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History of Gender Roles in Canada

Over the course of several thousand years, gender roles in Canada have shifted dramatically. In general, they were more flexible in Indigenous societies and more rigid in settler communities. However, even in colonial times, gender roles were not as narrow as might be expected, particularly on farms and in frontier communities. Gender roles became stricter during the Victorian era, when men and women were relegated to “separate spheres.” Gender roles became more elastic during the world wars, but traditional gender norms were re-established in the 1950s. Since the 1960s, though, gender roles have become more flexible.

Article

The Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations

The Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations is a Canadian-led multilateral project aimed at increasing women’s meaningful participation in peace operations. Named after aeronautical engineer and women’s rights pioneer Elsie MacGill, the initiative figures into Canada’s feminist foreign policy and Global Affairs Canada’s commitment to the United Nations’ Women, Peace and Security agenda (see Canada and Peacekeeping).

Article

Northern Bottlenose Whale

The northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus) is a toothed whale found in the northern regions of the Atlantic Ocean. In Canadian waters, there are two populations: one off the coast of Nova Scotia, known as the Scotian shelf population, and the other off the coast of Labrador, known as the Baffin-Labrador population. The Scotian shelf population is endangered while the Baffin-Labrador population is considered “special concern” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. The northern bottlenose whale is the largest beaked whale in the North Atlantic. (See also Endangered Animals in Canada.)

Article

Royal Union Flag (Union Jack)

Before the adoption of the maple leaf–designed National Flag of Canada in 1965, Canada, first as a colony and later as a dominion, was represented by a succession of royal flags — the flag of France, the Cross of St. George, the first version of the Royal Union Flag (combining the English and Scottish flags), and, finally, the current Royal Union Flag (combining the British and Irish flags, and also known as the Union Jack).

Article

"Alouette!"

"Alouette!" The most popular Canadian folksong. It also has become a symbol of French Canada for the world, an unofficial national song identifiable from the first few measures of its lively chorus in 2/4 time. Marius Barbeau is of the opinion that "Alouette" originated in France, but James J. Fuld, in The Book of World-Famous Music (New York 1966), points out that the first written version, "Alouetté," appeared in A Pocket Song Book for the Use of Students and Graduates of McGill College (Montreal 1879). The song was published later as "Alouette" in the McGill College Song Book (Montreal 1885). The first known printed version in France dates from 1893: it appeared in Julien Tiersot's Revue des traditions populaires, vol 8 (Paris). The words and music are found in many anthologies and collections in Canada, the USA, and even Europe, notably in William Parker Greenough's Canadian Folk-life and Folk-lore (New York 1897). Several versions exist in Canada. Marius Barbeau summarizes the different texts in a work appropriately named Alouette (Montreal 1946). However, in all versions of the song, with its enumerations and frequent recapitulations, the idea remains the same: the lark's feathers are plucked from its head, wings, back, tail, and so on.

Article

Robert Pickton Case

Between 1978 and 2001, at least 65 women disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Robert Pickton, who operated a pig farm in nearby Port Coquitlam, was charged with murdering 26 of the women. He was convicted on six charges and sentenced to life in prison. In a jail cell conversation with an undercover police officer, Pickton claimed to have murdered 49 women. The murders led to the largest serial killer investigation in Canadian history, and Pickton’s farm became the largest crime scene in Canadian history. The case became a flash point in the wider issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. In 2012, a provincial government inquiry into the case concluded that “blatant failures” by police — including inept criminal investigative work, compounded by police and societal prejudice against sex trade workers and Indigenous women ­— led to a “tragedy of epic proportions.”

Warning: This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences.

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Elizabeth Wettlaufer Case

Elizabeth Wettlaufer is a former nurse who murdered eight elderly patients and attempted to harm six others in southwestern Ontario between 2007 and 2016. One of the most prolific serial killers in Canadian history, she was sentenced to life in prison for the murders in 2017. The case prompted widespread public outrage and made headlines internationally. It later resulted in lawsuits against Wettlaufer, and the nursing homes she worked for, and a sweeping provincial inquiry into flaws in Ontario’s long-term care system.

