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Article

Elizabeth Fry Society

The Elizabeth Fry Society is a not-for-profit social service agency that provides support for women and girls involved in the Canadian justice system. The Society provides a range of services to women who are criminalized and to women who are at risk of being criminalized. It works to reduce the impact of criminalization, to provide equal opportunities for women in the justice system and to empower marginalized women.

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Persons Case

The Persons Case (Edwards v. A.G. of Canada) was a constitutional ruling that established the right of women to be appointed to the Senate. The case was initiated by the Famous Five, a group of prominent women activists. In 1928, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that women were not “persons” according to the British North America Act (now called the Constitution Act, 1867). Therefore, they were ineligible for appointment to the Senate. However, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council reversed the Court’s decision on 18 October 1929. The Persons Case enabled women to work for change in both the House of Commons and the Senate. It also meant that women could no longer be denied rights based on a narrow interpretation of the law.

Article

Poverty

About nine per cent of Canadians live in poverty, although the percentage is generally higher among certain groups such as single mothers and Aboriginal people. Low-income Canadians include the "working poor" — those with jobs — and the "welfare poor" — those relying mainly on government assistance.

Article

Abortion in Canada

Abortion is the premature ending of a pregnancy. Inducing an abortion was a crime in Canada until 1988, when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the law as unconstitutional. Since then, abortion has been legal at any stage in a woman’s pregnancy. Abortion is publicly funded as a medical procedure under the Canada Health Act. (See Health Policy.) However, access to abortion services differs across the country. Despite its legalization, abortion remains one of the most divisive political issues of our time.

Article

Sleeping Car Porters in Canada

Sleeping car porters were railway employees who attended to passengers aboard sleeping cars. Porters were responsible for passengers’ needs throughout a train trip, including carrying luggage, setting up beds, pressing clothes and shining shoes, and serving food and beverages, among other services. The vast majority of sleeping car porters were Black men and the position was one of only a few job opportunities available to Black men in Canada. While the position carried respect and prestige for Black men in their communities, the work demanded long hours for little pay. Porters could be fired suddenly and were often subjected to racist treatment. Black Canadian porters formed the first Black railway union in North America (1917) and became members of the larger Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1939. Both unions combatted racism and the many challenges that porters experienced on the job.

Article

Lobbying in Canada

Lobbying is the process through which individuals and groups articulate their interests to federal, provincial or municipal governments to influence public policy or government decision-making. Lobbyists may be paid third parties who communicate on behalf of their clients; or they may be employees of a corporation or organization seeking to influence the government. Because of the possibility for conflict of interest, lobbying is the subject of much public scrutiny. At the federal level, lobbying activities are governed by the Lobbying Act. Provinces and municipalities have their own lobbying laws and by-laws.

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Sixties Scoop

The “Sixties Scoop” refers to the large-scale removal or “scooping” of Indigenous children from their homes, communities and families of birth through the 1960s, and their subsequent adoption into predominantly non-Indigenous, middle-class families across the United States and Canada. This experience left many adoptees with a lost sense of cultural identity. The physical and emotional separation from their birth families continues to affect adult adoptees and Indigenous communities to this day.

Article

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples

The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples was a Royal Commission established in 1991 in the wake of the Oka Crisis. The commission’s report, the product of extensive research and community consultation, was a broad survey of historical and contemporary relations between Indigenous (Aboriginal) and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. The report made several recommendations, the majority of which were not fully implemented. However, it is significant for the scope and depth of research, and remains an important document in the study of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

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Gender in Canada

This article is an overview of contemporary issues related to gender in Canada. Gender refers to the characteristics associated with women/girls and men/boys. These include norms, behaviours and roles. This article explores change and continuity in gender norms and roles in Canada since 1960. It also addresses current challenges and issues related to gender in Canada. Demographic changes, the women’s liberation movement and the sexual revolution caused and reflected major social changes in gender norms for women and men. While gender roles have become more flexible since the 1960s, the power of older norms and roles continues, as does the belief in a gender binary (the idea that there are only two genders: women and men). Contemporary issues around gender include pay equity; the “boy crisis”; the rights of trans, gender-diverse, non-binary and Two-Spirit persons; and the impact of colonial systems on traditional Indigenous gender roles.

Article

History of Childhood

Biology and the laws and customs of human culture together govern the nature of human childhood. The ways in which biology and culture come together in children change over time; the story of these changes forms the history of childhood.

