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Harry Jerome

Harry Winston Jerome, OC, track and field athlete, consultant, teacher (born 30 September 1940 in Prince Albert, SK; died 7 December 1982 in Vancouver, BC). Three-time Olympian Harry Jerome won the bronze medal in the 100 m race at the 1964 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan. He also won gold medals at the 1966 Commonwealth Games and the 1967 Pan American Games. Jerome broke the Canadian record in the 220-yard dash when he was only 18 years old and set or equalled world records in the 60-yard indoor dash, the 100-yard dash, the 100 m sprint and the 440-yard relay. Following his retirement from competition, he promoted amateur and youth sport through national and provincial programs. Jerome also advocated for better support of Canadian athletes and for greater representation of racialized Canadians on Canadian television and advertising. He was the recipient of numerous honours and awards, including the Order of Canada.

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Larry Kwong

​Larry Kwong, hockey player (born 17 June 1923 in Vernon, BC; died 15 March 2018 in Calgary, AB). On 13 March 1948, Kwong became the first Chinese Canadian to play a National Hockey League game, thereby breaking the colour barrier. He was also the first Asian-Canadian and first hockey player born in Vernon, BC, to play in the NHL.

Article

James Barry

James Miranda Steuart Barry, FRS (probably born Margaret Anne Bulkley), military surgeon, physician (born c. 1789–99; died 25 July 1865 in London, England). Posted across the British Empire, Barry reformed medical standards in the British army. His final and highest-ranking position was as inspector-general of military hospitals in the Province of Canada in the 1850s. After his death, it was reported that Barry’s assigned sex at birth was female. This has sparked significant debate about his identity.

Note on pronouns: This article refers to James Barry with masculine pronouns, as this was how Barry referred to himself throughout his life.

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

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Sikhism in Canada

Sikhism, a major world religion, arose through the teachings of Guru Nanak (circa 1469–1539) in the Punjab region of India. There are about 27 million Sikhs worldwide, making Sikhism the fifth largest religion. Sikhs (disciple or "learner of truth"), like Jews, are distinguished both as a religion and as an ethnic group. Though in principle universalistic and open to converts regardless of background, Sikhism has been identified primarily with Punjabi people, events and culture.

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Celebrating Asian Heritage in Canada

Many Canadians today see our diverse population as a source of pride and strength — for good reason. More than one in five Canadians were born elsewhere. That is the highest percentage of immigrants in the G7 group of large industrialized nations. Asia (including people born in the Middle East) has provided the greatest number of newcomers in recent years. Since the 1990s, Canadians — who once thought primarily of Europe when they considered events abroad — now define themselves, and the world, differently. As former prime minister Jean Chrétien said: “The Pacific is getting smaller and the Atlantic is becoming wider.”

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10 Indigenous Firsts

Indigenous peoples have contributed greatly to Canadian society, culture and politics. Despite facing discrimination, racial segregation and policies of assimilation, Indigenous peoples have fought to make this country a better place for all, and to protect their own Indigenous cultures. From leaders in the fields of medicine and law, to war veterans, chiefs and politicians, many Indigenous peoples have risen to the top of their respective fields, championing a variety of causes. This list of 10 Indigenous “firsts” celebrates those trailblazers who were the first in their profession to make historic accomplishments in Canada.

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Laurent Duvernay-Tardif

Laurent “Dr. Kill” Duvernay-Tardif, CQ, football player, doctor (born 11 February 1991 in Saint-Jean-Baptiste, QC). Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is an offensive lineman with the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League (NFL). Only the 10th player ever drafted into the NFL from Canadian college and university football, he became the first Quebec-born football player to win a Super Bowl championship in 2020. The first active NFL player to become a doctor, he opted out of the 2020 season to work as an orderly at a long-term care facility in Montreal during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was made a Chevalier of the Ordre National du Québec in 2019. In 2020, he was named a Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine, as well as co-winner, with soccer player Alphonso Davies, of the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year.

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Nehiyawak (Cree)

The Cree or Nehiyawak (neh-HEE-oh-wuk) in the Cree language, are the most populous and widely distributed Indigenous peoples in Canada. Cree First Nations occupy territory in the Subarctic region from Alberta to Québec, as well as portions of the Plains region in Alberta and Saskatchewan. According to 2016 census data, 356,655 people identified as having Cree ancestry and 96,575 people speak the Cree language.

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Kadeisha Buchanan

Kadeisha Buchanan, soccer player (born 5 November 1995 in Toronto, ON). Widely considered one of the best defenders in soccer, Kadeisha Buchanan is a three-time Canadian Women’s Player of the Year (2015, 2017, 2020). At the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, she was named to the tournament’s All-Star Team, as well as the Best Young Player. In 2016, she was named the Big 12 Female Athlete of the Year and the espnW Player of the Year for NCAA Soccer. She also won a bronze medal with Team Canada at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games. In 2017, Buchanan became the first Canadian soccer player to play on a Champions League-winning team. She was named the Postmedia Female Athlete of the Year in 2020.

