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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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Economic Immigration to Canada

Canada’s current and future prosperity depends on recruiting immigrants. Newcomers fill gaps in the Canadian workforce, build or start businesses and invest in the Canadian economy. Economic immigrants include employees as well as employers. They mostly become permanent residents when they immigrate to Canada. Not included in this class are the many temporary foreign workers who contribute to Canada’s economy.

Economic immigrants bring talent, innovation, family members and financial investments to Canada. They also enrich the country’s culture, heritage and opportunities. Technological progress, productivity and economic growth all benefit from these newcomers. Studies show that they have little to no negative impacts on wages for other workers in the country.

The 2016 Census identifies 2,994,130 economic immigrants in Canada. This represents about half of the total of 5,703,615 immigrants counted in that survey. (See also Immigration to Canada.)

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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 and other institutions named in his honour.

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Child Migration to Canada

Migration is a unique experience for a child and Canada receives child migrants from all over the world. Some children come as unaccompanied minors and claim refugee status, some come alone and wait to be reunited with their families, while others are international adoptees by Canadian families.

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Al Rashid Mosque

Al Rashid, a mosque in Edmonton, was dedicated in 1938 and became Canada’s first mosque. It was funded through community initiatives from the Arab community, led by Hilwie Hamdon. The Al Rashid mosque has played a definitive role in the growth of the Muslim community in Alberta and across the country through many important initiatives. (See Islam.)

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Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk)

Kanyen'kehà:ka or Kanien'kehá:ka (“People of the Chert”), commonly known as Mohawk by non-Kanyen'kehà:ka, are Indigenous peoples in North America. They are the easternmost member of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, also referred to as the Iroquois or Six Nations Confederacy. In the early years of the 17th century, they resided on the banks of the Mohawk River in what is now upstate New York. They became intensely involved in the fur trade and in the colonial conflicts of the next two centuries. Many had moved to the St. Lawrence River before 1700 and following the American Revolution, the remainder moved to Canada to reside in territories controlled by their ally, Great Britain. Here, the Kanyen'kehà:ka have garnered a reputation of militancy in maintaining their language and culture, and for defending their rights.

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Black Enslavement in Canada

In early Canada, the enslavement of African peoples was a legal instrument that helped fuel colonial economic enterprise. The buying, selling and enslavement of Black people was practiced by European traders and colonists in New France in the early 1600s, and lasted until it was abolished throughout British North America in 1834. During that two-century period, settlers in what would eventually become Canada were involved in the transatlantic slave trade. Canada is further linked to the institution of enslavement through its history of international trade. Products such as salted cod and timber were exchanged for slave-produced goods such as rum, molasses, tobacco and sugar from slaveholding colonies in the Caribbean. 

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

(See also Olivier Le Jeune; Sir David KirkeChloe Cooley and the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada; Underground Railroad; Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; Slavery Abolition Act, 1833Slavery of Indigenous People in Canada.)

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Samuel de Champlain

Samuel de Champlain, cartographer, explorer, colonial administrator, author (born circa 1567 in Brouage, France; died 25 December 1635 in Quebec City). Known as the “Father of New France,” Samuel de Champlain played a major role in establishing New France from 1603 to 1635. He is also credited with founding Quebec City in 1608. He explored the Atlantic coastline (in Acadia), the Canadian interior and the Great Lakes region. He also helped found French colonies in Acadia and at Trois-Rivières, and he established friendly relations and alliances with many First Nations, including the Montagnais, the Huron, the Odawa and the Nipissing. For many years, he was the chief person responsible for administrating the colony of New France. Champlain published four books as well as several maps of North America. His works are the only written account of New France at the beginning of the 17th century.

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Maria Campbell

Maria Campbell, O.C., Cree-Métis writer, playwright, filmmaker, scholar, teacher and elder (born 26 April 1940 in Park Valley, SK). Campbell’s memoir Halfbreed (1973) is regarded as a foundational piece of Indigenous literature in Canada for its attention to the discrimination, oppression and poverty that some Métis women (and Indigenous people, in general) experience in Canada. Campbell has authored several other books and plays, and has directed and written scripts for a number of films. As an artist, Campbell has worked with Indigenous youth in community theatre and advocated for the hiring and recognition of Indigenous people in the arts. She has mentored many Indigenous artists during her career.

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Haudenosaunee (Iroquois)

The Haudenosaunee, or “people of the longhouse,” commonly referred to as Iroquois or Six Nations, are members of a confederacy of Aboriginal nations known as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Originally a confederacy of five nations inhabiting the northern part of New York state, the Haudenosaunee consisted of the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga and Mohawk. When the Tuscarora joined the confederacy early in the 18th century, it became known as the Six Nations. Today, Haudenosaunee live on well-populated reserves — known as reservations in the United States — as well as in off-reserve communities.

