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Article

Genocide and Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Genocide is the intentional destruction of a particular group through killing, serious physical or mental harm, preventing births and/or forcibly transferring children to another group. The term has been applied to the experiences of Indigenous peoples in Canada, particularly in the final reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (see also Residential Schools) and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry.

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Irene Uchida

Irene Ayako Uchida, OC, geneticist (born 8 April 1917 in Vancouver, BC; died 30 July 2013 in Toronto, ON). Dr. Uchida pioneered the field of cytogenetics in Canada, enabling early screening for chromosomal abnormalities (i.e., changes in chromosomes caused by genetic mutations). She discovered that women who receive X-rays during pregnancy have a higher chance of giving birth to a baby with Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities. She also discovered that the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome may come from either parent, not only the mother.

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

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Indigenous Peoples and Government Policy in Canada

For most of the history of political interaction between Indigenous people and the Canadian government (and its colonial predecessors) government policy has focused on First Nations. The Inuit were barely acknowledged until the 1940s, while special responsibility for Métis and Non-Status Indians was largely denied until 2016. The early history of Indigenous policy in Canada is characterized by the presence of both France and Britain as colonizing powers. British colonial policy acknowledged Indigenous peoples as sovereign nations. Post-Confederation Canadian Indigenous policy, until the 1960s, was based on a model of assimilation, with one of its main instruments being the Indian Act. Since the late 1960s, government policy has gradually shifted to a goal of self-determination for Indigenous peoples, to be achieved through modern-day treaties and self-government agreements.

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Indigenous Languages in Canada

There are around 70 distinct Indigenous languages in Canada, falling into 12 separate language families. While in many places there has been decreased transmission of languages from one generation to the next, recognition of this has led to efforts by Indigenous peoples to revitalize and sustain their languages. Canada, and North America more generally, represent a highly complex linguistic region, with numerous languages and great linguistic diversity. Indigenous languages are spoken widely and are official languages in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, while the Yukon recognizes the significance of the Indigenous languages of the territory. On 5 February 2019, the Canadian government tabled the Indigenous Languages Act, which seeks to protect and revitalize Indigenous languages in Canada.

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Canadian Women and War

Canada has been involved in various wars from the beginning of its colonial history. Just as the nature of these wars has changed over time, so, too, has their effect on Canadian women. Women have actively participated in war, from nursing and munitions manufacturing during the First and Second World Wars to the increasing involvement of Canadian women in the military.

Article

Henrietta Muir Edwards

Henrietta Louise Edwards (née Muir), women’s rights activist, reformer, artist (born 18 December 1849 in Montreal, Canada East; died 9 November 1931 in Fort Macleod, AB). Henrietta Edwards fought from a young age for women’s rights and education, as well as women’s work and health. She helped found many movements, societies and organizations aimed at improving the lives of women, and was instrumental in passing Alberta’s Dower Act in 1917. She was also one of the Famous Five behind the Persons Case, the successful campaign to have women declared persons in the eyes of British law. However, her views on immigration and eugenics have been criticized as racist and elitist. She was named a Person of National Historic Significance in 1962 and an honorary senator in 2009.

Article

Emily Murphy

Emily Murphy (née Ferguson, pen name Janey Canuck), writer, journalist, magistrate, political and legal reformer (born 14 March 1868 in Cookstown, ON; died 27 October 1933 in Edmonton, AB). Emily Murphy was the first woman magistrate in the British Empire. She was also one of the Famous Five behind the Persons Case, the successful campaign to have women declared persons in the eyes of British law. A self-described rebel, she was an outspoken feminist and suffragist and a controversial figure. Her views on immigration and eugenics have been criticized as racist and elitist. She was named a Person of National Historic Significance in 1958 and an honorary senator in 2009.

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Famous Five

Alberta’s “Famous Five” were petitioners in the groundbreaking Persons Case. The case was brought before the Supreme Court of Canada in 1927. It was decided in 1929 by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Canada’s highest appeals court at the time. The group was led by judge Emily Murphy. It also included  Henrietta EdwardsNellie McClungLouise McKinney and Irene Parlby. Together, the five women had many years of active work in various campaigns for women’s rights dating back to the 1880s and 1890s. They enjoyed a national — and in the case of McClung, an international — reputation among reformers.

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Isapo-muxika (Crowfoot)

Isapo-muxika (Crowfoot), Siksika chief (born circa 1830 near Belly River, AB; died 25 April 1890, near Blackfoot Crossing, AB). Known more commonly as Crowfoot, Isapo-Muxika was a Siksika chief and diplomat who negotiated with the federal government on behalf of the Blackfoot Confederacy. He was a key link between Indigenous peoples on the western Plains and colonial forces by way of the North-West Mounted Police, and was key negotiator and supporter of Treaty 7.

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Black Enslavement in Canada (Plain-Language Summary)

The practice of slavery was introduced by colonists in New France in the early 1600s. The practice was continued after the British took control of New France in 1760 (see British North America.) For about two hundred years, thousands of Indigenous and Black African people were bought, sold, traded and inherited like property in early Canada. Slavery was abolished (made illegal) throughout British North America in 1834.

