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Article

John Diefenbaker

John George “Dief the Chief” Diefenbaker, PC, CH, KC, FRSC, prime minister 1957–63, politician, lawyer (born 18 September 1895 in Neustadt, ON; died 16 August 1979 in Ottawa, ON). John Diefenbaker was Canada’s 13th prime minister. He was well known as a defence lawyer before his election to Parliament, and was an eloquent spokesman for “non-establishment” Canada. A supporter of civil rights for all, Diefenbaker championed the Canadian Bill of Rights and the extension of the right to vote to First Nations peoples. He also played an important role in the anti-apartheid statement that led to South Africa’s departure from the Commonwealth in 1961. He was a charismatic and popular speaker; but he was also a divisive force within the Progressive Conservative Party. He was criticized for his indecision concerning nuclear missiles on Canadian soil; for his strained relations with US President John F. Kennedy; and for his cancellation of the Avro Arrow project.

Article

Clayton Ruby

Clayton “Clay” Charles Ruby, CM, lawyer, writer, activist (born 6 February 1942 in Toronto, ON; died 2 August 2022 in Toronto). Clayton Ruby was a lawyer, activist and social justice advocate. He specialized in civil rights, criminal law and constitutional law. One of Canada’s best-known defence attorneys, he was an impassioned defender of press freedom and an active member of Canada’s environmental movement. Ruby worked to ensure that all people receive equal access and treatment under Canada’s laws. His more notable clients included the surviving Dionne Quintuplets, Donald Marshall Jr., Guy Paul Morin, Michelle Douglas, Svend Robinson, Dr. Henry Morgentaler and the men charged in the 1981 Toronto Bathhouse Raids.

Article

Wilton Littlechild

Jacob Wilton (Willie) Littlechild, CM, athlete, lawyer, Cree chief, politician, advocate for Indigenous rights (born 1 April 1944 in Hobbema, [now Maskwacîs] AB). Littlechild formed and coached Alberta’s first all-Indigenous junior hockey team and created the National Indian Athletic Association. He is a member of seven sports halls of fame. In 1976, Littlechild earned a law degree from the University of Alberta. He went on to become the first member of Parliament with Treaty Indian Status in Canada in 1988. Littlechild served as a commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2009. Throughout his career, Littlechild has promoted Indigenous rights both nationally and internationally.

Article

Lester B. Pearson

Lester Bowles (“Mike”) Pearson, PC, OM, CC, OBE, prime minister 1963–68, statesman, politician, public servant, professor (born 23 April 1897 in Newtonbrook, ON; died 27 December 1972 in Ottawa, ON). Lester Pearson was Canada’s foremost diplomat of the 1950s and 1960s. He formulated the basics of the country’s postwar foreign policy; particularly its involvement in NATO and the United Nations, where he served as president of the General Assembly. In 1957, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his diplomatic efforts in facilitating Britain and France’s departure from Egypt during the Suez Crisis. A skilled politician, he rebuilt the Liberal Party and as prime minister strove to maintain Canada’s national unity. Under his leadership, the government implemented a Canada Pension Plan; a universal medicare system; a unified Armed Forces; and a new national flag.

Article

Hector Fabre

Louis-Roch-Hector Fabre, journalist, newspaper publisher, senator and diplomat (born 9 August 1834 in Montreal, Lower Canada; died 2 September 1910 in Paris, France). Hector Fabre’s appointment to serve as the Agent General of Quebec in Paris in winter 1882 marked one of the first milestones in the history of Quebec representation abroad. Fabre, who also represented the government of Canada starting in July 1882, helped to establish diplomatic and economic relations with France and other European countries and also marked the beginning of permanent Canadian representation abroad.

Article

Paul Hellyer

Paul Theodore Hellyer, PC, politician, engineer, businessman, writer (born 6 August 1923 near Waterford, ON; died 8 August 2021 in Toronto, ON). A long-time Member of Parliament (MP), Paul Hellyer served in the cabinets of prime ministers Lester B. Pearson and Pierre Trudeau, and was the longest-serving member of the Privy Council at the time of his death. As defence minister, he oversaw Canada’s adoption of nuclear weapons and organized the unification of the armed forces. Hellyer contested the leadership of both the Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties and led two small federal parties of his own creation. He was a notable critic of free trade and advocated for monetary reform. He also gained international notoriety for claiming that Western governments possess — and have been suppressing — evidence of UFOs and extraterrestrial life.

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Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, 2022

On 6 February 2022, Queen Elizabeth II marked the 70th anniversary of her accession to the thrones of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth realms in 1952. In the spring of 2022, there were Platinum Jubilee tours of the Commonwealth by members of the royal family and a four-day holiday weekend of Platinum Jubilee celebrations in the United Kingdom from 2 to 5 June 2022. The Queen is the only British and Commonwealth monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee. The Queen is currently the second-longest reigning monarch in world history, her record exceeded only by the 72-year reign of King Louis XIV of France.

Article

Michelle Stilwell

Michelle “Mikey” Stilwell (née Bauknecht), wheelchair basketball player, wheelchair racer, politician (born 4 July 1974 in Winnipeg, MB). Michelle Stilwell is the only Canadian woman to win gold medals in two sports at the Paralympic Games. She and the Canadian team won gold in women’s wheelchair basketball at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney. Stilwell also won gold in women’s wheelchair racing at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games. From 2006 to 2016, she was the fastest wheelchair racer in the world in the T52-class; she currently holds world records in the women’s 100 m and 200 m. She also served as a BC MLA for Parksville-Qualicum from 2013 to 2020.

Article

Numbered Treaties (Plain-Language Summary)

The Numbered Treaties are a series of 11 treaties. A treaty is an agreement between two or more nations. The Numbered Treaties were signed by the Canadian government and Indigenous people. All 11 treaties were signed between 1871 and 1921. The Numbered Treaties cover parts of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario. They also cover portions of Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

The treaties provided the Canadian government with land. The government wanted land for industrial development and white settlement. In exchange, the government promised Indigenous people special rights and benefits. These treaty terms are controversial and contested. The Numbered Treaties have ongoing legal, social, and economic impacts on Indigenous communities. (See also Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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

Article

Roberta Jamieson

Roberta Louise Jamieson, OC, Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk) lawyer, ombudsman, Six Nations chief, policy advisor, senior mediator, businesswoman (born in 1953 at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory near Brantford, ON). Jamieson was the first Indigenous woman in Canada to earn a law degree (1976); first non-Parliamentarian appointed to a House of Commons committee (1982); first woman appointed ombudsman in Ontario (1989); and first woman elected as Six Nations chief (2001).

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

Murray Sinclair

Murray Sinclair or Mizanay (Mizhana) Gheezhik, meaning “The One Who Speaks of Pictures in the Sky” in the Ojibwe language, lawyer, judge and senator (born in 1951 in Selkirk, MB). Called to the Manitoba Bar in 1980, Sinclair focused primarily on civil and criminal litigation, Indigenous law and human rights. In 1988, he became Manitoba’s first, and Canada’s second, Indigenous judge. Sinclair joined the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2009, before becoming a senator in 2016. He retired from the Senate in 2021 but continues to mentor Indigenous lawyers. The breadth of public service and community work completed by Sinclair demonstrates his commitment to Indigenous peoples in Canada.

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.