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Treaty Day

Treaty Day commemorates the day that certain treaties were signed by the Government of Canada and Indigenous peoples between the 18th and 20th centuries. Treaty Day is also a celebration of the historic relationship between Indigenous peoples and the federal government. It promotes public awareness about Indigenous culture, history and heritage for all Canadians.

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Treaty 8

Treaty 8 was signed on 21 June 1899 by the Crown and First Nations of the Lesser Slave Lake area. The treaty covers roughly 841,487.137 km2 of what was formerly the North-West Territories and British Columbia, and now includes northern Alberta, northwest Saskatchewan, and portions of the modern Northwest Territories and BC, making it the largest treaty by area in the history of Canada. The terms and implementation of Treaty 8 differ importantly from those of previous Numbered Treaties, with long-lasting consequences for the governance and peoples of that area.

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Halibut Treaty

The Halibut Treaty of 1923 (formally the Convention for the Preservation of Halibut Fishery of the Northern Pacific Ocean) was an agreement between Canada and the United States on fishing rights in the Pacific Ocean. It was the first environmental treaty aimed at conserving an ocean fish stock. It was also the first treaty independently negotiated and signed by the Canadian government; one of several landmark events that transitioned Canada into an autonomous sovereign state. It also indicated a shift in Canada’s economic focus from Britain to the US during the 1920s, when the US passed Britain as Canada’s largest trading partner. The treaty created the International Pacific Halibut Commission, which continues in its role today.

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Indigenous Title and the War of 1812

In the first decade of the 19th century, relations between Great Britain and the United States deteriorated, primarily due to the widening influence of the Napoleonic Wars. At the centre of this movement, two Shawnee brothers implored Indigenous peoples to unite in order to defend their dwindling lands against the growing incursions of Anglo-American settlers and the United States government. The promise of an Indigenous state never came to fruition. After the War of 1812, the United States and Britain found it more advantageous to ignore Aboriginal title.

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Williams Treaties

The Williams Treaties were signed in October and November 1923 by the governments of Canada and Ontario and by seven First Nations of the Chippewa of Lake Simcoe (Beausoleil, Georgina Island and Rama) and the Mississauga of the north shore of Lake Ontario (Alderville, Curve Lake, Hiawatha and Scugog Island). As the last historic land cession treaties in Canada, these agreements transferred over 20,000 km2 of land in south central Ontario to the Crown; in exchange, Indigenous signatories received one-time cash payments. While Chippewa and Mississauga peoples argue that the Williams Treaties also guaranteed their right to hunt and fish on the territory, the federal and provincial governments have interpreted the treaty differently, resulting in legal disputes and negotiations between the three parties about land rights. In 2018, the Williams Treaties First Nations and the Governments of Ontario and Canada came to a final agreement, settling litigation about land surrenders and harvesting rights.

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Oregon Treaty

The Oregon Treaty was an agreement between Britain and the United States. It came into force on 15 June 1846. It formalized the border between the United States and British North America west of the Rocky Mountains. It extended the border along the 49th parallel to the Pacific Ocean and down “the middle” of the channel that separates Vancouver Island from the mainland. The treaty resolved an important dispute between the two nations. But the lack of precision regarding the waterways between the mainland and Vancouver Island led to a dispute over the San Juan Islands, which resulted in an 1859 diplomatic conflict known as the Pig War.

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Native People's Caravan

The Native People’s Caravan was a cross-country mobile protest that took place in 1974. Its main purpose was to raise awareness about the poor living conditions and discrimination experienced by Indigenous peoples in Canada. It travelled from Vancouver to Ottawa, where the subsequent occupation of a vacant warehouse on Victoria Island, near Parliament Hill, extended into 1975. The caravan brought various Indigenous groups together in protest of broken treaties, as well as a lack of government-supported education, housing and health care. As a result, meetings between Cabinet ministers and Indigenous leaders became more frequent. The protest is remembered as an important turning point in Indigenous activism in Canada.

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Treaty 5

Treaty 5 — also known as the Winnipeg Treaty — was signed in 1875–76 by the federal government, Ojibwa peoples and the Swampy Cree of Lake Winnipeg. Treaty 5 covers much of present-day central and northern Manitoba, as well as portions of Saskatchewan and Ontario. The terms of Treaty 5 have had ongoing legal and socioeconomic impacts on Indigenous communities.

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Ottawa Treaty

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction — better known as the Ottawa Treaty or the Mine Ban Treaty — resulted from Canada’s leadership and its cooperation with the International Campaign To Ban Landmines (ICBL). In 1992, six non-governmental organizations launched an awareness campaign with the goal of banning landmines worldwide. In October 1996, at the first Ottawa Conference, Canadian minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy launched the Ottawa Process, which led to the ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty, signed by 122 countries at the Second Ottawa Conference in December 1997. The Ottawa Process was an innovative, unprecedented initiative that required a strategic partnership among countries, non-governmental organizations, international groups and the United Nations.

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Treaty 7

Treaty 7 is the last of the Numbered Treaties made between the Government of Canada and the Plains First Nations (see Indigenous Peoples: Plains). It was signed on 22 September 1877 by five First Nations: the Siksika (Blackfoot), Kainai (Blood), Piikani (Peigan), Stoney-Nakoda, and Tsuut’ina (Sarcee). Different understandings of the treaty’s purpose, combined with significant culture and language barriers and what some have argued were deliberate attempts to mislead the First Nations on the part of the government negotiators, have led to ongoing conflicts and claims.

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Comprehensive Land Claims: Modern Treaties

Comprehensive land claims are modern-day treaties made between Indigenous peoples and the federal government. They are based on the traditional use and occupancy of land by Indigenous peoples who did not sign treaties and were not displaced from their lands by war or other means. These claims, which are settled by negotiation, follow a process established by the federal government to enable First Nations, Inuit and Métis to obtain full recognition as the original inhabitants of what is now Canada. Settlement of these claims comprises a variety of terms including money, land, forms of local government, rights to wildlife, rights protecting language and culture, and joint management of lands and resources. Treaties are constitutionally protected, mutually binding agreements. Those signed by Indigenous peoples between 1701 and 1923 are commonly referred to as historic treaties, and modern treaties refer to those agreements negotiated since then.

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Peace and Friendship Treaties

Between 1725 and 1779, Britain signed a series of treaties with various Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet), Abenaki, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy peoples living in parts of what are now the Maritimes and Gaspé region in Canada and the northeastern United States. Commonly known as the Peace and Friendship Treaties, these agreements were chiefly designed to prevent war between enemies and to facilitate trade. While these treaties contained no monetary or land transfer provisions, they guaranteed hunting, fishing and land-use rights for the descendants of the Indigenous signatories. The Peace and Friendship Treaties remain in effect today.