Search for "Charter of Rights and Freedoms"

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Patriation of the Constitution

In 1982, Canada fully broke from its colonial past and “patriated” its Constitution. It transferred the country’s highest law, the British North America Act (which was renamed the Constitution Act, 1867), from the authority of the British Parliament to Canada’s federal and provincial legislatures. The Constitution was also updated with a new amending formula and a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These changes occurred after a fierce, 18-month political and legal struggle that dominated headlines and the agendas of every government in the country.

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Ted King

Theodore “Ted” Stanley King, civil rights activist, real estate broker, accountant, railway porter (born 14 July 1925 in Calgary; died 7 July 2001 in Surrey, BC). Ted King was the president of the Alberta Association for the Advancement of Coloured People from 1958 to 1961, where he advocated for the rights of Black Canadians. In 1959, King launched a legal challenge against a Calgary motel’s discriminatory policy, decades before human rights protections existed throughout Canada. The case made it to the Alberta Supreme Court. Though it was not successful, King’s case exposed legal loopholes innkeepers exploited in order to deny lodging to Black patrons.

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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Canada

Since the late 1960s, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Canada has seen steady gains in rights. While discrimination against LGBT people persists in many places, major strides toward mainstream social acceptance and formal legal equality have nonetheless been made in recent decades. Canada is internationally regarded as a leader in this field. Recent years have seen steady progress on everything from health care to the right to adopt. In 2005, Canada became the fourth country worldwide to legalize same-sex marriage.

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Craig Kielburger

Craig Kielburger, CM, social entrepreneur, author, speaker (born 17 December 1982 in Toronto, ON). Craig Kielburger is best known for his activism as a young teenager and his work co-founding and leading ME to WE with his brother, Marc. ME to We is a business that links purchases to global social and economic development. Kielburger also founded WE Charity (formerly Free the Children), which focuses particularly on youth education and mobilization. Much of his work revolves around a conviction that youth are fundamental to creating systemic change.

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Sir Ambrose Shea

Sir Ambrose Shea, diplomat, politician, businessman, newspaperman (born c. 1815 in St. John’s, Newfoundland; died 30 July 1905 in London, England). Sir Ambrose Shea was one of the most influential Newfoundland politicians of the 19th century. He served in the colony’s House of Assembly for 34 years, including six as Speaker. He was a key player in both Liberal and Conservative administrations, having crossed the floor twice. A skilled orator and diplomat, he was admired for his attempts to mend political divisions between Catholics and  Protestants, and for his promotion of the island’s economic development. His enthusiastic support for Confederation following the Quebec Conference in 1864 hurt his career in Newfoundland, as Confederation did not gain popularity there until the mid-20th century. He is nevertheless considered a Father of Confederation. He also served as governor of the Bahamas.

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Jennie Trout

Jennie (Jenny) Kidd Trout, physician, teacher (born 21 April 1841 in Kelso, Scotland; died 10 November 1921 in Hollywood, California). Trout was the first female physician licensed to practice medicine in Canada. She received her license from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Ontario in 1875.

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Denham Jolly

Brandeis Denham Jolly, 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.

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Xavier Dolan

Xavier Dolan (born Xavier Dolan-Tadros), CM, actor, director, writer, producer, editor, costume designer (born 20 March 1989 in Montreal, QC). A precocious practitioner of auteurist art cinema, Xavier Dolan made a meteoric rise from child actor to acclaimed filmmaker. He garnered international acclaim at age 20 for his debut feature, J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother, 2009). His next four films — Les amours imaginaires (Heartbeats, 2010), Laurence Anyways (2012), Tom à la ferme (Tom at the Farm, 2013) and Mommy (2014) — were all completed by the time he was 25. They won numerous awards and further established him as one of international cinema’s most promising and prolific young filmmakers. His sixth feature film, Juste la fin du monde (It’s Only the End of the World, 2016), won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, César Awards for best director and editing, and six Canadian Screen Awards including Best Motion Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Achievement in Direction. Dolan was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2019.

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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 was born into a prominent Anglican, Loyalist family. He converted to Methodism and was ordained in 1827 in the Methodist Episcopal Church. He helped found and edit the Christian Guardian (1829), founded Upper Canada Academy (1836) and became the first principal of Victoria College (1841). He was known as a supporter of religious freedom and as the founder of the public education system in Ontario. Ryerson University was named in honour. However, his role in the development of residential schools has led to calls for the university to be renamed.

