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Sir George Williams Affair

The Sir George Williams affair (also known as the Sir George Williams riot) took place in winter 1969, when more than 200 students decided to peacefully occupy the ninth floor of the Henry F. Hall Building at Sir George Williams University in Montréal. These students were protesting the university administration’s decision regarding a complaint of racism that had been filed several months earlier by six Black students from the Caribbean. On 11 February 1969, to dislodge the students occupying the building, the police intervened forcefully, and the situation deteriorated, resulting in over $2 million worth of damage and the arrest of 97 people. The Sir George Williams affair is regarded as the largest student riot in Canadian history. For many observers and historians, it represents a key moment in the rebirth of black militancy in Montréal.

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SARS in Canada

Canada experienced an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003. Most of the infections originated in Toronto hospitals. The outbreak led to the quarantine of thousands, killed 44 people and took an economic toll on Toronto. It also exposed the country’s ill-prepared health-care system. Confusion around SARS fuelled an uptick in anti-Asian and anti-immigrant sentiment.

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

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Antifeminism in Québec

​Antifeminism is a counter-movement that is opposed to feminism and that seeks to thwart efforts to emancipate women. Antifeminism has evolved in response to advances made by the feminist movement.

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Ethnic Identity

An ethnic group is often a distinct category of the population in a larger society with a (generally) different culture. Distinct ethnic and cultural groups were recorded by Herodotus 2500 years ago.

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Racism

Racism is a belief that humans can be divided into a hierarchy of power on the basis of their differences in race and ethnicity. With some groups seen as superior to others on the sole basis of their racial or ethnic characteristics. Racism is frequently expressed through prejudice and discrimination. The belief can manifest itself through individuals, but also through societies and institutions.

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Anti-Semitism in Canada

Anti-Semitism is an attitude characterized by hostility and discriminatory behaviour towards Jewish people. Anti-Semitism has a long history in Canada in fueling discrimination and unfair treatment against Jewish Canadians. Anti-Semitism in Canada was never restricted to the extremists of society. Rather, it has always been part of the mainstream, shared to varying degrees by all elements of the nation. Until the 1950s it had respectability; no one apologized for being anti-Jewish — no one asked them to. Expressions of anti-Semitism were heard in the halls of Parliament, read in the press, taught in the schools and absorbed in most churches.

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The 1969 Amendment and the (De)criminalization of Homosexuality

From the earliest days of colonization to 1969, sodomy laws made sex between men illegal in Canada. In addition, a law enacted in 1892 made “gross indecency” between men illegal. This included anything that indicated same-sex attraction, including simple touching, dancing and kissing. The law was extended to women in 1953. In 1969, however, sodomy and gross indecency laws were changed, making such acts legal under some circumstances. The parties involved had to be 21 years of age or older and conduct their affairs in private. Sodomy and gross indecency remained illegal outside of the home or if three or more individuals were involved or present. Thus, Canada’s Criminal Code continued to equate homosexuality with criminal behaviour under many circumstances.

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Sixties Scoop

The “Sixties Scoop” refers to the large-scale removal or “scooping” of Indigenous children from their homes, communities and families of birth through the 1960s, and their subsequent adoption into predominantly non-Indigenous, middle-class families across the United States and Canada. This experience left many adoptees with a lost sense of cultural identity. The physical and emotional separation from their birth families continues to affect adult adoptees and Indigenous communities to this day.

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Sterilization of Indigenous Women in Canada

The practice of sterilization arose out of the eugenics movement and has a long, often hidden history in Canada. Sterilization legislation in Alberta (1928–72) and British Columbia (1933–73) attempted to limit the reproduction of “unfit” persons, and increasingly targeted Indigenous women. Coerced sterilization of Indigenous women took place both within and outside existing legislation, and in federally operated Indian hospitals. The practice has continued into the 21st century. Approximately 100 Indigenous women have alleged that they were pressured to consent to sterilization between the 1970s and 2018, often while in the vulnerable state of pregnancy or childbirth.