engineer and inventor best known for his groundbreaking innovations in industrial lubrication.

Article

Chloe Cooley

Chloe Cooley was one of hundreds of Black women enslaved in the French and British colonies that became Canada. Although little is known about Chloe Cooley, who was enslaved in Upper Canada, her struggles against her enslaver, Sergeant Adam Vrooman, precipitated the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada of 1793. The Act was the first legislation in the British colonies to restrict the slave trade. (See also Black Enslavement in Canada.)

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

Article

Masumi Mitsui

Masumi Mitsui, MM, farmer, soldier, Canadian Legion official (born 7 October 1887 in Tokyo, Japan; died 22 April 1987 in Hamilton, ON). Masumi Mitsui immigrated to Canada in 1908 and served with distinction in the First World War. In 1931, he and his comrades persuaded the BC government to grant Japanese Canadian veterans the right to vote, a breakthrough for Japanese and other disenfranchised Canadians. Nevertheless, Matsui and more than 22,000 Japanese Canadians were displaced, detained and dispossessed by the federal government during the Second World War (see Internment of Japanese Canadians).

Article

Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

Emily Pauline Johnson (a.k.a. Tekahionwake, “double wampum”) poet, writer, artist, performer (born 10 March 1861 on the Six Nations Reserve, Canada West; died 7 March 1913 in VancouverBC). Pauline Johnson was one of North America’s most notable entertainers of the late 19th century. A mixed-race woman of Mohawk and European descent, she was a gifted writer and poised orator. She toured extensively, captivating audiences with her flair for the dramatic arts. Johnson made important contributions to Indigenous and Canadian oral and written culture. She is listed as a Person of National Historic Significance and her childhood home is a National Historic Site and museum. A monument in Vancouver’s Stanley Park commemorates her work and legacy. In 2016, she was one of 12 Canadian women in consideration to appear on a banknote. (See Women on Canadian Banknotes.)

List

30 Famous Francophones

​To celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2015, The Canadian Encyclopedia created 30 lists of 30 things that make us proud to be Canadian, from famous people and historic events, to iconic foods and influential artists.

List

30 Canadian War Heroes

​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.

Article

Ezekiel Hart

Ezekiel (Ezechiel) Hart, politician, entrepreneur, militia officer (born 15 May 1770 in Trois-Rivières, Province of Quebec, died 16 September 1843 in Trois-Rivières, Province of Canada). He holds the distinction of being the second Jew to be elected to a political office in the British Empire (see Imperialism). He was also the first in Canada. Despite his business acumen and good standing in the community, Hart was not permitted to take his seat in Lower Canada’s Legislative Assembly, owing to his Jewish faith. This spurred a public debate on Jewish participation in politics. Ultimately, this concluded with an act granting political rights to Jews in Lower Canada in 1832. (See also Anti-Semitism in Canada.)

Article

Egerton Ryerson

Adolphus Egerton Ryerson, Methodist minister, educator (born 24 March 1803 in Charlotteville Township, Norfolk County, Upper Canada; died 18 February 1882 in Toronto, Ontario). Egerton Ryerson was a leading figure in education and politics in 19th century Ontario. He helped found and edit the Christian Guardian (1829) and served as president of the Methodist Church of Canada (1874–78). As superintendent of education in Canada West, Ryerson established a system of free, mandatory schooling at the primary and secondary level — the forerunner of Ontario’s current school system. He also founded the Provincial Normal School (1847), which eventually became the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). Ryerson also served as principal of Victoria College, which he helped found in 1836 as the Upper Canada Academy. He was also, however, involved in the development of residential schools in Canada. This has led to increasing calls to rename Ryerson University (now Toronto Metropolitan University) and other institutions named in his honour.

Article

Olivier Le Jeune

We may never know the exact number of British ships that carried enslaved people from the continent of Africa to the New World (see Black Enslavement in Canada). However, the earliest record of enslaved Black Africans in New France is the sale of a boy from either Madagascar or Guinea. In 1629, the child, believed to have been around six years old, was brought to New France aboard a British ship as the chattel slave of Sir David Kirke, a trader and privateer for England’s King Charles I. The boy was later sold to a French clerk named Olivier Le Baillif, and then transferred to Guillaume Couillard. In 1633, the enslaved boy was baptized and given the name Olivier Le Jeune. Le Jeune remained in the colony of New France for the rest of his life until he died on 10 May 1654.

Article

Ruth Lor Malloy

Ruth Lor Malloy (née Lor), journalist, writer, activist (born 4 August 1932, in Brockville, ON). Malloy was a key figure in fighting against discrimination in Ontario in the 1950s (see Prejudice and Discrimination in Canada). She participated in the high profile Dresden restaurant sit-in of 1954. In 1973, she published the first English-language guidebook to China in North America. Throughout her decades-long career, Malloy worked tirelessly to foster intercultural dialogue and justice for marginalized groups.

Article

Tom Longboat

Thomas Charles Longboat (Gagwe:gih), distance runner, Olympian (born 4 July 1886 in Ohsweken, Six Nations of the Grand River; died 9 January 1949 in Ohsweken). Tom Longboat was an Onondaga distance runner from Six Nations of the Grand River. One of the most famous athletes of the early 20th century, Longboat pioneered training methods still used today. He is considered one of the first celebrity athletes in Canada, with his athletic successes known across North America and overseas. He was a leader in establishing marathon running as an international sport and won many marathons in record-breaking times, beating competitors from all over the world. Longboat was the first Indigenous person to win the Boston Marathon (1907). He competed for Canada at the 1908 Olympic Games. He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

Article

Igor Gouzenko

Igor Sergeievitch Gouzenko, Soviet intelligence officer, author (born 26 January 1919 in Rogachev, Russia; died 25 June 1982 in Mississauga, ON). Igor Gouzenko was a Soviet cipher clerk stationed at the Soviet Union’s Ottawa embassy during the Second World War. Just weeks after the end of the war, Gouzenko defected to the Canadian government with proof that his country had been spying on its wartime allies: Canada, Britain and the United States. This prompted what is known as the Gouzenko Affair. Gouzenko sought asylum for himself and his family in Canada. His defection caused a potentially dangerous international crisis. Many historians consider it the beginning of the Cold War.

Article

Louis Riel

Louis Riel, Métis leader, founder of Manitoba, central figure in the Red River and North-West resistances (born 22 October 1844 in Saint-BonifaceRed River Settlement; died 16 November 1885 in ReginaSK). Riel led two popular Métis governments, was central in bringing Manitoba into Confederation, and was executed for high treason for his role in the 1885 resistance to Canadian encroachment on Métis lands. Riel was initially dismissed as a rebel by Canadian historians, although many now sympathize with Riel as a Métis leader who fought to protect his people from the Canadian government.