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English Canadians

The English were among the first Europeans to reach Canadian shores. Alongside the French, they were one of two groups who negotiated Confederation. The expression "English Canadians" refers to both immigrants from England and the Loyalists in exile after the American Revolution and their descendants. According to the 2016 Census of Canada, about 18 per cent of the Canadians consider themselves to be of English origin.

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Angela Chalmers

Angela Frances Chalmers, world-class distance runner from Birdtail Sioux First Nation (born 6 September 1963 in Brandon, MB). Chalmers is one of the most accomplished Indigenous athletes in Canada. She won three gold medals in total at the Commonwealth Games in 1990 and 1994. An advocate for Indigenous issues, Chalmers has made efforts to connect with and inspire Indigenous youth from across Canada. Among many honours and awards, Chalmers was inducted into Athletics Canada Hall of Fame in 2019.

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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.

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Mi'kmaq

Mi’kmaq (Mi’kmaw, Micmac or L’nu, “the people” in Mi’kmaq) are Indigenous peoples who are among the original inhabitants in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. Alternative names for the Mi’kmaq appear in some historical sources and include Gaspesians, Souriquois and Tarrantines. Contemporary Mi’kmaq communities are located predominantly in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but with a significant presence in Quebec, Newfoundland, Maine and the Boston area. In July 2022, the Mi'kmaq language was recognized as the first language of Nova Scotia.

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Huguenots

Huguenots, a popular term used since 1560 to designate French Protestants, some of whom became involved in the Newfoundland fishery and Canadian fur trade, and in abortive colonization attempts in Canada (1541-42), Brazil (1555) and the Carolinas (1562-64).

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Belgian Canadians

Belgians have contributed significantly to the economic, social and cultural development of Canada despite their relatively small numbers and their dispersion across the country. Originally, the majority of immigrants were Flemings whose settlement concentred in the agricultural regions of Québec, southwestern Ontario and Manitoba. Since 1945, Belgian immigrants have tended to be young, well-educated French-speaking professionals and entrepreneurs who prefer the urban centres, particularly in British Columbia and Alberta.

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Rosaire Morin

Rosaire Morin, CQ, author and militant nationalist (born 2 September 1922 in St-Honoré de Témiscouata, QC; died 14 April 1999 in Montréal, QC). Editor-in-chief of L’Action nationale, Rosaire Morin was involved in the Québec nationalist movement throughout his life.

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Léa Roback

​Léa Roback, CQ, bookseller, trade union activist, feminist and pacifist (born 3 November 1903 in Montréal, Québec; died 28 August 2000 in Montréal).

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Sheila Elizabeth Whitton (Primary Source)

During the Second World War, Sheila Elizabeth Whitton was a coder for the Canadian Navy. Whitton was sent to England in preparation for D-Day to work on coding machines instrumental to the Allies’ success. Read and listen to Whitton’s recount of the loss of her husband in the war and the resilience she had to put forward.

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.

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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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Norwegian Canadians

Norway is a Scandinavian country in northwestern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden, Finland and Russia. Permanent Norwegian migration to North America began in 1825 when the first shipload of Norwegians arrived in New York. In 2016, the Canadian census reported 463,275 people of Norwegian origin (35,905 single and 427,370 multiple responses).

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Loyalists in Canada

Loyalists were American colonists, of different ethnic backgrounds, who supported the British cause during the American Revolutionary War (1775–83). Tens of thousands of Loyalists migrated to British North America during and after the war. This boosted the population, led to the creation of Upper Canada and New Brunswick, and heavily influenced the politics and culture of what would become Canada.

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

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Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet)

Wolastoqiyik (also Welastekwewiyik or Welustuk; pronounced wool-las-two-wi-ig), meaning “people of the beautiful river” in their language, have long resided along the Saint John River in New Brunswick and Maine, and the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. Historically, the Europeans referred to the Wolastoqiyik by a Mi’kmaq word, Maliseet (or Malecite), roughly translating to English as “broken talkers.” The name indicates that, according to the Mi’kmaq, the Wolastoqiyik language is a “broken” version of their own. Today, there are Wolastoqiyik communities in Quebec and the Maritimes as well as in Maine. In the 2016 census, 7,635 people identified as having Wolastoqiyik ancestry.

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Southeast Asian Canadians

Immigration to Canada by Southeast Asians is relatively recent; most arrived in Canada after 1974. Southeast Asia is located south of China and east of India. It consists of multiethnic nations with common histories, structures and social practices, as well as a cultural system that recognizes ethnic pluralism. Southeast Asia is comprised of 11 countries: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, East Timor and Vietnam.

In the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS), more than one million Canadians indicated that they were of Southeast Asian origin. Filipino Canadians were the most numerous (662,600), followed by Vietnamese Canadians (220,425), Cambodians or Khmer (34,340), Laotians (22,090), Indonesians (18,125), Thais (15,080), Malaysians (14,165), Burmese (7,845) and Singaporeans (2,050). Southeast Asians of the Hmong people (an ethnic minority living in the mountains in the south of China, and the north of Vietnam and Laos) have also settled in Canada, as well as several hundred Chinese originally from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos who came to Canada following the “boat people” crisis.

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Michaëlle Jean

Michaëlle Jean, social activist, journalist, documentary filmmaker, governor general of Canada 2005–2010, secretary general of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie 2014–2019 (born 6 September 1957 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti).

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Maestro Fresh Wes

Wesley Williams (a.k.a. Maestro Fresh Wes, Maestro), rapper, actor, author, motivational speaker (born 31 March 1968 in Toronto, ON). A pioneering hip-hop recording artist, Maestro Fresh Wes is often regarded as the “godfather of Canadian hip hop.” His debut album, Symphony in Effect (1989), was the first album by a Black Canadian artist to be certified platinum in Canada. It yielded the hit single “Let Your Backbone Slide,” one of the most successful and influential Canadian songs of all time. In 2019, it became the first rap song to be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Maestro has been nominated for 13 Juno Awards and won two, including the inaugural award for Rap Recording of the Year in 1991. He was named No. 1 on CBC Music’s 2013 list of the greatest Canadian rappers. He has become a successful actor, author and motivational speaker while remaining a prominent figure in Canadian hip hop.