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Article

Yvon Dumont

Yvon Dumont, CM, OM, Métis leader, lieutenant-governor of Manitoba (born 21 January 1951 at St. Laurent, Manitoba, a mostly Métis community northwest of Winnipeg). Dumont became involved in Indigenous politics as a teenager and, throughout his career, held senior positions in the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF), the Native Council of Canada (now the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples) and the Métis National Council (MNC). As MNC president in 1986, Dumont participated in the defeat of the Charlottetown Accord. On 5 March 1993, he was sworn in as the lieutenant-governor of Manitoba, the first Métis person in Canadian history to hold a vice-regal office. Yvon Dumont was a successful appellant in the 2013 Supreme Court of Canada land claims case Manitoba Métis Federation vs. Canada. This case helped bring about the signing of a memorandum of understanding in May 2016 between the Canadian government and the MMF to “advance exploratory talks on reconciliation.” Dumont remains a proponent of recognizing the Métis people as a distinct Indigenous population.

Article

Lillian Dyck

Lillian Eva Quan Dyck, OC, scholar, feminist, senator, advocate for Indigenous rights (born 24 August 1945 in North Battleford, SK). Lillian Dyck was the first Indigenous woman in Canada to earn a PhD in science. She was also the first Indigenous female senator and the first Chinese Canadian senator. During her time in the Senate, she was part of several actions to improve life for Indigenous people in Canada. This includes work on criminal justice and Indigenous education reform, and bills to reinstate Indian Status to women who had lost it based on sexist laws. Dyck was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2021.

Article

Thelma Chalifoux

Thelma Julia Chalifoux, Métis, senator, entrepreneur, activist (born 8 February 1929 in Calgary, AB; died 22 September 2017 in St. Albert, AB). Chalifoux was the first Métis woman appointed to the Senate of Canada. As a senator, she was concerned with a range of issues, including Métis housing, drug company relations with the federal government, and environmental legislation. An ardent advocate for women’s and Indigenous rights, Chalifoux was involved in organizations such as the Aboriginal Women’s Business Development Corporation and the Métis Women’s Council. She was also known for her work in the protection of Métis culture, having served in the Alberta Métis Senate and Michif Cultural and Métis Resource Institute (now Michif Cultural Connections).

Article

Mary Simon

Mary Jeannie May Simon (Ningiukudluk); diplomat, civil servant, (born 21 August 1947 in Kangirsualujjuaq, Nunavik, QC). Simon is an advocate for international cooperation in the Arctic and Indigenous education and rights. She has held multiple roles in the civil service, including secretary and co-director of policy of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, secretary to the board of directors of the Northern Quebec Inuit Association, and member of the Nunavut Implementation Commission. She was also the first vice president of the Makivik Corporation and the first Inuk in Canada to hold the rank of ambassador. Simon has served as the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and of what is now the Inuit Circumpolar Council. On 26 July 2021, Simon became Canada’s 30th Governor General and the first Indigenous person to serve in that role.

Article

Prime Minister of Canada

The prime minister (PM) is the head of the federal government. It is the most powerful position in Canadian politics. Prime ministers are not specifically elected to the position; instead, the PM is typically the leader of the party that has the most seats in the House of Commons. The prime minister controls the governing party and speaks for it; names senators and senior judges for appointment; and appoints and dismisses all members of Cabinet. As chair of Cabinet, the PM controls its agenda and greatly influences the activities and priorities of Parliament. In recent years, a debate has emerged about the growing power of prime ministers, and whether this threatens other democratic institutions.

Article

Jean Charest

Jean Charest, lawyer, politician, premier of Quebec from 2003 to 2012 (born on 24 June 1958 in Sherbrooke, Qc). As a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, Jean Charest became the youngest person to be appointed to Cabinet. Between 1993 and 1998, he led the party after Kim Campbell resigned. Charest then became the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party and acted as premier of Quebec from 2003 until 2012. In 2022, he joined Historica Canada’s board of directors.

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Indian Act (Plain-Language Summary)

The Indian Act was first created in 1876. A new version was created in 1951. Since then, the Act has been revised several times. The main goal of the Act was to force First Nations peoples to lose their culture and become like Euro-Canadians. The Indian Act does not affect either the Métis or Inuit.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the Indian Act. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry, Indian Act.)

Article

Mahmud Jamal

Mahmud Jamal, Supreme Court of Canada justice, Court of Appeal for Ontario judge, litigation lawyer, author, teacher (born 1967 in Nairobi, Kenya). Mahmud Jamal is the first racialized person and the first South Asian Canadian to be appointed as a justice to the Supreme Court of Canada. A former Fulbright scholar with a background in law and economics, Jamal worked as a litigator with the Toronto firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP before becoming a judge with the Court of Appeal for Ontario. He began serving on the Supreme Court on 1 July 2021.

