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Lotta Hitschmanova

Lotta Hitschmanova (née Hitschmann), CC, humanitarian, founder of the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada (born 28 November 1909 in Prague, Bohemia, now the Czech Republic; died 1 August 1990 in Ottawa, ON).

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LGBTQ+ Refugees in Canada

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) refugees face unique challenges when they flee persecution in their home countries and come to Canada to seek protection. Many countries in the world continue to criminalize and prosecute members of the LGBTQ+ community. Canada has been a leader in recognizing LGBTQ+ refugee claims and resettling refugees fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation and gender-based identity.

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Malcolm Frederick Norris

Malcolm Frederick Norris, Métis leader (born 25 May 1900 in St. Albert, North-West Territories [now Alberta]; died 5 December 1967 in Calgary, Alberta). A tireless and militant activist, Norris advocated on behalf of Indigenous peoples on a variety of platforms, from discussions with the federal government about Indigenous issues to concerns that primarily affected Métis communities in Canada. Remembered as a brilliant orator in English and Cree, Norris was a key figure in the Association des Métis d’Alberta et des Territoires du Nord Ouest, the Indian Association of Alberta and the Métis Association of Saskatchewan. He is also widely recognized as one of the 20th century’s most important and charismatic Métis leaders.

Article

Tanya Tagaq

Tanya Tagaq Gillis, CM, throat singer, experimental musician, painter, novelist (born 5 May 1975 in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut). An experimental artist who has achieved a level of mainstream crossover success, Tanya Tagaq blends Inuit throat singing (traditionally done as a duet) with electronic, classical, punk and rock music. The New Yorker characterized Tagaq’s voice as, “guttural heaves, juddering howls and murderous shrieks,” and praised her work for its “fearless lack of inhibition, technical skill and mastery of tradition.”  A Juno Award, Canadian Aboriginal Music Award and Polaris Music Prize winner, Tagaq is part of what has been called the “Indigenous Music Renaissance” — an innovative new generation of Indigenous artists in Canada. She is also an acclaimed author and a Member of the Order of Canada.

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Great Coalition of 1864

The politics of the Province of Canada in the early 1860s were marked by instability and deadlock. The Great Coalition of 1864 proved to be a turning point in Canadian history. It proved remarkably successful in breaking the logjam of central Canadian politics and in helping to create a new country. The coalition united Reformers and Conservatives in the cause of constitutional reform. It paved the way for the Charlottetown Conference and Confederation.  

Article

Peter Jepson-Young

Peter William Jepson-Young, MD, AIDS activist, television diarist (born 8 June 1957 in New Westminster, British Columbia; died 15 November 1992 in Vancouver, British Columbia). Peter Jepson-Young was a medical doctor who presented the Dr. Peter Diaries, short weekly segments on CBC television that shared his experience with AIDS, in order to educate people about the disease and give hope to others. Diagnosed in 1986, he was regarded as one of the longest-surviving victims of the disease at the time of his death in 1992. Shortly before he died, he established the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation, which later opened the Dr. Peter Centre, a residential care and day health centre for people living with HIV/AIDS.

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Hiawatha

Hiawatha is an important figure in the precolonial history of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) of present-day southern Ontario and upper New York (ca. 1400-1450). He is known most famously for uniting the Five Nations—Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk—into a political confederacy. In 1722, the Tuscarora, a tribe from much farther south, joined the Confederacy, forming what we now know as the Six Nations. The story of Hiawatha should not be confused with the popular poem by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow, The Song of Hiawatha (1885). While Longfellow references Hiawatha, the poem’s focus is actually an Algonquian cultural hero, Nanabozho. Whether this was an intentional or accidental error, Longfellow’s poem confused the history of Hiawatha.

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Health of Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Prior to colonization, Indigenous peoples possessed rich and diverse healing systems. Settlers’ introduction of new and contagious diseases placed these healing systems under considerable strain. Europeans also brought profound social, economic and political changes to the well-being of Indigenous communities. These changes continue to affect the health of Indigenous peoples in Canada today. (See also Social Conditions of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and Economic Conditions of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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Chloe Cooley and the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada

Although little is known about Chloe Cooley, an enslaved woman in Upper Canada, her struggles against her “owner,” Sergeant Adam Vrooman, precipitated the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada, 1793 — the first legislation in the British colonies to restrict the slave trade.

The Act recognized enslavement as a legal and socially accepted institution. It also prohibited the importation of new slaves into Upper Canada and reflected a growing abolitionist sentiment in British North America.

