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Beothuk

Beothuk (meaning “the people” or “true people” in their language) were the now-extinct inhabitants of Newfoundland. At the time of European contact, they may have numbered no more than 500 to 1,000. Their population is difficult to estimate owing to a reduction in their territories in the early contact period and the absence of surviving documentation.

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Richard Nerysoo

Richard W. Nerysoo, activist, politician, premier of the Northwest Territories 1984–85 (born 1953 near Fort McPherson, NT). In 1984, Nerysoo became the youngest-ever premier of the Northwest Territories (a position known as “government leader” until 1994) and the first Indigenous person to hold that position. Unrelenting in his efforts to uphold Indigenous rights in the Northwest Territories, Nerysoo participated in the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry and was active in a variety of Indigenous political organizations, including the Indian Brotherhood of the Northwest Territories and the Gwich’in Tribal Council.

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Dane-zaa (Beaver)

Dane-zaa (also known as Dunne-za) are Dene-speaking people from the Peace River area of British Columbia and Alberta. Early explorers called them the Beaver people (named after a local group, the tsa-dunne), however the people call themselves Dane-zaa (meaning “real people” in their language). In the 2016 census, 1,705 people identified as having Dane-zaa ancestry, while 220 reported the Dane-zaa language as their mother tongue.

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Cecilia Krieger

Cypra Cecilia Krieger, mathematician, professor (born 9 April 1894 in Jasło, Galicia [Poland]; died 17 August 1974 in Toronto, ON). Krieger was the first woman to receive a doctorate in mathematics from a Canadian university (the University of Toronto) and only the third person to be awarded a mathematics doctorate in Canada. She taught mathematics and physics at the University of Toronto for over 30 years. Krieger is best known for her English translation of noted mathematical texts Introduction to General Typology and General Typology.

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Michael Lee-Chin

Michael Lee-Chin, businessman, investor and philanthropist (born 3 January 1951 in Port Antonio, Jamaica). Lee-Chin is president and chairman of Portland Holdings, a private investment company. According to Canadian Business magazine, Lee-Chin has an estimated net worth of more than $3.95 billion (as of 2017) and was ranked the 20th wealthiest Canadian. He is also one of the richest Jamaicans. Lee-Chin is also a dedicated philanthropist and has pledged and donated more than $60 million to hospitals, universities and, most notably, the Royal Ontario Museum, where the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal is named in honour of his $30-million pledge.

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George Manuel

George Manuel, OC, LLD (born 17 or 21 February 1921 in the traditional Shuswap territory in British Columbia; died on 15 November 1989 in Kamloops, British Columbia) was an Indigenous activist of the Shuswap Nation engaged in Indigenous politics on the local, national and international scales (seeIndigenous Peoples in Canada). He was the president of the National Indian Brotherhood of Canada (today’s Assembly of First Nations) from 1970 to 1976 and founded the World Council of Indigenous Peoples in 1975.

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Lennie Gallant

Lennie Gallant, CM, folk musician (born 1955 in Rustico, PEI). Lennie Gallant is an Acadian singer-songwriter who has released 13 albums, ten in English and three in French. He has toured extensively in North America and has won numerous awards and prizes. He has won 18 East Coast Music Awards (ECMA) and was named the Fan’s Choice Entertainer of the Year in 2017. His 1994 song “Peter’s Dream” was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019. Gallant was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2003.

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Veronica Foster

Veronica Foster Guerrette, Second World War icon, model, vocalist (born 2 January 1922 in Montreal, Quebec; died 4 May 2000 in Toronto, Ontario). Foster worked for the John Inglis Company assembling Bren light machine guns during the Second World War. She was featured on propaganda posters that encouraged women to serve Canada by working in munitions factories. Foster became a Canadian icon representing female workers in the manufacturing industry. After the war, she was lead singer with the dance band Mart Kenney and His Western Gentlemen.

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Mennonites

The first Mennonites in Canada arrived in the late 18th century, settling initially in Southern Ontario. Today, almost 200,000 Mennonites call Canada home. More than half live in cities, mainly in Winnipeg.

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Dene

The Dene comprise a far-reaching cultural and linguistic family, stretching from the Canadian North and Alaska to the American southwest. In Canada, the Dene, which means “the people” in their language, comprise a variety of First Nations, some of which include the Denesoline (Chipewyan), Tlicho (Dogrib) and Dinjii Zhuh (Gwich’in). The Dene are also known as Athabascan, Athabaskan, Athapascan or Athapaskan peoples. In the 2016 census, 27,430 people identified as having Dene ancestry.