Article

Thomas D'Arcy McGee

Thomas D’Arcy McGee, journalist, politician, poet (born 13 April 1825 in Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland; died 7 April 1868 in Ottawa, ON). Thomas D’Arcy McGee was dedicated to the cause of Irish national liberation. This pushed him towards revolutionary anti-British doctrine in his early years. However, he matured to become a staunch defender of British constitutional monarchy and a Father of Confederation. He was an advocate for minority rights at a time when the politics of ethnic and religious identity were intensely fraught. He was an incredibly eloquent public speaker and a passionate advocate for Canadian interests. However, his political transformation ultimately damaged his popularity with Irish nationalists, particularly the Fenians. He was assassinated in 1868.

Article

Hugh Burnett

Hugh Burnett, civil rights activist, carpenter (born 14 July 1918 in Dresden, ON; died 29 September 1991 in London, ON). Burnett was a key figure in the fight for anti-discrimination legislation in Ontario. Through the 1940s and early 1950s, he organized tirelessly against racial discrimination in public service in his hometown of Dresden, Ontario, rising to prominence as a leader and organizer of the National Unity Association (NUA), a coalition of Black community members pushing for equal rights in Dresden and the surrounding area. He was instrumental to in bringing about legislative and legal victories for civil rights at the provincial level related to the 1954 Fair Accommodation Practices Act, an early anti-discrimination law in Ontario.

Article

Mary John Batten

Mary John Batten (née Fodchuk), lawyer, politician, justice and chief justice of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench (born 30 August 1921 in Sifton, MB; died 9 October 2015). Mary John Batten was the first Ukrainian Canadian woman elected to a Canadian legislature. She served as an MLA in Saskatchewan from 1956 until 1964. That year, she became the first woman to be appointed as a federal judge in Saskatchewan, and only the second in Canada. In 1983, she became Saskatchewan’s first female chief justice. She also chaired a Saskatchewan royal commission. She retired from the bench in 1989.

Article

Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier

Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier, CM, chief (born 15 April 1954 in Regina, SK). Day Walker-Pelletier is the longest-serving elected chief in Canadian history. She was chief of Okanese First Nation, located near Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, from 1981 to 2020. During her long career, Day Walker-Pelletier accomplished many goals, including establishing the structure, instruments and policies of governance for Okanese First Nation. She also took part in numerous projects related to wellness, social reform and education, focusing primarily on providing support to vulnerable women and children. Day Walker-Pelletier has been a strong advocate for preserving the language, traditions, and treaty rights of Okanese First Nation.

Article

William Lyon Mackenzie King

William Lyon Mackenzie King, prime minister of Canada 1921–26, 1926–30 and 1935–48 (born 17 December 1874 in Berlin [Kitchener], ON; died 22 July 1950 in Kingsmere, QC). William Lyon Mackenzie King was the dominant political figure in an era of major changes. He was leader of the Liberal Party from 1919 to 1948, and Prime Minister of Canada for almost 22 of those years. King was Canada’s longest-serving prime minister. He steered Canada through industrialization, much of the Great Depression, and the Second World War. By the time he left office, Canada had achieved greater independence from Britain and a stronger international voice. It had also implemented policies such as employment insurance.

Article

Albert Grey, 4th Earl Grey

Albert Henry George Grey, 4th Earl Grey, governor general of Canada from 1904 to 1911 (born 28 November 1851 in London, United Kingdom; died 29 August 1917 in Howick, Northumberland, United Kingdom). Earl Grey established awards that honour Canadian arts, drama and sports. The Grey Cup is still presented to the winning team of the Canadian Football League championship.

Article

Erin O’Toole

Erin O’Toole, Member of Parliament (2012–), leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and leader of the Opposition (2020–2022), (born 22 January 1973 in Montreal, QC). Erin O’Toole served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and worked as a corporate lawyer before being elected as the Member of Parliament for Durham, Ontario, in 2012. He served as Minister of Veterans Affairs in 2015. In August 2020, he was elected leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and became the leader of the Opposition. Following the party’s loss in the September 2021 federal election, O’Toole resigned as leader on 2 February 2022 after the Conservative caucus voted in favour of his removal. He continues to serve as the MP for Durham.

Article

Lionel Conacher

Lionel Pretoria Conacher, multi-sport athlete, politician (born 24 May 1900 in Toronto, Ontario; died 26 May 1954 in Ottawa, Ontario). Deserving of his nickname, “the big train”, Lionel Conacher was Canada’s greatest all-round athlete. He was named Canada’s Athlete of the Half Century in 1950. He also served as an MPP and as Ontario athletic commissioner, as well as a federal Member of Parliament. One of only three players to win both a Stanley Cup and a Grey Cup, Conacher was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (1955), the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (1963), the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame (1966) the Hockey Hall of Fame (1994) and Canada’s Walk of Fame (2022). The award for Canada’s male athlete of the year is named in his honour.

Article

Naheed Nenshi

Naheed Kurban Nenshi, business consultant, professor, mayor of Calgary, AB, 2010–21 (born 2 February 1972 in Toronto, ON). Naheed Nenshi was elected Mayor of Calgary for three terms, from 2010 to 2021. He was the first Muslim mayor of a major North American city. He was also the first Canadian mayor to be awarded the World Mayor Prize by the British-based City Mayors Foundation. Nenshi was known for pioneering the use of social media in political campaigns, promoting civic engagement, completing various large infrastructure projects and guiding Calgary’s recovery following devastating floods in 2013.