Article

Secularism in Quebec

The Quiet Revolution (1960–1970) gave rise to secularism within Quebec society. The latter became both secular by widening the separation between Church and State, as well as non-confessional by removing religion from institutions. 

However, the issue of secularism is still a matter for debate. In June 2019, the passage of the Act Respecting the Laicity of the State fueled many discussions about the place of religion in public domain.

Article

History of Birth Control in Canada

Human beings have practised birth control throughout history. However, in 19th-century Canada, this practice was largely forbidden or taboo. It was only in the 1920s that groups of citizens formed to defend birth control. The information, services and products related to this practice became increasingly accessible after the war. During the 1960s, Canada decriminalized contraception and abortion. In the 1970s, the number of organizations and services promoting access to contraception and family planning began to increase. From then on, birth control became an integral part of the public health approach to sexual health.

Article

Child Migration to Canada

Migration is a unique experience for a child and Canada receives child migrants from all over the world. Some children come as unaccompanied minors and claim refugee status, some come alone and wait to be reunited with their families, while others are international adoptees by Canadian families.

Article

Same-Sex Marriage in Canada

In 2003, Ontario and British Columbia became the first two provinces to legalize same-sex marriage. The federal Civil Marriage Act came into force on 20 July 2005, making same-sex marriage legal across Canada. Canada became the fourth country to permit same-sex marriages, after the Netherlands (2000), Belgium (2003) and Spain (2005). Since then, all provinces in Canada have recognized same-sex marriages. Marriage itself falls under federal jurisdiction in Canada. But the provinces regulate the solemnization of marriage (the formal ceremony that is either civil or religious). They also grant marriage licenses. The Supreme Court has ruled that under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a religious official cannot be legally compelled to perform same-sex marriages if it is contrary to their religious beliefs.

Article

Canadian Foreign Relations

Throughout its history, Canada has taken a series of steps to develop from a British colony into an independent nation. Both the First and Second World War were turning points; Canada’s military sacrifices gave it the strength and confidence to demand its own voice on the world stage. In the postwar era, Canada maintained its role in both Western and global alliances. (See NATO; NORAD; GATT.) However, economics have shaped Canadian diplomacy to a remarkable extent. Because of the United States’ singular importance to Canadian security and trade, relations with the US have dominated Canada’s foreign policy since Confederation.

Article

École Polytechnique Tragedy (Montreal Massacre)

On 6 December 1989, a man entered a mechanical engineering classroom at Montreal’s École Polytechnique armed with a semi-automatic weapon. After separating the women from the men, he opened fire on the women while screaming, “You are all feminists.” Fourteen young women were murdered, and 13 other people were wounded. The shooter then turned the gun on himself. In his suicide note, he blamed feminists for ruining his life. The note contained a list of 19 “radical feminists” who he said would have been killed had he not run out of time. It included the names of well-known women in Quebec, including journalists, television personalities and union leaders.

Article

Suicide in Canada

This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences. To reach the Canada Suicide Prevention Service, contact 1-833-456-4566.

Suicide is the act of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally. Suicide was decriminalized in Canada in 1972. Physician-assisted suicide was decriminalized in 2015. Suicide is among the leading causes of death in Canada, particularly among men. On average, approximately 4,000 Canadians die by suicide every year — about 11 suicides per 100,000 people in Canada. This rate is higher for men and among Indigenous communities. Suicide is usually the result of a combination of factors; these can include addiction and mental illness (especially depression), physical deterioration, financial difficulties, marriage breakdown and lack of social and medical support.

Article

Domestic Service (Caregiving) in Canada

Domestic work refers to all tasks performed within a household, specifically those related to housekeeping, childcare and personal services for adults. These traditionally unpaid household tasks can be assigned to a paid housekeeper (the term caregiver is preferred today). From the early days of New France, domestic work was considered a means for men and women to immigrate to the colony (see History of Labour Migration to Canada). In the 19th century, however, domestic service became a distinctly female occupation (see Women in the Labour Force). From the second half of the 19th century until the Second World War, in response to the growing need for labour in Canadian households, British emigration societies helped thousands of girls and women immigrate to Canada (see Immigration to Canada). In 1955, the Canadian government launched a domestic-worker recruitment program aimed at West Indian women (see West Indian Domestic Scheme). In 2014 the government lifted the requirement for immigrant caregivers to live with their employer to qualify for permanent residence — a requirement that put domestic workers in a vulnerable position. (See also Canadian Citizenship; Immigration Policy in Canada).

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.