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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 Kirke; Chloe Cooley and the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada; Underground Railroad; Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; Slavery Abolition Act, 1833; Slavery of Indigenous People in Canada.)

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Chester William New

Chester William New, university teacher, historian, biographer (b at Montréal 9 Oct 1882; d at Hamilton, Ont 31 Aug 1960). Raised and educated in Hamilton, New was a graduate of the University of Toronto and McMaster University.

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Marie-Joseph Angélique

Marie-Joseph Angélique (born circa 1705 in Madeira, Portugal; died 21 June 1734 in Montréal, QC). Angélique was an enslaved Black woman owned by Thérèse de Couagne de Francheville in Montréal. In 1734, she was charged with arson after a fire leveled Montréal’s merchants' quarter. It was alleged that Angélique committed the act while attempting to flee her bondage. She was convicted, tortured and hanged. While it remains unknown whether or not she set the fire, Angélique’s story has come to symbolize Black resistance and freedom.

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French Language in Canada

French is one of Canada’s two official languages. Although every province in Canada has people whose mother tongue is French, Québec is the only province where speakers of French are in the majority. In 2011, 7,054,975 people in Canada (21 per cent of the country’s population) had French as their mother tongue.

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Jacques Marquette

Jacques Marquette, Jesuit priest, missionary, explorer (b at Laon, France 10 June 1637; d at the mouth of a river later called the Père Marquette R, Mich 18 May 1675).

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Lawrence Vicaire (Primary Source)

"It’s hard to forget. In dreams I keep on coming back. Some nights even now, I dream at night. I mean, it’s a long time ago that this war is over. But I still dream sometimes."

See below for Mr. Vicaire's entire testimony.


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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Jesuits

The Society of Jesus was founded in Paris in 1534 by Saint Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish soldier who underwent a profound religious experience while recovering from serious wounds. Loyola called the society "The Company of Jesus" to indicate its military spirit. The order was authorized in September 1540 to ordain its members. The name "Jesuits" (meaning those who too frequently use or appropriate the name of Jesus) was used against the order as a term of reproach but in time was accepted by its members.

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Kenneth Gilbert

Kenneth Gilbert, OC, RSC,  harpsichordist, organist, musicologist, teacher (born 16 December 1931 in Montreal, QC; died 15 April 2020 in Quebec City, QC). Hon D MUS (McGill) 1981. 

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Francophonie and Canada

The term francophonie has been in common use since the 1960s. It has several meanings. In its most general sense, it refers to all peoples and communities anywhere in the world that have French as their mother tongue or customary language. The term can also refer to the wider, more complex network of government agencies and non-government organizations that work to establish, maintain and strengthen the special ties among French-speaking people throughout the world. Lastly, the expression “La Francophonie” is increasingly used as shorthand for the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (International Organisation of La Francophonie).

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Black History in Canada until 1900

Black people have lived in Canada since the beginnings of transatlantic settlement. Although historically very few arrived directly from their ancestral homeland in Africa, the term "African Canadian" is used to identify all descendants of Africa regardless of their place of birth. “Black Canadian” is also used as a more general term. The earliest arrivals were enslaved people brought from New England or the West Indies. Between 1763 and 1900, most Black migrants to Canada were fleeing enslavement in the US. (See also Black Enslavement in Canada.)

See also Black History in Canada: 1900–1960 and Black History in Canada: 1960 to Present.

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Franco-Americans

Between 1840 and 1930, nearly a million francophones from Canada emigrated to the United States. (See also Canada and United States.) Most emigrants came from Quebec. There were also Acadians from the Atlantic provinces. These emigrants lived throughout the Northern US, but most settled in New England. The largest cohort worked in the textile industry. The 1880s and 1890s were the crest of several waves of emigration that ended with the Great Depression. Also known as Franco-Americans, about two million French Canadian descendants live in New England today.

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Brothers of the Christian Schools

The Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools is a Catholic religious order founded by Jean-Baptiste de La Salle in France in 1680. In Canada, members are generally referred to as Christian Brothers or De La Salle Brothers. They are not to be confused with the Congregation of Christian Brothers who were founded by Edmund Rice in Ireland in 1802 and whose members in Canada were also called Christian Brothers or Irish Christian Brothers. The Brothers of the Christian Schools were a major force in Catholic education in Canada, especially in Quebec. They first arrived in Montreal in 1837, then experienced numeric growth, geographic expansion and a solid reputation over the next 125 years. The Brothers underwent a significant exodus and decline in vocations with the dramatic religious and social changes spawned by the Second Vatican Council and the Quiet Revolution.

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Oka

Oka, Québec, municipality, population 3,969 (2011), 3,300 (2006), incorporated 1875.

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Obwandiyag (Pontiac)

Obwandiyag (Pontiac), Odawa chief (born c. 1720 along the Detroit River; died 20 April 1769 in Cahokia, Illinois Country). Obwandiyag was the leader of a loose coalition of Indigenous nations that opposed British rule in what became known as Pontiac’s War (1763–66). The uprising is regarded by many as a historical antecedent to more contemporary Indigenous rights movements.