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Allan Legere Case

Convicted murderer Allan Joseph Legere escaped custody in 1989, and for 201 days terrorized the residents of the Miramichi region of New Brunswick, brutally killing another four people. Known as the “Monster of the Miramichi,” Legere became the object of one of the most intense manhunts in modern Canadian police history.

This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences.

Article

Michael Wayne McGray Case

Michael Wayne McGray once boasted of being Canada’s worst serial killer. He was convicted of seven homicides but claimed to have committed as many as 11 other murders in Canada and the United States between 1985 and 1998.

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Canada and the Development of the Polio Vaccine

During the first half of the 20th century, poliomyelitis, a.k.a. polio or “The Crippler,” hit Canada harder than anywhere else. Successive polio epidemics peaked in a national crisis in 1953. By that time, however, scientists at Connaught Medical Research Laboratories of the University of Toronto had made key discoveries that enabled American medical researcher and virologist Jonas Salk to prepare the first polio vaccine. Connaught Labs also solved the problem of producing the vaccine on a large scale. Canada went on to play an important role in the development of the oral polio vaccine and international efforts to eradicate the disease.

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

Article

Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad was a secret network of abolitionists (people who wanted to abolish slavery). They helped African Americans escape from enslavement in the American South to free Northern states or to Canada. The Underground Railroad was the largest anti-slavery freedom movement in North America. It brought between 30,000 and 40,000 fugitives to British North America (now Canada).

This is the full-length entry about the Underground Railroad. For a plain language summary, please see The Underground Railroad (Plain-Language Summary).

Article

Spectroscopy

Spectroscopy is the field of study that examines, measures and interprets the electromagnetic spectra produced when radiant energy is emitted or absorbed by a substance. Spectroscopic methods are important in performing chemical analyses of substances and are used in astronomical studies.

Article

Pennefather Treaties

In the summer of 1859, Superintendent General of the Indian Department Richard T. Pennefather signed three separate but essentially identical treaties with Batchewana First Nation (Treaty 91 [A]), Garden River First Nation (Treaty 91 [B]) and Thessalon First Nation (Treaty 91 [C]). The three treaties were part of a series of land surrenders that occurred after the 1850 Robinson Treaties. The Pennefather treaties opened additional acres for settlement and resource exploitation. (See also Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

Article

Internet in Canada

The Internet is a global network of computers that communicate with each other. This exchange happens through a set of rules called protocols. Since Internet use became widespread in the 1990s, the system has affected most aspects of life. It has had both productive and destructive effects. The Internet has changed the way Canadians learn and work, buy products and services, communicate and consume entertainment. Most people think of the Internet as the World Wide Web. However, it takes a number of different forms, including networked physical objects called the Internet of Things.

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

Article

Schitt’s Creek

One of the most acclaimed Canadian TV series of all time, Schitt’s Creek is a CBC sitcom about a wealthy family who loses their fortune and is forced to live in the fictional small town of the show’s name. Created by co-stars Daniel Levy and his father, Eugene Levy, the series is centred on the tension between the town’s down-to-earth residents and the ostentatious Rose family. In 2020, it won nine Primetime Emmy Awards and became the first comedy series ever to win all seven of the top awards: best comedy series, best lead and supporting actor and actress, and best writing and directing. It has also won two Golden Globes and 24 Canadian Screen Awards, including five for best actress in a comedy series (Catherine O’Hara) and three for best comedy series.

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Origins of Ice Hockey

The origins of ice hockey have long been debated. In 2008, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) officially declared that the first game of organized ice hockey was played in Montreal in 1875. Many also consider ice hockey’s first rules to have been published by the Montreal Gazette in 1877. However, research reveals that organized ice hockey/bandy games were first played on skates in England and that the earliest rules were also published in England. Canada made important contributions to the game from the 1870s on. By the early 20th century, “Canadian rules” had reshaped the sport.