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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.

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Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet)

Wolastoqiyik (also Welastekwewiyik or Welustuk), 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 six Wolastoqiyik Maritime communities in Canada and one in Maine. In the 2016 census, 7,635 people identified as having Wolastoqiyik ancestry.

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Lumberjacks

Lumberjacks hold a permanent place in Canadian folklore and history. While the practice of felling trees has been taking place for thousands of years — beginning with Aboriginal people and continuing with the arrival of the first Europeans — the professional lumberjack was born around the turn of the 18th century. Though the profession has undergone many changes, lumberjacks still play an important role in the Canadian forestry industry.

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First Nations

First Nations is a term used to describe Indigenous peoples in Canada who are not Métis or  Inuit. First Nations people are original inhabitants of the land that is now Canada, and were the first to encounter sustained European contact, settlement and trade. According to the 2016 census by Statistics Canada, 977,230 people in Canada identified as being of First Nations heritage, a growth of 39.3 per cent since 2006. There are 634 First Nations in Canada, speaking more than 50 distinct languages.

For more detailed information on specific First Nations, see Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

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Genocide and Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Genocide is the intentional destruction of a particular group through killing, serious physical or mental harm, preventing births and/or forcibly transferring children to another group. The term has been applied to the experiences of Indigenous peoples in Canada, particularly in the final reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (see also Residential Schools) and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry.

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Assembly of First Nations

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is a political organization representing approximately 900,000 First Nations citizens in Canada. The AFN advocates on behalf of First Nations on issues such as treaties, Indigenous rights, and land and resources. The AFN's Chiefs assemblies are held at least twice a year, where chiefs from each First Nation pass resolutions to direct the organization’s work. There are over 600 First Nations in Canada.

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Isabel Macneill

Isabel Janet Macneill, OC, OBE, naval officer and correctional system supervisor (born 4 June 1908 in Halifax, NS; died 18 August 1990 in Mill Village, NS). Isabel Macneill was a pioneering woman in nontraditional leadership positions. She was the first female commanding officer of a navy ship in the British Commonwealth and the first female prison superintendent in Canada.

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Charles Bronfman

Charles Rosner Bronfman, PC, CC, businessman and philanthropist (born 27 June 1931 in Montréal, QC). Bronfman was co-chairman of the Bronfman family business, Seagram, the world’s largest producer and distributor of distilled spirits. He also owned the Montreal Expos baseball club from 1968 to 1990. According to Forbes, Bronfman had an estimated net worth of over $2 billion (as of 2017) and was ranked the 16th wealthiest Canadian and 896th wealthiest person in the world. Bronfman is also a dedicated philanthropist. He established the CRB Foundation to promote study of Canadian and Jewish affairs, and co-founded and endowed the Historica Foundation of Canada, which later became Historica Canada (publisher of The Canadian Encyclopedia). He has disbursed approximately $325 million through Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies Inc. (ACBP) and private donations.

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Tommy Prince

Thomas George Prince, war hero, Indigenous advocate (born 25 October 1915 in Petersfield, MB; died 25 November 1977 in Winnipeg, MB). Tommy Prince is one of Canada's most-decorated Indigenous war veterans, having been awarded a total of 11 medals in the Second World War and the Korean War. Although homeless when he died, he was honoured at his funeral by his First Nation, the province of Manitoba, Canada and the governments of France, Italy and the United States. (See also Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars.)

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Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk)

Kanyen'kehà:ka or Kanien'kehá:ka (“People of the Chert”), commonly known as Mohawk by non-Kanyen'kehà:ka, are Indigenous peoples in North America. They are the easternmost member of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, also referred to as the Iroquois or Six Nations Confederacy. In the early years of the 17th century, they resided on the banks of the Mohawk River in what is now upstate New York. They became intensely involved in the fur trade and in the colonial conflicts of the next two centuries. Many had moved to the St. Lawrence River before 1700 and following the American Revolution, the remainder moved to Canada to reside in territories controlled by their ally, Great Britain. Here, the Kanyen'kehà:ka have garnered a reputation of militancy in maintaining their language and culture, and for defending their rights.

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