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Article

Chinese Head Tax in Canada

The Chinese head tax was enacted to restrict immigration after Chinese labour was no longer needed to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. Between 1885 and 1923, Chinese immigrants had to pay a head tax to enter Canada. The tax was levied under the Chinese Immigration Act (1885). It was the first legislation in Canadian history to exclude immigration on the basis of ethnic background. With few exceptions, Chinese people had to pay at least $50 to come to Canada. The tax was later raised to $100, then to $500. During the 38 years the tax was in effect, around 82,000 Chinese immigrants paid nearly $23 million in tax. The head tax was removed with the passing of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1923. Also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, it banned all Chinese immigrants until its repeal in 1947. In 2006, the federal government apologized for the head tax and its other racist immigration policies targeting Chinese people.

This is the full-length entry about the Chinese Head Tax. For a plain-language summary, please see Chinese Head Tax in Canada (Plain-Language Summary).

Article

Carol Elizabeth Duffus (Primary Source)

“And so you know, I, I think that was probably why I advanced to the staff officer training because I was respected and that I knew what I was doing and why I was there.”

See below for Mrs. Duffus' entire testimony.


Carol Elizabeth Duffus was a Staff Officer and Tactical Table Trainer with the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS) during the Second World War. Women such as Carol Duffus made important contributions to the war effort, carving a path for future generations of women to join the Canadian Armed Forces. Listen to Duffus’ first-hand account of her service.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

Article

Piikani

Piikani (Peigan, Pikuni, Piikuni) are one of the three nations of the Blackfoot Confederacy. (The other two are the Siksika and Kainai.) The Piikani once occupied a vast hunting ground which ranged along the foothills from Rocky Mountain House to Heart Butte, Montana, and extended eastward onto the Plains. According to the federal government, there are 3,884 registered members living and working both on and off their reserves located near Pincher Creek, Alberta.

Article

Turtle Island

For some Indigenous peoples, Turtle Island refers to the continent of North America. The name comes from various Indigenous oral histories that tell stories of a turtle that holds the world on its back. For some Indigenous peoples, the turtle is therefore considered an icon of life, and the story of Turtle Island consequently speaks to various spiritual and cultural beliefs.

Article

James Shaver Woodsworth

James Shaver Woodsworth, Methodist pastor, social worker and politician (born 29 July, 1874 in Etobicoke, ON. Died 21 March, 1942 in Vancouver, BC). First leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), he was the best known of the reform-minded Social Gospel ministers and led many of them into the politics of democratic socialism. Woodsworth moved to Brandon, Man, in 1885 where his father became superintendent of Methodist missions in the Northwest. Ordained in 1896, he spent 2 years as a Methodist circuit rider in Manitoba and a further 2 years studying at Victoria College and Oxford.

Article

Beothuk

Beothuk (meaning “the people” or “true people” in their language) were an Indigenous people who traditionally inhabited Newfoundland. At the time of European contact in the 16th century, the Beothuk may have numbered no more than 500 to 1,000. Their population is difficult to estimate owing to a reduction in their territories in the early contact period. While it has been said that the Beothuk are now extinct, Mi’kmaq oral tradition denies this claim. Indigenous oral histories teach that the Beothuk intermarried with other Indigenous nations along the mainland after they had been forced out of their coastal territories by settlers. According to this perspective, Beothuk descendants live on in other Indigenous communities.

Article

Filipino Canadians

Filipinos have been in Canada as early as the late 19th century. Migration from the Philippines to Canada significantly increased from the 1960s onward. (See Immigration to Canada.) In the 2016 Census, 837,130 people reported being of Filipino ethnic origin. Filipino Canadians are the largest group of Southeast Asian Canadians. Among Filipino Canadians, women outnumber men by 56 per cent to 44 per cent. The Philippines was the most common country of birth among people who immigrated to Canada between 2011 and 2016.

Article

Internment of Japanese Canadians

The forcible expulsion and confinement of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War is one of the most tragic sets of events in Canada’s history. Some 21,000 Japanese Canadians were taken from their homes on Canada’s West Coast, without any charge or due process. Beginning 24 February 1942, around 12,000 of them were exiled to remote areas of British Columbia and elsewhere. The federal government stripped them of their property and pressured many of them to accept mass deportation after the war. Those who remained were not allowed to return to the West Coast until 1 April 1949. In 1988, the federal government officially apologized for its treatment of Japanese Canadians. A redress payment of $21,000 was made to each survivor, and more than $12 million was allocated to a community fund and human rights projects.

