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30 Political Leaders

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, The Canadian Encyclopedia created 30 lists of 30 things that have helped define our identity, from famous people and historic events, to iconic foods and influential artists.

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Wade MacLauchlan

H. Wade MacLauchlan, CM, OPEI, MLA, 32nd premier of Prince Edward Island (2015–19), president of University of Prince Edward Island (1999–2011), lawyer, academic (born 10 December 1954 in Stanhope, PEI). MacLauchlan was sworn in as premier of Prince Edward Island on 23 February 2015, becoming the province’s first openly gay premier. The former law professor and university president received the Order of Canada in 2008 and the Order of Prince Edward Island in 2014. He is the author of Alex B. Campbell: The Prince Edward Island Premier Who Rocked the Cradle (2014).

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Georges Lemay

Georges Lemay, criminal (born 25 January 1925 in Shawinigan, QC; died December 2006 in Montréal, QC). Lemay was the mastermind behind one of the biggest bank robberies in Canadian history – the Bank of Nova Scotia heist in Montréal in 1961.

Article

David Ahenakew

David Ahenakew, politician, first elected chief of the Assembly of First Nations (born 29 July 1933 at the Sandy Lake Indian Reserve [now the Ahtahkakoop First Nation] in central Saskatchewan; died 12 March 2010 in Shellbrook, SK).

Article

Rachel Notley

Rachel Notley, 17th premier of Alberta (2015–19) and leader of the Alberta New Democratic Party (2014–), lawyer (born 17 April 1964 in Edmonton, AB). As a lawyer, Rachel Notley specialized in labour issues, working in both British Columbia and Alberta. The daughter of Grant Notley, Alberta NDP leader from 1968 to 1984, she won her first election in 2008 and was elected party leader in 2014. Notley led her party to a surprise electoral victory on 5 May 2015, defeating the longest-serving government in Canadian history — the Progressive Conservatives, who had been in power since 1971. However, in the 2019 Alberta general election, Notley and the NDP lost to Jason Kenney's United Conservative Party.

Article

Stephen Harper

Stephen Joseph Harper, CCPCprime minister of Canada 2006–15, politician, author, economist (born 30 April 1959 in Toronto, ON). Stephen Harper is Canada’s longest-serving Conservative prime minister since Sir John A. Macdonald. He helped found the Reform Party and served as head of the National Citizens Coalition and leader of the Canadian Alliance Party. He then transformed the country’s political landscape by uniting the previously divided right into the Conservative Party of Canada. He led the CPC to three consecutive election wins before being defeated in 2015 and resigning as party leader. Harper’s adherence to a brand of ideologically-pure conservatism resulted in what the Globe and Mail called “Canada’s first ever truly Conservative government.” He was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in December 2019.

Article

Leo Kolber

Ernest Leo Kolber, OC, businessman, philanthropist, senator (born 18 January 1929 in Montreal, QC; died 9 January 2020 in Montreal). Leo Kolber was a pillar of Canada’s business, political and philanthropic communities for more than 50 years. He was perhaps best known as a long-time advisor to the Bronfman family. Kolber also ran the successful real estate firm Cadillac Fairview Corporation, as well as holding companies that administered the Bronfman family trust. He served in the Senate of Canada from 1983 to 2004, most notably as chairman of the Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce. He was also the Liberal Party’s chief fundraiser for many years and chair of the Advisory Council on National Security from 2005 to 2007. An Officer of the Order of Canada, he was recognized for his many charitable and philanthropic contributions.

Article

André Nault

André Nault, Métis leader, farmer, and buffalo hunter (born 20 April 1830 in Point Douglas, Red River Colony [now Winnipeg, MB]; died 17 December 1924 in St Vital, MB). Although a kinsman of Louis Riel and always considered a Métis, Nault was not of mixed blood (his mother and father were French Canadian).

Article

John Horgan

John Joseph Horgan, 36th premier of British Columbia, 2017–present; political aide (born 7 August 1959 in Victoria, BC). Horgan revitalized British Columbia's New Democratic Party after 16 years on the opposition benches. After the 2017 election, he engineered a power-sharing deal to topple a weakened Liberal regime and govern the province with the support of the Green Party.

Article

Gloria George

Gloria Mary Maureen George, Indigenous politician, activist and public servant (born 24 July 1942 in Hubert, BC). A tireless advocate for non-status Indians, George was elected president of the Native Council of Canada in 1975, becoming the first and only woman to lead a major Indigenous political organization.

Article

Bedard Case

R v. Bedard (1971) challenged section 12(1)(b) of the Indian Act, which concerns the rights of Status Indian women in Canada. The appellant in the case, Yvonne Bedard, took the federal government to court after losing her rights as a Status Indian because of her marriage to a Non-Status man. In 1973, before the Supreme Court of Canada, the Bedard case merged with AG v. Lavell, another case concerning gender discrimination (see Status of Women) in the Indian Act. Although Bedard ultimately lost her reinstatement claims, her case inspired future legal battles regarding women’s rights and the Indian Act, including Lovelace v. Canada (1981) (see Sandra Lovelace Nicholas) and the Descheneaux case (2015).

Article

Claudette Bradshaw

Claudette Bradshaw, community activist, politician (born 8 April 1949 in Moncton, NB). Claudette Bradshaw’s early career was spent in nonprofit social work. She founded Moncton Headstart, an early family intervention centre, and advocated for at-risk youth. She was Member of Parliament for Moncton–Riverview–Dieppe from 1997 to 2006 and served in several ministerial roles in the Liberal governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, including Minister of Labour and Minister of State (Human Resources Development). Since then, she has become a major advocate for mental health, literacy and affordable housing.

Article

Dwight Ball

Dwight Ball, pharmacist, businessman, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador 2015 to present, leader of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador (born 21 December 1957 in Deer Lake, NL). Ball became premier at a time of economic crisis. After several years of prosperity, slumping oil revenues required his government to bring in unpopular austerity measures to fight a burgeoning provincial debt. Ball retained the premiership in 2019, when his Liberal Party won a minority government. On 17 February 2020, Dwight Ball announced his resignation as premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Article

Samuel de Champlain

Samuel de Champlain, cartographer, explorer, colonial administrator, author (born circa 1567 in Brouage, France; died 25 December 1635 in Quebec City). Known as the “Father of New France,” Samuel de Champlain played a major role in establishing New France from 1603 to 1635. He is also credited with founding Quebec City in 1608. He explored the Atlantic coastline (in Acadia), the Canadian interior and the Great Lakes region. He also helped found French colonies in Acadia and at Trois-Rivières, and he established friendly relations and alliances with many First Nations, including the Montagnais, the Huron, the Odawa and the Nipissing. For many years, he was the chief person responsible for administrating the colony of New France. Champlain published four books as well as several maps of North America. His works are the only written account of New France at the beginning of the 17th century.