Article

George Dixon

George Dixon, boxer (born 29 July 1870 in Africville, NS; died 6 January 1908 in New York, New York). George Dixon was the first Black world champion in boxing history and the first Canadian to ever win a world championship. Despite his small stature (5 feet 3.5 inches and between 87 and 115 pounds), Dixon amassed several notable accomplishments across a 20-year career and was the first boxer to win championships in multiple weight classes — bantamweight (1890) and featherweight (1891–96; 1897; 1898–1900). A cerebral fighter known as a “pioneer of scientific boxing,” he is credited with inventing various fundamental training techniques, including shadowboxing and the use of the heavy bag. As a dominant Black fighter in the post-Civil War United States, Dixon was subjected to fierce racism. He died in poverty from alcoholism at the age of 37. He was an inaugural inductee into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame, and was also named to The Ring Magazine Hall of Fame and the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Article

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.

Excerpt

Children of the Halifax Explosion

Among the approximately 2,000 victims who died in the Halifax Explosion of 1917, one-quarter were children under the age of 18. Many other young people survived but would carry physical and emotional scars with them for the remainder of their lives. Dead and wounded children were the most poignant victims of the disaster.

Article

Margaret Ecker

Margaret Alberta Corbett Ecker, journalist (born 1915 in Edmonton, AB; died 3 April 1965 in Ibiza, Spain). Margaret Ecker was an award-winning newspaper and magazine writer. She was the only woman to serve overseas as a war correspondent for the Canadian Press wire service during the Second World War. She was also the only woman present at Germany’s unconditional surrender in 1945. Ecker was made an officer of the Netherlands’ House of the Orange Order in 1947, making her the first Canadian woman to receive that honour.

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Oneida

The Oneida (Onyota’a:ka “People of the Standing Stone”) are an Indigenous nation in Canada. The Oneida are one the five original nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Historically, the Oneida occupied a village near Oneida Lake in New York state. They also occupy territory in southwestern Ontario. Oneida people live both on and off reserves. As of 2020, the Government of Canada reported 8,464 registered members of Oneida communities. (See also First Nations and Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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Black Volunteers in the First World War

Archivist Barbara M. Wilson explores the significance of a letter sent to Sir Sam Hughes by George Morton, a letter carrier, barber and civil rights advocate from Hamilton, Ontario. In his letter, dated 7 September 1915, Morton asked the minister of militia and defence why members of the Black community were being turned away when trying to enlist for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War.

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Idle No More

With roots in the Indigenous community, Idle No More began in November 2012 as a protest against the introduction of Bill C-45 by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. Formally known as the Jobs and Growth Act, this omnibus legislation affected over 60 acts, including the Indian Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act and Environmental Assessment Act. Idle No More activists argued that the Act’s changes diminished the rights and authority of Indigenous communities while making it easier for governments and businesses to push through projects without strict environmental assessment. The movement quickly gained supporters from across Canada (and abroad), and grew to encompass environmental concerns and Indigenous rights more generally.

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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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James Hyndman

James Hyndman, actor (born 23 April 1962 in Bonn, Germany). After studying theatre for three years in Paris, this Quebec actor won favourable notices for his performance as Lenny in a French-language production of Harold Pinter’s play The Homecoming at Montreal’s L’Espace la Veillée in 1992. In the 1990s, he was cast in important roles in major films by Charles Binamé (Eldorado, 1995), Robert Lepage (Le polygraphe, 1996) and Jean Beaudin (Souvenirs intimes, 1999). The winner of two Prix Gémeaux (2003 and 2016), Hyndman has also played several major characters on Quebec television.

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Oscar Peterson

Oscar Emmanuel Peterson, CC, CQ, OOnt, jazz pianist, composer, educator (born 15 August 1925 in Montréal, QC; died 23 December 2007 in Mississauga, ON). Oscar Peterson is one of Canada’s most honoured musicians. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. He was renowned for his remarkable speed and dexterity, meticulous and ornate technique, and dazzling, swinging style. He earned the nicknames “the brown bomber of boogie-woogie” and “master of swing.” A prolific recording artist, he typically released several albums a year from the 1950s until his death. He also appeared on more than 200 albums by other artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, who called him “the man with four hands.” His sensitivity in these supporting roles, as well as his acclaimed compositions such as Canadiana Suite and “Hymn to Freedom,” was overshadowed by his stunning virtuosity as a soloist. Also a noted jazz educator and advocate for racial equality, Peterson won a Juno Award and eight Grammy Awards, including one for lifetime achievement. The first recipient of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the International Jazz Hall of Fame. He was also made an Officer and then Companion of the Order of Canada, and an Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters in France, among many other honours.