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Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation

Qalipu (pronounced: ha-lee-boo) is a Mi’kmaq First Nation based in Newfoundland and Labrador. The nation was established in 2011 under the Indian Act. According to the federal government, Qalipu has 24,243 registered members, making it the second-largest First Nation by population in Canada. The nation’s members hail from 67 different communities across Newfoundland. As of 2020, roughly 95 per cent of Qalipu members live in Newfoundland and Labrador; the other 5 per cent live throughout Canada. The Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation currently controls no reserve land. (See also Reserves in Newfoundland and Labrador.)

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Innu (Montagnais-Naskapi)

Innu, which means “people” in the Innu language, is the predominant term used to describe all Innu. Some groups maintain the use of one of two older terms: Montagnais (French for “mountain people”), usually applied to groups in forested, more southern communities, and Naskapi, which refers to far northern groups who inhabit the barren lands of the subarctic. In the 2016 census, 27,755 people identified as having Innu/Montagnais ancestry, while an additional 1,085 identified as Naskapi.

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Thornton and Lucie Blackburn

Thornton and Lucie (Ruthie) Blackburn, freedom seekers, entrepreneurs, anti-slavery activists and community benefactors (Thornton, born c. 1812 in Maysville, Kentucky; died in 1890 in Toronto, ON. Lucie, born c. 1803, possibly in the West Indies; died in 1895 in Toronto). After a dramatic flight from Kentucky slavery, their recapture in Detroit two years later in 1833 resulted in the Blackburn Riots. Demands for their extradition prompted Upper Canada to establish its first refugee reception policy (see Refugees to Canada). Settling in Toronto, the Blackburns devoted their time and considerable wealth to anti-slavery and African Canadian community causes. (See also Anti-Slavery Society of Canada.) Childless, and having never learned to read or write, their story was nearly forgotten until archaeologists (see Archaeology) unearthed the site of their former home in 1985. The Blackburns’ former property was the first Underground Railroad site ever dug in Canada.

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Sheldon Kennedy

Sheldon Kennedy, CM, OM, AOE, hockey player, activist (born 15 June 1969 in Brandon, MB). Sheldon Kennedy is a retired professional ice hockey player and a public advocate for child abuse prevention. He was part of the 1988 World Junior Championship-winning team and captained the 1989 Memorial Cup champion Swift Current Broncos before playing eight seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL). In 1996, he came forward with revelations of years of sexual abuse at the hands of his junior hockey coach. Named the Canadian Press Newsmaker of the Year in 1997, Kennedy became a public speaker and activist. He is a member of the Order of Manitoba, the Alberta Order of Excellence and the Order of Canada. He has been inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and received the Order of Hockey in Canada.

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James Wolfe

James Wolfe, British army officer (born 2 January 1727 in Westerham, Kent, England; died 13 September 1759 near Quebec City). Wolfe fought in the War of the Austrian Succession, the suppression of the Jacobite Rebellion and the Seven Years’ War. He is best known for his role in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. Both Wolfe and his opponent, Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm, died from wounds sustained during the battle. The British victory was a turning point in the Seven Years’ War, leading to the capture of Montreal in 1760 and the acquisition of Canada by Britain in 1763.

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Jay Silverheels

Jay Silverheels, actor (born on 26 May 1919 on the Six Nations reserve; died on 5 March 1980 in Woodland Hills, California). Silverheels is perhaps best known for his role as Tonto in the Lone Ranger films.

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Mi'kmaq

Mi’kmaq (Mi’kmaw, Micmac or L’nu, “the people” in Mi’kmaq) are Indigenous peoples who are among the original inhabitants in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. Alternative names for the Mi’kmaq appear in some historical sources and include Gaspesians, Souriquois and Tarrantines. Contemporary Mi’kmaq communities are located predominantly in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but with a significant presence in Quebec, Newfoundland, Maine and the Boston area. As of 2015, there were slightly fewer than 60,000 registered members of Mi’kmaq nations in Canada.

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Haudenosaunee (Iroquois)

The Haudenosaunee, or “people of the longhouse,” commonly referred to as Iroquois or Six Nations, are members of a confederacy of Aboriginal nations known as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Originally a confederacy of five nations inhabiting the northern part of New York state, the Haudenosaunee consisted of the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga and Mohawk. When the Tuscarora joined the confederacy early in the 18th century, it became known as the Six Nations. Today, Haudenosaunee live on well-populated reserves — known as reservations in the United States — as well as in off-reserve communities.

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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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Sylvia Hamilton

Sylvia D. Hamilton, filmmaker, writer, educator (born in Beechville, NS). Sylvia Hamilton specializes in re-evaluating Canadian history and focusing on the perspectives of Black Canadians, particularly Black Canadian women. Her films include Black Mother Black Daughter (1989); the Gemini Award winner Speak It! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia (1993); the biographical documentary Portia White: Think On Me (2000); and The Little Black School House (2007). She has received many honours and awards, including the Nova Scotia Portia White Prize and honorary degrees from several universities.