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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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Stephen Kakfwi

Stephen Kakfwi, Dene leader, politician, premier of the Northwest Territories 2000–2003 (born 1950 near Fort Good Hope, NT). Kakfwi attended residential schools in Inuvik, Yellowknife and Fort Smith. He achieved national prominence because of his forceful appearance before the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry. In the mid-1970s he argued passionately that the proposed construction of a pipeline across the traditional homeland of the Dene people before the settlement of their land claims would destroy their way of life as well as damage the natural environment of the region.

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Jamaican Maroons in Nova Scotia

The ancestors of the Maroons of Jamaica were enslaved Africans who had been brought there by the Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries, and later by the British (who captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655), to work its lucrative sugar plantations. The word maroon was widely used to describe a runaway, and maroonage to denote the act and action of escaping enslavement, whether temporarily or permanently. After a series of wars with the colonial government in Jamaica, one group of Maroons was deported to Nova Scotia in 1796. While Maroon communities existed in Nova Scotia for only four years before they were sent to Sierra Leone, their legacy in Canada endures.

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Intergenerational Trauma and Residential Schools

Historical trauma occurs when trauma caused by historical oppression is passed down through generations. For more than 100 years, the Canadian government supported residential school programs that isolated Indigenous children from their families and communities (see Residential Schools in Canada). Under the guise of educating and preparing Indigenous children for their participation in Canadian society, the federal government and other administrators of the residential school system committed what has since been described as an act of cultural genocide. As generations of students left these institutions, they returned to their home communities without the knowledge, skills or tools to cope in either world. The impacts of their institutionalization in residential school continue to be felt by subsequent generations. This is called intergenerational trauma.

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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.)

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Nuxalk (Bella Coola)

The Nuxalk are an Indigenous people in Canada. Their traditional territories are in and around Bella Coola, British Columbia. The term "Bella Coola" once referred collectively to the Nuxalk, Talio, Kimsquit and some Kwatna who inhabited villages around North Bentinck Arm and the Bella Coola Valley, South Bentinck Arm, Dean Channel and Kwatna Inlet. Since the late 1970s, the Nuxalk have called themselves the Nuxalk Nation, derived from the term that in earlier times referred exclusively to the people of the Bella Coola Valley. In 2020, the Government of Canada reported the registered population of Nuxalk was 1,741, with 899 people living on reserve. (See also First Nations and Northwest Coast Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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Central Coast Salish

Central Coast Salish peoples historically occupied and continue to reside in territories around the Lower Fraser Valley and on southeast Vancouver Island in Canada. They include the Squamish, Klallum, Halkomelem and Northern Straits peoples.

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Dakota

The Dakota (Sioux) occupied what is now western Ontario and eastern Manitoba prior to 1200 AD, and western Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan prior to 900 AD. After the War of 1812, the Dakota drew closer to their lands in the United States, but never abandoned their northern territory. In 2014, the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in Manitoba became the first self-governing Indigenous nation on the Plains.

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Louis Levi Oakes

Louis Levi Oakes (also known as Tahagietagwa), Mohawk soldier, war hero, steelworker, public works supervisor (born 23 January 1925 in St. Regis, QC; died 28 May 2019 in Snye, QC). During the Second World War, Oakes was a code talker for the United States Army. Code talkers used their Indigenous languages to encode radio messages to prevent the enemy from understanding them. When he passed away at age 94, Oakes was the last Mohawk code talker. (See also Cree Code Talkers and Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars.)

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Marshall Case

The Marshall case is a landmark ruling in Indigenous treaty rights in Canada. The case centres on Donald Marshall Jr., a Mi’kmaq man from Membertou, Nova Scotia. In August 1993, Marshall caught and sold 210 kg of eel with an illegal net and without a licence during closed-season times. He was arrested after being charged under the federal Fisheries Act and the Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations. In Marshall’s court case, R. v. Marshall, he was found guilty on all three charges in provincial court (1996) and appeals court (1997). The Supreme Court of Canada reversed Marshall’s convictions in September 1999. The Supreme Court recognized the hunting and fishing rights promised in the Peace and Friendship Treaties. These treaties were signed between the British and the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik and Peskotomuhkati in 1760–61.

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Brent Carver

Brent Christopher Carver, actor (born 17 November 1951 in Cranbrook, BC; died 4 August 2020 in Cranbrook). Brent Carver was one of Canada’s most versatile and soulful actors. He tackled the classics at the Stratford Festival (1980–87) and gave critically acclaimed performances in musical theatre, cabaret and film. The New York Times described him as “sensitive, soft-spoken yet nakedly emotional.” His performance in the 1993 Broadway production of Kiss of the Spider Woman earned him a Tony Award. Associated with Robin Phillips, who directed him both at Stratford and at Theatre London (1983–84), Carver also worked closely with John Neville at Edmonton's Citadel Theatre. Carver received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in 2014.

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

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Louis Riel

Louis Riel, Métis leader, founder of Manitoba, central figure in the Red River and North-West resistances (born 22 October 1844 in Saint-BonifaceRed River Settlement; died 16 November 1885 in ReginaSK). Riel led two popular Métis governments, was central in bringing Manitoba into Confederation, and was executed for high treason for his role in the 1885 resistance to Canadian encroachment on Métis lands. Riel was initially dismissed as a rebel by Canadian historians, although many now sympathize with Riel as a Métis leader who fought to protect his people from the Canadian government.

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Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka)

Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) are Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast in Canada. When explorer Captain James Cook encountered Nuu-chah-nulth villagers at Yuquot (Nootka Island, west of Vancouver Island) in 1778, he misunderstood the name for their nation to be Nootka, the term historically used to describe the Nuu-chah-nulth. The inlet where Cook first encountered the Nuu-chah-nulth is now known as Nootka Sound. In 1978, the Nuu-chah-nulth chose the collective term Nuu-chah-nulth (nuučaan̓uł, meaning “all along the mountains and sea”) to describe the First Nations of western Vancouver Island. In the 2016 census, 4,310 people identified as having Nuu-chah-nulth ancestry, 380 people reported the Nuu-chah-nulth language as their mother tongue.

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Anishinaabe

Anishinaabe (other variants include Anishinabe, Anicinape, Nishnaabe, Neshnabé and Anishinabek) refers to a group of culturally and linguistically related First Nations that live in both Canada and the United States, concentrated around the Great Lakes. The Anishinaabeg (plural form of Anishinaabe) live from the Ottawa River Valley west across Northern Ontario and to the plains of Saskatchewan south to the northeast corner of North Dakota, northern Minnesota and Michigan, as well as the northern shores of Lakes Ontario and Erie. The Ojibwe, Chippewa, Odawa, Potawatomi, Algonquin, Saulteaux, Nipissing and Mississauga First Nations are Anishinaabeg. Some Oji-Cree First Nations and Métis also include themselves within this cultural-linguistic grouping. (See also Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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Leon Bibb

Charles Leon Aurthello Bibb (a.k.a. Lee Charles), OBC, singer, actor, civil rights activist, guitarist (born 7 February 1922 in Louisville, Kentucky; died 23 October 2015 in Vancouver, BC). Leon Bibb was a Tony Award-nominated actor, popular folk singer and trailblazing civil rights activist. After moving to Vancouver in the early 1970s, he made pioneering contributions to professional theatre and Black culture in Canada. He was inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame and the Order of British Columbia.

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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.