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Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

The Eastern massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) is a relatively small rattlesnake that is native to the Great Lakes region of eastern North America. It is one of three rattlesnake species found in Canada (a fourth is extirpated). Its Canadian distribution is restricted to several small, disjunct areas in southern Ontario. The massasauga has disappeared from much of its historical range. Populations continue to decline due to ongoing threats, including habitat loss, deaths on roads and intentional persecution from humans.


Polar Vortex

The polar vortex is a wind pattern surrounding the Earth’s poles. Both the North and South pole have polar vortices spinning around them. In both cases, the rotation is generally cyclonic — counter-clockwise around the North Pole and clockwise around the South Pole. While polar vortices exist year-round, they are strongest during each pole’s winter. Canadians tend to experience the effects of the North Pole’s polar vortex toward the end of winter. At this time, the vortex begins to weaken, and cold, polar air travels further south. Polar vortices are atmospheric phenomena which occur on other planets too, such as Mars, Venus and Saturn.


Orange Shirt Day

At an event in Williams Lake, British Columbia, in May 2013, the orange shirt was presented as a symbol of Indigenous peoples’ suffering caused by Indian Residential Schools, which operated from the 1830s to the 1990s. The event led to the annual 30 September Orange Shirt Day as a means of remembrance, teaching and healing. In June 2021, the federal government declared 30 September a national statutory holiday to coincide with Orange Shirt Day.



Rattlesnake is the common name for about 30 species of venomous, viperid snakes in the genera Crotalus and Sistrurus, found from southern Canada to South America. Three species of rattlesnake are found in Canada: the Western rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganous), the prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridus) and the Eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus). Another species, the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) is extirpated, meaning the species no longer exists in the wild in Canada, but lives elsewhere.



Alternative rock band 54-40 rose from the Vancouver punk scene of the late 1970s to achieve mainstream success in Canada in the late 1980s and the 1990s. They have had four platinum albums and one gold album and have been nominated for eight Juno Awards. They are perhaps best known for the hit singles “I Go Blind,” “Baby Ran,” “One Day in Your Life,” “Nice to Luv You,” “She La,” “Ocean Pearl” and “Since When,” among others. The band has been inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame. “I Go Blind” was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2021.



Interculturalism is a model for living together developed in Quebec during the 1980s and represents its approach regarding the integration of newcomers and minority groups. (See Immigration to Canada.) This approach is the Quebec response to the federal government model, i.e., Canadian multiculturalism. The philosophy behind interculturalism is based on the idea that equality between the cultures in Quebec requires francisation and secularization of the public domain. Due to the controversies and debates surrounding the policies regarding reasonable accommodation, an official policy regarding the concept of interculturalism has become essential. The report from the Bouchard-Taylor Commission (2007–2008) continues to represent the most significant consultation effort regarding interculturalism. The Charte de la langue française is one of the major pillars of the intercultural approach. However, to date, there are no laws to provide a framework for this model of integrating minorities. (See also Quebec Immigration Policy.)


Trench Warfare

Trench warfare is combat in which opposing armies defend, attack and counterattack from relatively fixed systems of holes dug into the ground. It is adopted when superior defensive firepower forces each side to entrench widely, trading mobility for protection. Trench warfare reached its zenith during the First World War (1914–18) on the Western Front in France and Belgium’s Flanders region. In the popular imagination, trench warfare on the Western Front is associated with the most horrific conditions of the First World War.


Amherst Internment Camp

The Amherst internment camp in Nova Scotia was the largest such camp in Canada during the First World War, with a maximum capacity of about 850 men. In total, there were 24 internment camps and receiving stations across the country. While most camps housed “enemy aliens,” the majority of internees at Amherst were German prisoners of war. This included hundreds of German sailors from the SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, which was sunk by a British cruiser in 1915. Its most famous internee, however, was Russian socialist Leon Trotsky, who was held prisoner at Amherst in April 1917.


Climate Change (Plain-Language Summary)

Climate change happens when weather patterns change. This has happened a lot in the past and will continue to happen. It is a normal phenomenon. For example, the last cold period peaked approximately 18,000 years ago. This era is known as the Ice Age. After that, Earth’s climate began to warm again. Since the Industrial Revolution climate change has been happening very quickly. This period is known as “global warming.” There is one big difference between this period and the other periods of climate change that came before. The difference is that human beings have caused global warming.

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


Canadian Pacific Railway (Plain-Language Summary)

The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was founded in 1881. Its primary purpose was to construct a transcontinental railway. It completed the railway in 1885. For the first time in Canadian history, Canadians and Canadian goods could travel from east to west in a short period of time. This was revolutionary. Canadian Pacific Railway, known as CP today, is one of Canada’s most significant companies. It remains one of the most important systems of transportation for the Canadian economy. Every day, CP transports countless varieties of commodities across the nation.