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Dene

The Dene comprise a far-reaching cultural and linguistic family, stretching from the Canadian North and Alaska to the American southwest. In Canada, the Dene, which means “the people” in their language, comprise a variety of First Nations, some of which include the Denesoline (Chipewyan), Tlicho (Dogrib) and Dinjii Zhuh (Gwich’in). The Dene are also known as Athabascan, Athabaskan, Athapascan or Athapaskan peoples. In the 2016 census, 27,430 people identified as having Dene ancestry.

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Sheldon Kennedy

Sheldon Kennedy, CM, OM, AOE, hockey player, activist (born 15 June 1969 in Brandon, MB). Sheldon Kennedy is a retired professional ice hockey player and a public advocate for child abuse prevention. He was part of the 1988 World Junior Championship-winning team and captained the 1989 Memorial Cup champion Swift Current Broncos before playing eight seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL). In 1996, he came forward with revelations of years of sexual abuse at the hands of his junior hockey coach. Named the Canadian Press Newsmaker of the Year in 1997, Kennedy became a public speaker and activist. He is a member of the Order of Manitoba, the Alberta Order of Excellence and the Order of Canada. He has been inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and received the Order of Hockey in Canada.

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Stanley Vollant

Stanley Vollant, CQ, Innu surgeon, professor and lecturer (born 2 April 1965 in Quebec City, Quebec). Vollant is the first Indigenous surgeon trained in Quebec. In 1996, he received a National Aboriginal Role Model Award from the Governor General of Canada. Vollant began Innu Meshkenu in 2010, a 6,000 km walk to promote the teachings of First Nations and to encourage Indigenous young people to pursue their dreams. In 2016, he founded the non-profit organization Puamun Meshkenu to inspire and support Indigenous peoples in their mental and physical health.

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No. 2 Construction Battalion

The No. 2 Construction Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) — also known as the Black Battalion — was authorized on 5 July 1916, during the First World War. It was a segregated non-combatant unit, the first and only all-Black battalion in Canadian military history.

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Nadine Caron

Nadine Rena Caron, surgeon, researcher, mentor, educator, patient advocate, community leader (born 1970 in Kamloops, BC). Nadine Caron was the first female First Nations student to graduate from the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine. She was also the first female First Nations general surgeon in Canada. For many years, Caron has highlighted the needs and voices of northern, rural and Indigenous populations in Canada.

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Oka Crisis

The Oka Crisis, also known as the Kanesatake Resistance or the Mohawk Resistance at Kanesatake, was a 78-day standoff (11 July–26 September 1990) between Mohawk protesters, Quebec police, the RCMP and the Canadian Army. It took place in the community of Kanesatake, near the Town of Oka, on the north shore of Montreal. Related protests and violence occurred in the Kahnawake reserve, to the south of Montreal. The crisis was sparked by the proposed expansion of a golf course and the development of townhouses on disputed land in Kanesatake that included a Mohawk burial ground. Tensions were high, particularly after the death of Corporal Marcel Lemay, a Sûreté du Québec police officer. Eventually, the army was called in and the protest ended. The golf course expansion was cancelled and the land was purchased by the federal government. However, it did not establish the land as a reserve, and there has since been no organized transfer of the land to the Mohawks of Kanesatake.

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Francophones of Manitoba

Manitoba’s “francophonie” is the term used to designate French-speakers in Manitoba, historically referred to as “Franco-Manitobans.” Changes in 2017 to the name of the Société de la francophonie manitobaine (formerly the Société franco-manitobaine) and the definition of “francophone” in the provincial law on French language services reflect the changing nature of the community itself. The core of Manitoba’s francophones is formed by descendants of voyageurs as well as settlers from Québec and Europe, but since the early 2000s the community has seen a growing number of immigrants from non-European countries as well as an increasing integration of francophones for whom French is not their first language.

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Marilyn Bell

Marilyn Grace Bell Di Lascio (née Bell), OOnt, swimmer (born 19 October 1937 in Toronto, ON). Marilyn Bell is a long-distance swimmer, best remembered for her 1954 swim across Lake Ontario, which brought her international fame at the age of 16. She won the 1954 Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year, as well as the 1954 and 1955 Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as the country’s top female athlete. She was also named the 1954 Canadian Press Newsmaker of the Year. In 1955, she became the youngest person to swim the English Channel. She also swam across the Juan de Fuca Strait in 1956. She was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and is a Member of the Order of Ontario.

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Tantoo Cardinal

Rose Marie “Tantoo” Cardinal, CM, actor (born 20 Jul 1950 in Fort McMurray, AB). Cree and Métis actor Tantoo Cardinal has broken barriers for onscreen representation of Indigenous peoples. She has more than 120 film, television and theatre roles to her credit, including the films Dances With Wolves (1990), Black Robe (1991), Smoke Signals (1998) and Through Black Spruce (2018); as well as the TV series Street Legal (1987–94), Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993–95), North of 60 (1993–97), Moccasin Flats (2003-06) and Mohawk Girls (2010–17). She is known for her strong presence, the depth of her performances and her activism on behalf of the environment. A Member of the Order of Canada, she has won a Gemini Award, the Earle Grey Award for lifetime achievement in Canadian television, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, and a National Aboriginal Achievement Award.