This article is the full-length text on Japanese Internment in Canada. For a plain-language summary, see Internment of Japanese Canadians (Plain-Language Summary).

Article

Carl Ray

Carl Ray, Cree artist, illustrator, editor and art teacher (born January 1943 in Sandy Lake, ON; died 26 September 1978 in Sioux Lookout, ON). Ray was known for his innovative paintings in the Woodlands style and was a founding member of the Indian Group of Seven. Ray’s work has influenced Indigenous art in Canada and can be found in the collections of various galleries and museums across the country.

Article

Shawnadithit

Shawnadithit (also known as Nance or Nancy April), record keeper of Beothuk history and culture (born circa 1800-6 in what is now NL; died 6 June 1829 in St. John’s, NL). Shawnadithit was captured by English furriers in 1823 and later worked as a housekeeper for merchant John Peyton Jr. In 1828, Shawnadithit was brought to Scottish merchant and naturalist William Cormack, who wanted to record information about the language and customs of the Beothuk. Shawnadithit drew maps of Beothuk territory as well as items of Beothuk material culture. While it is popularly believed that Shawnadithit was the last Beothuk, Mi’kmaq oral histories reject that claim. They argue that Shawnadithit’s people intermarried with inland Indigenous peoples after fleeing their homeland. The legacy of Shawnadithit as an important record keeper of Beothuk history and culture remains undisputed. In 2007, the federal government announced the unveiling of a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque recognizing Shawnadithit’s importance to Canadian history.

Article

Margaret Trudeau

Margaret Joan (née Sinclair) Trudeau (Kemper), author, actor, photographer, mental health advocate (born 10 September 1948 in North Vancouver, BC). Margaret Trudeau’s marriage to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1971 made her a public figure overnight. The dissolution of their union occurred under withering public scrutiny at a time when traditional roles, for homemakers and political wives alike, were being challenged. As the wife of one prime minister and the mother of another — Justin Trudeau — Margaret Trudeau carved out a public role for herself after revealing her diagnosis with bipolar disorder. In two books and in well-received public speeches, she has been an outspoken advocate for people with mental health issues.

Article

Mary Spencer

Mary Spencer, boxer, model, humanitarian (born 12 December 1984 in WiartonON). Mary Spencer is one of Canada's premier boxing champions, holding eight national titles, five Pan-American titles, and three world titles. An Ojibwe of the Cape Croker First Nation, Spencer is involved in Motivate Canada’s GEN7 Aboriginal role model initiative, and in 2013 became a mentor with the CIBC Team Next program.

Article

Portia White

Portia May White, contralto, teacher (born 24 June 1911 in Truro, NS; died 13 February 1968 in Toronto, ON). Portia White was the first Black Canadian concert singer to win international acclaim. She was considered one of the best classical singers of the 20th century. Her voice was described by one critic as “a gift from heaven.” She was often compared to the celebrated African American contralto Marian Anderson. The Nova Scotia Talent Trust was established in 1944 specifically to enable White to concentrate on her professional career. She was named a “person of national historic significance” by the Government of Canada in 1995.

Article

Marguerite Marie “Marge” Plante (Primary Source)

Marguerite Marie “Marge” Plante left Alberta to join the Women’s Division of the Royal Canadian Air Force, serving as a timekeeper and typist during the Second World War. Read and listen she describes her enlistment, the death of her brother in Italy, interacting with prisoners of war, and the V-E Day celebrations.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

Article

Lotta Hitschmanova

Lotta Hitschmanova (née Hitschmann), CC, humanitarian, founder of the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada (born 28 November 1909 in Prague, Bohemia, now the Czech Republic; died 1 August 1990 in Ottawa, ON).

Article

Inuktitut

Inuktitut is an Indigenous language in North America, spoken in the Canadian Arctic. The 2016 census reported 39,770 speakers, of which 65 per cent lived in Nunavut and 30.8 per cent in Quebec. Inuktitut is part of a larger Inuit language family, stretching from Alaska to Greenland. Inuktitut uses a writing system called syllabics, created originally for the Cree language, which represent combinations of consonants and vowels. The language is also written in the Roman alphabet, and this is the exclusive writing system used in Labrador and parts of Western Nunavut. Inuktitut is a polysynthetic language, meaning that words tend to be longer and structurally more complex than their English or French counterparts. (See also Indigenous Languages in Canada.)