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


Railway History in Canada (Plain-Language Summary)

Railways are one of the most important inventions in history. They are one of the most important innovations in Canadian history. Railways connect Canada from coast to coast and from north to south. They are vital to the Canadian economy and society. The first railways in Canada were built in the early 19th century. In 1885, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) completed Canada’s first transcontinental railroad. (See Canadian Pacific Railway (Plain-Language Summary).) Other large railways lines were to follow. By the beginning of the 20th century thousands of kilometres of railway linked Canada.

(This article is a plain-language summary of railway history in Canada. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry, Railway History in Canada.)


Immigration to Canada (Plain-Language Summary)

Aside from Indigenous peoples, everyone living in Canada has ancestors who arrived in Canada during the past 400 years. The first Europeans to permanently settle in Canada were from France. Then, people from the United States, Britain and Ireland came to Canada. Black people also came from the United States to escape enslavement. After this, people from Continental Europe and China arrived. Now, people from all over the world come to Canada. (See Multiculturalism.) A large percentage of Canadians alive today are first-generation Canadians who immigrated. Many are second-generation Canadians — children of immigrants. Without immigration, Canada would not be what it is today.

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


Great Depression in Canada (Plain-Language Summary)

The Great Depression took place in Canada and around the world in the 1930s. The term “Depression” is used to describe an economic decline that lasts for a long time. During the worst period of the Depression about 30 percent of Canadians were unemployed. This made life very difficult because Canada had few social programs at the time. This changed because of the Depression. In the 1930s the government created social programs to help those in need. It also became more involved in the economy.

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


New France (Plain-Language summary)

New France was a French colony in North America. By the early 1740s, France controlled what is known today as the Maritime provinces, much of modern-day Ontario and Quebec, and the Hudson Bay region. The territory also stretched from today’s Northeastern United States to the Gulf of Mexico. Quebec City was the center of culture, society and economics. The French living in New France created a distinct culture. The French population of New France were known as habitants. Many habitants had a better life in New France than peasants in France. That said, not many people from France wanted to emigrate to New France. Most people in France thought New France was too cold and very dangerous. Because there was little immigration, New France had a very small population. In 1763, approximately 70,000 French colonists lived in New France. (See Population Settlement of New France.) This small population made New France weak. It was one of the most important reasons why New France was taken over by Britain in 1763.

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


Quiet Revolution (Plain-Language Summary)

The Quiet Revolution transformed Quebec in the 1960s. The Quiet Revolution refers to a series of drastic political, societal and cultural changes. The Quiet Revolution was led by the Quebec Liberal Party under Premier Jean Lesage. The slogan was “Maîtres chez nous” (Masters of our own house). The goal was for francophones to take leadership positions in Quebec and to guide Quebec into the future. The goal was met. The Quiet Revolution contributed to changing Quebec, and Canada, forever.

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


Second World War (Plain-Language Summary)

Canada played an important role in the Second World War. It did much to help the allies win the war. Canadians fought on land, in the air and on sea. More than 1 million Canadians served in the military. Over 43,000 Canadians died. Approximately 50,000 Canadians were wounded. The war changed Canada forever. By the end of the war Canada had a very large military force. The Canadian economy was one of the strongest in the world. Canada paid more attention to world affairs than before. Canadians helped to create NATO and the United Nations.

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


Battle of the Plains of Abraham (Plain-Language Summary)

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham took place on 13 September 1759. The Plains of Abraham are in Quebec City. It was fought between the French and their Indigenous allies against the British. The British won. Losing the battle was a major defeat for the French. Soon after, France lost all of Quebec. In 1763, France gave all of Canada to Britain. The era of New France was over. Until Confederation in 1867, Britain would control the colonies that became Canada. (See Confederation (Plain-Language Summary).)

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


First World War (Plain-Language Summary)

The First World War occurred between 1914 and 1918. Approximately 425,000 Canadians served overseas in Europe. More than 60,000 Canadians died. Over 170,000 were seriously wounded. Canadians suffered more casualties in the First World War than the Second World War. (See Second World War (Plain-Language Summary).)

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


Acadian Expulsion (Plain-Language Summary)

The original Acadians were from France. Acadia is now part of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The French first began settling in Acadia during the first decade of the 17th century. In 1713, the British took over Acadia. They expelled the Acadians in the 1750s. The British did not trust the Acadians. The expulsion of the Acadians is also known as the Great Upheaval. The expulsion of the Acadians was tragic. In the 1760s, the British let the Acadians come back. Acadia remains alive and well today in the Maritimes. Thousands of Canadians are the descendants of the Acadians.

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