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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.
Léa Roback, CQ, bookseller, trade union activist, feminist and pacifist (born 3 November 1903 in Montréal, Québec; died 28 August 2000 in Montréal).
Larry Phillip (Phil) Fontaine, OC, OM, National Chief of AFN, activist, advisor on Indigenous relations (born 20 September 1944 in Sagkeeng First Nation on the Fort Alexander Reserve, MB). Phil Fontaine served as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) for an unprecedented three terms. Under his leadership the AFN negotiated both the Kelowna Accord and the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Fontaine has received many honours and awards, including the National Aboriginal Achievement Award, the Order of Canada, and numerous honorary doctorates. In 2017, he launched Recognition2Action, a campaign to legally recognize Indigenous peoples as Founding Nations of Canada.
James Leo (Jim) Egan, gay activist, writer, politician, environmental activist (born 14 September 1921 in Toronto, ON; died 9 March 2000 in Courtenay, BC). Egan was the first person to publish long articles written from a gay point of view in Canada. He was also one of the first openly gay politicians to serve in Canada. Egan is best remembered for a court challenge he and his partner, Jack Nesbit, launched against the spousal allowance benefit under the Old Age Security Act in 1988. In the subsequent Egan v. Canada decision (1995), the Supreme Court read in that sexual orientation is a protected ground of discrimination inthe Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — a monumental finding in support of LGBTQ2 rights in Canada.
Kathleen O’Day Wynne, 25th premier of Ontario 2013–18, member of provincial parliament 2003–present, school trustee, community activist, mediator, teacher (born 21 May 1953 in Toronto, ON). The skills of a mediator, coupled with a strong sense of will, propelled Kathleen Wynne’s political career, making her Ontario’s first woman premier and Canada’s first openly gay head of government.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Canada
Since the late 1960s, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Canada has seen steady gains in rights. While discrimination against LGBT people persists in many places, major strides toward mainstream social acceptance and formal legal equality have nonetheless been made in recent decades. Canada is internationally regarded as a leader in this field. Recent years have seen steady progress on everything from health care to the right to adopt. In 2005, Canada became the fourth country worldwide to legalize same-sex marriage.
Jamaican Maroons in Nova Scotia
The ancestors of the Maroons of Jamaica were enslaved Africans who had been brought there by the Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries, and later by the British (who captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655), to work its lucrative sugar plantations. The word maroon was widely used to describe a runaway, and maroonage to denote the act and action of escaping enslavement, whether temporarily or permanently. After a series of wars with the colonial government in Jamaica, one group of Maroons was deported to Nova Scotia in 1796. While Maroon communities existed in Nova Scotia for only four years before they were sent to Sierra Leone, their legacy in Canada endures.
Louis Riel, Métis leader, founder of Manitoba, central figure in the Red River and North-West resistances (born 22 October 1844 in Saint-Boniface, Red River Settlement; died 16 November 1885 in Regina, SK). Riel led two popular Métis governments, was central in bringing Manitoba into Confederation, and was executed for high treason for his role in the 1885 resistance to Canadian encroachment on Métis lands. Riel was initially dismissed as a rebel by Canadian historians, although many now sympathize with Riel as a Métis leader who fought to protect his people from the Canadian government.
Hippies in Canada
“Hippies” is a term used to describe young people who participated in the 1960s counterculture movement, which originated in the United States and spread throughout Canada in the second half of that decade. As a noun, “hippie” was a play on the adjective “hip,” which was used to describe young bohemians who lived in Greenwich Village in New York City, and in San Francisco, in the 1950s and early 1960s. Hippies were part of the “baby boom” generation, born immediately following the end of the Second World War (see Baby Boomers in Canada). This demographic wave was significant enough to transform Canadian society; by the mid-1960s more than half of Canada’s population of 20 million was under the age of 25.
James Ryan, railway machinist, labour leader (born 1840 in County Clare, Ireland; died 17 December 1896 in Hamilton, ON). James Ryan was a machinist and railway engineer for the Great Western Railway and later the Grand Trunk Railway. He was a powerful voice in the Canadian Nine Hour Movement, which fought for a shorter workday. Ryan also helped establish the Canadian Labor Protective and Mutual Improvement Association in 1872, the forerunner of the Canadian Labor Union.
Dorothea Ferguson (née Palmer), birth control advocate, social worker (born 1908 in England; died 5 November 1992 in Ottawa, ON). Dorothea Palmer was arrested in 1936 for advertising birth control to women in a working-class neighbourhood in Ottawa. She was cleared of charges after a lengthy trial proved her work had been for the public good. Her acquittal was a major victory for the birth control movement in Canada.
Assembly of First Nations
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is a political organization representing approximately 900,000 First Nations citizens in Canada. The AFN advocates on behalf of First Nations on issues such as treaties, Indigenous rights, and land and resources. The AFN's Chiefs assemblies are held at least twice a year, where chiefs from each First Nation pass resolutions to direct the organization’s work. There are over 600 First Nations in Canada.
Charles Rosner Bronfman, PC, CC, businessman and philanthropist (born 27 June 1931 in Montréal, QC). Bronfman was co-chairman of the Bronfman family business, Seagram, the world’s largest producer and distributor of distilled spirits. He also owned the Montreal Expos baseball club from 1968 to 1990. According to Forbes, Bronfman had an estimated net worth of over $2 billion (as of 2017) and was ranked the 16th wealthiest Canadian and 896th wealthiest person in the world. Bronfman is also a dedicated philanthropist. He established the CRB Foundation to promote study of Canadian and Jewish affairs, and co-founded and endowed the Historica Foundation of Canada, which later became Historica Canada (publisher of The Canadian Encyclopedia). He has disbursed approximately $325 million through Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies Inc. (ACBP) and private donations.
Jeannette Corbiere Lavell
Jeannette Vivian Corbiere Lavell (called Keewednanung, “North Star” in the Anishinaabe language), CM, activist, educator and community worker (born 21 June 1942 in Wikwemikong, ON). Corbiere Lavell, an Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) woman, was one of several Indigenous women who brought increased public awareness to the gendered discrimination that First Nations women faced because of status law, namely section 12(1)(b) of the Indian Act. Her efforts were central to revising patriarchal (male-dominated) aspects of Canadian legal code.
Louis-Joseph-Paul-Napoléon Bruchési, Roman Catholic priest and Archbishop of Montréal from 1897 to 1939 (born 29 October 1855 in Montréal, Québec; died 20 September 1939 in Montréal). Paul Bruchési actively supported the Church’s involvement in education, health and welfare, and helped secure the establishment of many of the city’s leading institutions in these fields. He was also engaged in many public issues of the day, often taking a congenial approach with politicians and fellow prelates. In 1919, he began to suffer from a mysterious illness which by 1921, left him largely debilitated until his death in 1939.
Francis “Peggy” Pegahmagabow, Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) chief, Indigenous rights advocate, war hero (born on 9 March 1891 on the Parry Island reserve, ON; died 5 August 1952 at Parry Island, ON). One of the most highly decorated Indigenous people in Canada during the First World War, Pegahmagabow became a vocal advocate for Indigenous rights and self-determination. (See also Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars.)
Chloe Cooley and the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada
Although little is known about Chloe Cooley, an enslaved woman in Upper Canada, her struggles against her “owner,” Sergeant Adam Vrooman, precipitated the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada, 1793 — the first legislation in the British colonies to restrict the slave trade.
The Act recognized enslavement as a legal and socially accepted institution. It also prohibited the importation of new slaves into Upper Canada and reflected a growing abolitionist sentiment in British North America.