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Adam Beach

Adam Reuben Beach, actor, advocate, motivational speaker (born 11 November 1972 in Ashern, MB). Saultreaux actor Adam Beach is one of Canada’s most successful actors of Indigenous descent. After co-starring in Bruce McDonald’s Dance Me Outside (1994) and the American indie hit Smoke Signals (1998), he gave acclaimed lead performances in John Woo’s Windtalkers (2002), Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers (2006) and the HBO TV movie Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007). He also starred in such Canadian TV series as The Rez (1996–97), Moose TV (2007) and Arctic Air (2012–14). He is a motivational speaker and an outspoken advocate for Indigenous peoples’ rights. In 2012, he founded the Adam Beach Film Institute, a film school in Winnipeg for Indigenous Youth.

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Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada

It is difficult to generalize about definitions of Indigenous rights because of the diversity among First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples in Canada. Broadly speaking, however, Indigenous rights are inherent, collective rights that flow from the original occupation of the land that is now Canada, and from social orders created before the arrival of Europeans to North America. For many, the concept of Indigenous rights can be summed up as the right to independence through self-determination regarding governance, land, resources and culture.

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Moravian Missions in Labrador

In 1771, Moravian missionaries were the first Europeans to settle in Labrador. Over a 133-year period, they established a series of eight missions along the coast which became the focus of religious, social and economic activities for the Inuit who gradually came to settle near the communities. Moravians had a huge impact on the life and culture of Labrador Inuit. What emerged was a unique culture rooted in Inuit traditions with indigenized European practices. The last Moravian missionary left Labrador in 2005, but the Moravian church, its customs and traditions are still very much alive in Labrador.

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Denis Villeneuve

Denis Villeneuve, filmmaker (born 3 October 1967 in Gentilly, QC). Denis Villeneuve is one of Canada’s best-known and most acclaimed filmmakers. His visually inventive, atmospheric and sombre films frequently focus on themes of trauma, identity and memory. His Canadian films, including the searing psychological dramas Maelström (2000), Polytechnique (2009), Incendies (2010) and Enemy (2013), have won 22 Genie Awards, five Canadian Screen Awards and 26 Prix Iris. His Hollywood films — Prisoners (2013), Sicario (2015) and Arrival (2016) — have enjoyed critical and commercial success. He is the only Québécois filmmaker to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Director. With Blade Runner 2049 (2017) and an upcoming adaption of Frank Herbert’s Dune, Villeneuve has become one of the most sought-after filmmakers in the world. In December 2019, the Hollywood Critics Association named him the Filmmaker of the Decade.

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Nunatsiavut

Nunatsiavut (meaning “our beautiful land” in Inuktitut) is the homeland of the Labrador Inuit (Labradormiut). The territory covers 72,520km2 of land and 44,030km2 of sea in the northern part of the Labrador Peninsula. On 1 December 2005, the Labrador Inuit celebrated the creation of the Nunatsiavut Government, their own regional government within the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Labradormiut became the first Inuit in Canada to achieve self-government. Of the approximately 6,500 beneficiaries, about 2,500 live within the settlement area in five communities: Rigolet, Postville, Makkovik, Hopedale (the legislative capital) and Nain (the administrative capital).

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Hebron Mission National Historic Site of Canada

For generations, Hebron, one of Nunatsiavut’s (see Labrador Inuit and Newfoundland and Labrador) most culturally important and significant sites, was an important meeting place for the Inuit, as well as a primary hunting and fishing area. In the early 1800s, Moravian missionaries chose the site to establish their fourth and northernmost mission in Labrador, officially opening the mission in 1830 (although missions were later established farther north, at Ramah in 1871 and Killinek in 1905). For more than 130 years, Hebron was a thriving community where an average of 200 to 250 Inuit lived. In 1959, without consultation with the Inuit, the community was closed, forcing all Inuit to relocate. Declared a National Historic Site in 1976 by the federal government, the Hebron Mission has been undergoing major restoration since 2004.

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Roland Galarneau

Roland Galarneau, CM, machinist and inventor (born 16 February 1922 in Hull, Quebec; died 22 May 2011 in Hull). In the late 1960s, Galarneau invented the Converto-Braille, a computerized printer capable of transcribing text into Braille at 100 words per minute. This was a landmark innovation for people with visual impairments, as it increased their access to textbooks and other written information. Galarneau developed faster versions of the Converto-Braille in the 1970s. The company he founded eventually adapted the machine into software for IBM computers in the 1980s. This software was a precursor of the Braille software used today.