(This article is a plain-language summary of slavery in Canada. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry on Black Enslavement in Canada.)

Article

Indian Act

The Indian Act is the primary law the federal government uses to administer Indian status, local First Nations governments and the management of reserve land. It also outlines governmental obligations to First Nations peoples. The Indian Act pertains to people with Indian Status; it does not directly reference non-status First Nations people, the Métis or Inuit. First introduced in 1876, the Act subsumed a number of colonial laws that aimed to eliminate First Nations culture in favour of assimilation into Euro-Canadian society. The Act has been amended several times, most significantly in 1951 and 1985, with changes mainly focusing on the removal of discriminatory sections. It is an evolving, paradoxical document that has enabled trauma, human rights violations and social and cultural disruption for generations of Indigenous peoples.

This is the full-length entry about the Indian Act. For a plain language summary, please seeIndian Act (Plain Language Summary).

Article

Alfonso Gagliano

Alfonso Gagliano, politician (born 1942 in Italy; died 12 December 2020). Alfonso Gagliano was the Member of Parliament for the Montreal neighbourhood of Saint-Leonard from 1984 until 2002. Following the 1997 election, he served as Minister of Public Works and Government Services in the cabinet of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. He was also chair of the electoral commission of the Liberal Party in Quebec. Gagliano resigned from cabinet and the House of Commons to accept a position as ambassador to Denmark. He was fired by Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2004 for his role in the sponsorship scandal.

Article

Oronhyatekha

Oronhyatekha (pronounced O-RON-ya-day-ga, meaning "Burning Sky" or “Burning Cloud”), also known as Peter Martin, a Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk) medical doctor and businessman (born 10 August 1841 on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve near Brantford, Canada West [now Ontario]; died 3 March 1907 in Savannah, Georgia, US). In 1867, Oronhyatekha became the second Indigenous person in Canada to earn a medical degree. Passionate about Indigenous issues, he was elected to the Grand General Indian Council of Ontario and Quebec in 1872, where he fought against the restrictive measures of the Indian Act. Oronhyatekha was also a businessman and, in 1881, headed the Independent Order of Foresters.

Article

Mary Ann Shadd

Mary Ann Camberton Shadd Cary, educator, publisher, abolitionist (born 9 October 1823 in Wilmington, Delaware; died 5 June 1893 in Washington, DC). Mary Ann Shadd was the first Black female newspaper publisher in Canada. Shadd founded and edited The Provincial Freeman. She also established a racially integrated school for Black refugees in Windsor, Canada West. She played an important role in giving Black people a voice and advocating for women’s rights. In 1994, Shadd was designated a Person of National Historic Significance in Canada.

Article

Ferdinand Larose

Ferdinand Alphonse Fortunat Larose, agronomist (born 1 April 1888 in Sarsfield, Ontario; died 29 January 1955 in Montreal, Quebec). Throughout his career, Ferdinand Larose focused on agriculture in the United Counties of Prescott and Russel in Eastern Ontario. He is best known for having created the vast Larose Forest in a part of the counties which had become arid after intensive deforestation in the 19th century. The agronomist was also a leader for Franco-Ontarian cultivators. He chaired several cultivator associations and promoted agricultural training for Franco-Ontarians.

Article

Lennie Gallant

Lennie Gallant, CM, folk musician (born 1955 in Rustico, PEI). Lennie Gallant is an Acadian singer-songwriter who has released 13 albums, ten in English and three in French. He has toured extensively in North America and has won numerous awards and prizes. He has won 18 East Coast Music Awards (ECMA) and was named the Fan’s Choice Entertainer of the Year in 2017. His 1994 song “Peter’s Dream” was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019. Gallant was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2003.

Article

Frère Marie-Victorin

Frère Marie-Victorin (born Conrad Kirouac), member of the Brothers of the Christian Schoolsbotanist, teacher (born 3 April 1885 in Kingsey Falls, QC; died 15 July 1944 in St-Hyacinthe, QC). A self-taught botanist, Frère Marie-Victorin was the first chair of botany at Université de Montréal, founder of the Institut de Botanique and the Montréal Botanical Garden, and author of Flore laurentienne (1935). He also co-founded the Association canadienne-française pour l'avancement des sciences, the Société canadienne d'histoire naturelle, and the Cercles des jeunes naturalistes, and actively promoted science in popular as well as academic publications. A French Canadian nationalist, Marie-Victorin believed that knowledge of Québec’s natural world would inspire pride in French Canadians and enable them to take possession of their land.

Article

Denham Jolly

Brandeis Denham Jolly, C.M., teacher, entrepreneur, publisher, broadcaster, philanthropist, civil rights activist, community leader (born 26 August 1935 in Industry Cove, Jamaica). Jolly began his business career by purchasing and operating rooming houses and nursing homes. He later purchased and became the publisher of Contrast, a Black community newspaper in Toronto and established FLOW 93.5, the first Black-owned radio station and the first station in Canada to showcase Black music and the stories of the Black community. Jolly also was involved with or founded and led community groups — such as the Black Action Defence Committee — that sought to end police violence targeting young Black men. Jolly also contributed generously to several causes including scholarships for promising young Black Canadians.

Article

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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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.